BNP, Andy Sykes, Bradford, Keighley, British National Party
Looking out over his home city of Bradford, where Hope Not Hate bus is parked below him, Andy Sykes shakes his head. We've got a long way to go in this city," he says. "But one day we'll get the BNP voted out of Bradford." Now a committed anti-racist, Andy knows the British National Party's agenda well. For three years he was the Bradford and Keighley organiser for the far-right party and witnessed at first hand the hate at its heart. "There were a few things that attracted me to the BNP," Andy, 38, says. "It was 2001. I didn't agree with the war in Afghanistan. The BNP was putting out leaflets saying that the council was taking up to 3,500 asylum seekers. "I knew nothing about asylum seekers, but the BNP was saying there were drug dealers, rapists, murderers and paedophiles coming." He shrugs. "It concerned me. I knew the BNP was a far-right organisation but it seemed very plausible. They were all dressed in shirts and ties and seemed respectable. "I did have a feeling inside that it was wrong to listen to them. I'd had black and Asian friends growing up but the BNP seemed to answer concerns that I had." Andy, a printer at the time, started going to a few meetings at night. "They would tell you there was a conspiracy... things that weren't being reported in the media and the police were ignoring them. It just seemed to add up." It added up because it was mostly malicious propaganda. "It was just before the 2001 riots in Bradford and there was a lot of tension around," Andy says. "So I became a member, but within a few weeks I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with what was going on. "There were Nazi salutes and talk about violence against anti-BNP leaf letters and trade unionists. There was so much outright racism and anti-semitism. Beyond the respectable veneer, it was a nasty party." Andy became so worried he went to speak to his union. "I ended up talking to Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation. They asked if I would stay inside and pass them information." Andy intended to leave after a few weeks working undercover, but then the BNP promoted him to Organiser, placing him at the heart of the organisation at national level. "It wasn't easy. You had to be one of the boys," he says. "You had to agree with things that made you feel sick. But as a parent, I didn't want my child growing up in an area overrun with fascists and racists. That's why I did what I did." The party's strategy was chillingly simple. "The BNP would focus on a single issue. In Keighley it was a supposed Asian paedophile ring. In fact the ring was comprised of white and Asian people and wasn't a race issue at all, but the BNP would exploit it. "They look at the electoral registers and target areas that are 90 per cent or more white and then knock on doors talking about mass immigration and asylum seekers. "They'll talk about broader issues too like anti-social behaviour, drug problems, and local issues like traffic calming. Things close to people's hearts. The race stuff is lower down on the leaflet - trying to trick people into voting for them." His new role brought him into contact with key figures like BNP leader Nick Griffin and French fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen. "One of the things I'll never forget was being at a meeting with John Tyndall, the founder of the BNP and listening to him ranting - a racist, anti-semitic attack on Asians, blacks and Jews." During his time inside the BNP, Andy was able to get warnings out to people the BNP was planning violence against. Andy had the total support of his wife, Susan, throughout. "I couldn't have done any of this without her," he says. "We always had each other's trust." No one else knew the truth and friends began to avoid him. "I wanted to tell them, but couldn't," he says. In 2003, the BBC approached Andy to help them film secretly inside the Bradford and Keighley BNP. Called The Secret Agent, it turned his world upside down. "I've been hospitalised. I've had to physically defend myself in the street. I've had people arrested on my property. My tyres have been slashed, I've had rocks thrown at my car - but I've never regretted making the film." Now Andy is a youth worker, running school projects that are aimed at preventing extremism from taking hold. "The BNP will lie to you and say they are going to change the world, but they won't change anything," he says. "They are only interested in dividing your community." Today the bus will visit the set of Emmerdale. 3rd April 2007"
|Keywords||BNP,British National Party,2000s,2007,Bus,Hope not Hate,Campaign,Anti-racist,Campaigner,Nazi|
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