Neil Tweedie, telegraph.co.uk, Apr. 26
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the ultra Right-wing French National Front, was mobbed by hundreds of protesters yesterday as he sought to publicise the British National Party’s campaign in the European elections.
Le Pen found himself trapped inside his car as he left a press conference in Manchester with demonstrators throwing full dustbins at the windscreen before lying down in the car’s path.
Police guarding the supposedly secret venue, a hotel in the usually quiet south Manchester suburb of Altrincham, were almost overwhelmed as the crowd surged forward, hurling missiles and shouting “scum”.
At one point, a car park barrier was pulled down to block Le Pen’s dark blue estate. The 75-year-old Frenchman finally escaped after police dragged men and women from under the car’s wheels and opened a path to the road.
The member of staff who took the booking for a “community club presentation” at the Cresta Court Hotel will be regretting the decision today. A spokesman for the hotel said: “We had absolutely no idea who was coming.”
Le Pen, who last addressed the British far-Right more than 10 years ago, had earlier flown into Britain protected by heavy security laid on by the BNP, which is aiming to capture its first seat in the European Parliament in elections in June.
The visit drew a warning from David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, that Le Pen, a defeated candidate for the French presidency, faced arrest if he incited racial hatred.
Journalists attending the press conference had been told to assemble in the car park of a stationery store in Stockport before being given the address of the venue.
But opponents of the BNP discovered the rendezvous point and followed the press to the hotel, where they were joined by hundreds more protesters carrying anti-fascist placards.
Shortly before the disturbance, three men were arrested following the discovery of a machete-type weapon in a car parked near the hotel. A police officer at the scene said BNP literature had been found in the vehicle.
During the press conference, Le Pen smiled broadly as he shook hands with Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, who said the Frenchman’s visit was intended to raise the party’s profile as it prepares to contest every European seat in Britain.
Speaking through an interpreter, Le Pen said he and his political allies in other EU states could soon be in a position to establish an ultra-Right bloc in Brussels.
He went on: “I hope that many people of the BNP will get elected and that we can create a very strong nationalist movement within the European Parliament.”
Outside, protesters could be heard chanting: “Hitler, Griffin and Le Pen. Nazi scum never again.”
Griffin is standing as candidate for a North Western seat in the election, which will be carried out under proportional representation, a voting system often favourable to small parties.
He said if the BNP had wished to incite racial violence through the Le Pen visit he would have chosen racially-mixed Oldham for the venue, rather than “sleepy Altrincham”. He said Le Pen would not be meeting the public, “glad-handing” being unnecessary.
Referring to Labour “parasites” and “flippy-floppy” Conservatives, the BNP leader defended his party’s racist stance, describing an all-white Europe as “Utopia”.
If the Metropolitan Police allowed an all-black officers’ association, then the people of Britain should be allowed an all-white party, he said.
When asked whether he would regard the word fascist as a pejorative term, Griffin said he would because his was a democratic party. Le Pen, who once described the Holocaust as a footnote in history, said fascism was strictly a name for an Italian movement.
Following his escape from the hotel, Le Pen was driven to a black-tie fundraising dinner at a marquee on farmland close to Griffin’s home in Welshpool, Powys.
Around 150 people at the dinner stood and cheered as Le Pen entered. Dozens of police guarded access to the farm for miles around.