The brutal murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby is being exploited by the British National Party in a bid to win support ahead of next month’s European elections, The Independent can reveal.
A BNP campaign video which plays on the death of the young soldier has been condemned as “immoral” by the Ministry of Defence and as a “disgusting” and “desperate” tactic by campaigners.
The film features a Spitfire flying intercut with images of soldiers on parade or fighting overseas as slogans such as “stop the immigration invasion” appear. It ends with an appeal to “Remember Lee” before a picture of the soldier in regimental uniform appears in the background of a Union Jack flag – with the words “Vote BNP” and “no surrender”.
Fusilier Rigby was off duty when he was murdered in Woolwich last May. He was run over by Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22. The pair then stabbed and hacked at the 25-year-old as he lay unconscious, in an attempt to decapitate him. Adebolajo will spend the rest of his life in prison, and Adebowale will serve a minimum of 45 years.
Yesterday campaigners and the MoD condemned the use of the attack to win votes for the election, which happens to fall on the first anniversary of Fusilier Rigby’s death – May 22 – something the BNP exploits in the film.
General Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British Army said: “This seems to be an appalling attempt at exploiting the very sad death of a soldier and it is something which must be condemned.”
A spokesman for the MoD added: “It is immoral and patently wrong that any organisation should seek to make political gains out of the tragic death of one of our personnel. It is equally inappropriate to suggest that the members of the Armed Forces should be directly linked to the activities of any political party.” The MoD added it did not endorse the use of the photograph of Fusilier Rigby in the film, taken by an agency photographer and so not Crown Copyright.
Weyman Bennett, the general secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said the film was “a disgrace and an attempt to whip up racism against Muslims”. He added: “The BNP is bankrupt financially and bankrupt politically. The video is an insult to Lee Rigby’s family. It’s a disgusting, desperate act.”
A spokesperson for SSAFA, the Army charity which runs the Lee Rigby Fund, said the family “have already expressed a wish to avoid any media engagement around the subject of Lee’s death, as we lead up to the anniversary”.
The tactic comes after last week’s revelatons in The Independent that BNP activists are trying to woo support by taking mobile food banks to poor areas – echoing the Greek extremists Golden Dawn.
Asked to defend the film Simon Darby, BNP spokesman, said: “Are you actually not showing a little bit of bias towards the white community in not allowing us to draw attention to a white victim whereas you wouldn’t even ask that question or run a story about a black or an Asian victim?”