Anti Fascism,  UK Politics

Statement from the Green Party in reply to Keith Bessant article

I asked the Green Party to respond to the revelations that their Parliamentary candidate in Cheltenham, Keith Bessant, was exposed yesterday as a member of the BNP. I should add, that it transpired that there were two other people on the list that appeared to be connected with the Green Party, one a former branch chair in Essex.

Here is The Green Party’s statement, from the Chair of the party, James Humphreys:

“The Green Party stands against racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry of all kinds. We welcome the contribution to our country of people from every part of the world, and take seriously our moral obligation to give shelter to persecuted people and refugees. We consider the BNP and their extremist views an affront to British values of tolerance, equality and solidarity.

“The Green Party is aware of the past membership of Mr Bessant and Rev Stanton. Both left the Green Party a number of years ago. A third man, Barrie Davey of the Isle of Wight, is noted as having run in a local election as an “Independent Green Party” candidate. We have not to our knowledge ever had any contact with Mr Davey, and he has never been a member or candidate of the Green Party.

“The Green Party takes membership applications in good faith and we are not aware of anything that Mr Bessant or Rev Stanton had done or said prior to becoming a party member that should have made them ineligible.  However, had they promoted the BNP’s bigoted views while members, they would have been disciplined and if necessary expelled.”

Let me explain why I don’t think this is good enough.

You may recall that we have been here before. A fortnight or so back I had the painful task of exposing the fact that homophobe and antisemite Tony Gosling was a Green Party candidate in Bristol, and that two other office-bearers were also given to antisemitic conspiracy theories and 9/11 ‘Troof’ lunacy. The Green Party issued a statement on this and promised to investigate. At this time, I have no information about how far that investigation has come.

Now, first things first. I accept that Mr Davey has nothing to do with the official Green Party, so let’s write him out of the story. I have also discovered that Rev Stanton appears to be quite mad and confused and quite clearly has no business being in politics. How, then, he managed to obtain a position of some responsibility in the Green Party is a troubling mystery. But, as they put Tony Gosling forward as a candidate in an election, it seems the Party’s strength isn’t rooting out the hatters. (Remember a “9/11 Truth” motion was only narrowly defeated at their AGM!)

So let’s let it go as far as Rev Stanton is concerned.

But Keith Bessant was a parliamentary candidate in not one but two consecutive general elections. That means he was in a high-profile, public-facing, leadership position in the party for about 7 years! What’s more, the last general election was in 2005. The leaked BNP list was apparently from last year. That means there was less than two years in which Bessant metamorphosised from a Green Party Parliamentary Candidate into a far-right BNP Member.

To then dismiss his association by saying he left the party “a number of years ago” is just plain spin. It’s bullshit, and its horrifying to think that if Mr Bessant was on the political trajectory we now know he was on, what the consequences might have been had he bucked the trend and actually won an election. This is my theory: The Greens (c.f. Tony Gosling) are personally and institutionally unable to spot people with zany views. I don’t believe that Bessant had some weird Damascene experience within a year of fighting an election for the Greens and decided to become a white nationalist instead. I believe he was a crank all along but that many of his views – probably diplomatically phrased, but zany nonetheless – simply did not register as zany.

Humphreys says “However, had they promoted the BNP’s bigoted views while members, they would have been disciplined and if necessary expelled.” But is this good enough? Bessant wasn’t some strange loner hanging about the back of the hall after local meetings, he was right up front, on the podium, with the energies of the entire constituency membership behind him trying to get him elected. For all those years, for two consecutive general elections, what was he doing? Faking it? Or perhaps, like Gosling, he said a few ‘odd’ things about the ‘gay mafia’ or ‘the new world order’ or ‘Jewish bankers’ and no one noticed! Or at least thought it was anything to be too worried about.

Now it is also possible that Bessant was a political light-weight and highly impressionable and simply ‘fell in with the wrong crowd’ some time in the year or so after the general election. But if he is so simple-minded that all his years in the Greens hadn’t educated him about the BNP and steadied every fibre of his being against racism and fascism, then something is seriously wrong. If he is so naive and impressionable that this theory holds together, then did he have any business being a parliamentary candidate in the first place? Is the Green Party so desperate for candidates that they take anyone willing to stand? No wonder they are targeted then by cynical entryists and madmen with egos and delusions.

As a progressive party, do they not have a responsibility to the public to ensure that those they put up in front of us for election are up to the job, are sound, and steady? Do they appreciate that they almost sent a nazi to Westminster on a Green ticket?

But there is another ugly possibility which I hope the Party leadership take seriously. Perhaps these cranks do feel they have something in common with the party. Perhaps they do think “hey, the Greens, that’s the party for me!”.

If I were a Green Party leader, I’d be terribly seriously worried about this. I ask myself “what it is about the Party that seems to attract these nutters?”

I understand their impulse for damage control, but this bland statement won’t do. Instead of excuses, I’d like to know that they’re taking this series of unfortunate events very seriously indeed. I want to know that they’re freaking out. I certainly would be.

UPDATE:

According to the Press Association, “The Green Party has revealed one of its former parliamentary candidates joined the British National Party because he believed its climate change policy ‘was more radical’.”

The Green Party said Mr Bessant left to join the BNP but is thought to have left soon after.

A spokesman for the Green Party said: “He formed the opinion that the BNP climate change policy was more radical than ours.

“He didn’t hold any racist or bigoted views and I believe he left after a couple of weeks. It’s amazing how little people know about the BNP.”

Seriously, guys, come on! Are we honestly meant to believe that you field Parliamentary candidates who are so naive about politics that they don’t know that the BNP is a far-right racist party!?

You know, what upsets me is that this is possibly true… in which case what the party has done is unforgivably unethical. Are you really pushing people into leadership roles in constituencies when it is clear that they are fragile, vulnerable and unstable… and (if you’ll forgive the expression) “politically green”? Do you do this simply to get the Green Party’s name ‘out there’ without any regard for the person’s mental health or suitability for the role? Do you use people? Do you use them just as something local to anchor Green Party leaflets onto?

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