On Tuesday I was at a training course where our University Diversity Unit presented some of their work to us and gave us plenty of handout material to take away for which I imagine a fair few trees were felled. It was stated that equal opportunities legislation applies to gender, ethnicity, disability and religion but not political belief. Someone asked why not the latter and it was answered that whilst it does apply in Northern Ireland where its sensitive stuff but that it is not so much of an issue in the rest of the UK.
Well it looks like with the online publication of the BNP membership list the whole question of political affiliation has now assumed a new significance. As NUJ President and Tribune columnist Jeremy Dear points out it’s pretty rich all of a sudden to have this despicable bunch of neo-fascists now bleating on about their civil liberties and seeking protection from the Human Rights Act that they so vigorously opposed.
Its been reported that there are already some casualties of the list including a TalkSport DJ who was sacked although he claimed he had joined up for the purposes of conducting investigative journalism into the phenomenon. What would we, those attending a course to be informed of how to apply equal opps policies, do as academics if we found our any of our students were members? Those with long memories may recall the boycott of the then Polytechnic of North London by students and staff after a student Patrick Harrington was exposed as an NF member in the eighties.
What about those doing the teaching? Would it be ok if they kept politics out if the classroom seeing as it is technically a legitimate political party? Would it really be possible to teach a subject like sociology properly if you hold such repulsive views? “University lecturer” is not amongst the list of professions that members are banned from joining but I would hope that anyone in higher education and particular in as multicultural and diverse a setting as we have at my work would find BNP membership abhorrent. But then that’s me for you.
The whole episode has clearly provided welcome publicity for the BNP that constructs them as the victims on this occassion. There may be more stories like this to come, which reports on a young BNP dad apparently targeted in an explosion. Far from embrassment at being outed other members have been empowered to state how proud they are to be listed. All this hogging of the spotlight might only boost membership even further.