10 March, 2010


It's all there in black and white

You thought the brouhaha over the BNP's "racist" membership rules was all over. Not quite. The BNP returns to court this week to learn whether the constitutional changes it has put in place are sufficient to satisfy the court's requirements. The current outbreak of meeja-driven entryist stunts by token "effnicks" may be not unconnected with this pending decision.

(Though they do need to raise their game a little. Even the semiliterate commenters at Lancaster Unity were less than impressed by the efforts of Mo Chaudry, who was shocked to find his application to join the BNP turned down after he had publicly announced his intention to join the BNP "to fight them from the inside".)

In defending its restrictive membership criteria, the BNP and its supporters have argued that other organizations have equally restrictive racial membership criteria, and that either all should be acted against or all should be left in peace. It argues that it is being singled out. Their main chosen example has been the National Black Police Association.

The counter argument has been that
  1. A political party, which seeks to govern the country as a whole, is substantively different from a sectional pressure or interest group like the NBPA. The former must be inclusive in its policies and its membership, while the latter is under no such obligation.

  2. The NBPA does not in any case racially limit its membership. It is freely open to all.
If the universal constituency argument holds good, then it holds good for the Black Police Association too. That body seeks to further the interests of Black police officers and police workers, according to its own particular definition of Black, working to redress their perceived grievances and disadvantages. This activity may impact negatively on White officers, for example through the pursuit of quotas and "positive discrimination" campaigns. To that extent, excluding White officers and workers from membership of or representation in the Association would be unfair.

The universal consituency argument is not substantively different for political parties seeking to govern the nation as a whole. It is in my not particularly humble opinion a matter of scale rather than substance.

What next? Accusations that the Labour Party has too few CEOs, Masters of Hounds and generic public-school toffs in its membership and cannot therefore be said to be representative of the nation it seeks to govern?

The other riposte to the BNP's position is that the NBPA membership criteria are not in fact restrictive; that it is open to police employees of all races. This assertion bears closer scrutiny.

I recall visiting various BPA sites long before the EHRC's politically-motivated assault on the BNP brought the BPA's practices into public focus. I was struck by their membership criteria, mainly because of the tortuously careful "We're not racist but..." language used in defining the term "Black". Essentially, it all boiled down to "If you're a vaguely swarthy cove or even if you've just got a healthy tan, and you have convinced yourself that your failure to advance in the job is entirely due to the fact that you don't match the required blond blue-eyed archetype, then you're in." I read somewhere that the MetBPA had members of South European heritage, wops and dagoes in vulgar parlance, who qualified under the "If you think you're dark enough, you're one of us" rule. That may be an urban myth.

The similarity in tone and slipperiness to the language used by the BNP to define who it included under the umbrella of Whiteness was very striking. The BNP language majors on terms like Anglo-Celtic and bizarrely infelicitous Nazi-derived calques like "folkish", but it too boils down to "We know who we mean; you know who we mean; but we're not going to say so too explicitly otherwise that Trevor Phillips bastard will have his goons on us like a ton of bricks".

Unfortunately I never made a screenshot of the old NBPA and MetBPA sites, and their language has now moved on, just as the BNP's infamous "British Asians don't exist" document has been redrafted to rebury the bodies out of sight.

But we can look at the current Black Police sites. Here's the National Black Police Association site. (All screenshots taken today.)

The NBPA is open to all in policing on application
and there is no bar to membership based on colour

it proclaims on its homepage. Well that's pretty categorical, isn't it? A bit too categorical if you ask me. It seems a minor point to highlight so prominently on an otherwise sparse and rather well laid-out home page. It jars. The disclaimer, for that is what it is, smacks of reactive afterthought. But let's not dwell on that, lest someone come along and accuse me of projection.

Because I'm not sure it's all that relevant. If I understand the situation correctly, people do not generally join the NBPA directly. The NBPA is a national umbrella organization. Instead, eligible people join the branch organization which represents their own force. So let's look at the membership criteria of the biggest force in the country.


Membership to the Association is available to all black staff employed by the Metropolitan Police Service. There are three categories of membership available:

Full Membership

Full membership is open to all serving police officers and police staff directly employed by the MPS or the Metropolitan Police Authority who meets the criteria set out in the constitution of the Association.

Associate Membership

Associate membership is open to all serving police officers and police staff directly employed by a constabulary or police authority within the UK, who are not part of the Metropolitan Police Service, and police staff employed by outsourced contractors whose main role is to support the Metropolitan Police Service.

Friends Membership

Support from the community is critical to our success and therefore we welcome supporter as friends under a special Friends membership. For further details, please email friends@metbpa.com

There is only one way of reading this statement. The first paragraph identifies the people who are in scope as potential members, namely "black staff employed by the MPS". The following three paragraphs refine this definition. The references to "all serving police officers and police staff" in the second and third paragraphs can only be reasonably interpreted as subsets of the "black staff" referred to in the first paragraph. To read the second and third paragraphs independently renders the first paragraph nugatory. That interpretation makes no sense.

The current, much simplified, definition of black is here (scroll down the iframe).

Definition of Black

The term black does not relate to skin colour but is used to describe all people of African, African Caribbean or Asian origin.

I think it is reasonable to conclude that the MetBPA and by implication the National BPA operate racially exclusive membership criteria. Why has this not been challenged by the EHRC? Surely not because the NBPA and its affiliates do not pose an electoral threat to the regime. Heaven forfend such a thought.

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