Over 1000 students at Staffordshire University as well as local BNP members have lobbied for a vote of no confidence in Staffordshire Student Union President Assed Baig. The move comes after Baig created a link on the University’s website which allowed users to access a list of British National Party (BNP) members living in the local Staffordshire area.
The list included not only the names but also the postcodes of the BNP members’ current addresses. According to the Union’s constitution, the vote against Baig would have to constitute a two-thirds majority in order for him to be ousted from his position.
Baig came under fierce criticism after the publication of the list. A councillor for the BNP, Michael Coleman, is believed to have been the one to initiate the response to the website link by reporting the incident to local police. It has been argued that the revelation of BNP members in such a list is a violation of privacy laws. Another prominent party member and BNP representative on the Stoke-On-Trent City Council, Alby Walker, has also denounced Assed Baig’s actions.
Walker has made a request to the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Christine King, that Baig be suspended forthwith from Staffordshire University. Walker suggested that the high number of students who disagree with Baig was an indication of the wrongfulness of his actions. In reference to Baig he said: “I believe he is a dangerous person to have around and the university would be better without him.”
Nonetheless students have rallied to support Baig. A facebook group ‘Defend Staffordshire University Students Union from BNP attacks’ has over 600 members and is supported by ‘Unite Against Fascism’ and ‘Love Music Hate Racism’.
Baig has responded to his critics with equal defiance, and has implied that he believes that the particular force of this campaign to stifle him was motivated at least in part by his Muslim religious beliefs. According to local paper The Sentinel, Baig was reported as saying, “I think this criticism from the BNP is rich. They seem to be up in arms about the website link, but if they’ve got nothing to hide then what is the issue?” He has also stated his personal belief that it is the BNP who is primarily responsible for the establishment of a Facebook group criticising and that most of his fellow students will continue to support him.
Controversies such as this one seem to embody the wider debate about the way that democratic bodies should handle Far-Right political parties. Is democracy best served by treating all political opinions, however abhorrent some may find them, with equal respect? Or should the representatives in our society, be they government or universities, take a firm stand against the politics of those extremist parties which are perceived as having the potential to threaten democracy itself? Whichever view one takes, it would seem that most people would certainly agree that it would be an undesirable development indeed if the BNP were ultimately to benefit politically from this incident.