British No-show Party as Nick Griffin bottles it

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THE previous week, Nick Griffin had braved death threats, run the gauntlet of rioting protesters outside BBC studios and been heckled by a baying crowd during his appearance on Question Time.

But even for a hardened neo-fascist, it appears the streets of north-east Glasgow are a step too far. The photographers were waiting, unemployed locals had something to watch, Greggs was doing a roaring trade in steak pies and coffee. The only thing missing was the man himself.

Mr Griffin, we had been informed, would be arriving in Springburn at noon to campaign for the British National Party ahead of the Glasgow North East by-election on 12 November.

At 1:30pm, it was confirmed he would not be coming at all.

Faced with the prospect of meeting some of the country's more forthright observers of political life, the saviour of Britain's victimised white race appeared to have bottled it.

Mr Griffin's day in Scotland had got off to a trying start. In the morning, arriving at the Hamilton radio studios of L107, which had decided to run a phone-in with him, the BNP leader was pelted with eggs by about 40 protesters.

The phone-in itself proved to be commercial suicide for the station, which later revealed that at least three advertisers had withdrawn support in protest.

But at least at Springburn shopping centre Mr Griffin would finally have a chance to speak to some genuine voters.

BNP candidate Charlie Baillie, a Glasgow-born contractor, was there, waiting for his leader, mobile phone pressed to his head.

Mr Baillie was having mixed results whipping up support. Walking past was 82-year-old James Murray, a former Royal Engineer who saw service in the Second World War, fighting his way into Nazi German territory in the Allied advance at the end of the war.

"I used to shoot people like you," Mr Murray called cheerfully to Mr Baillie.

Three paid-up Glasgow neds, however, proved more fruitful territory. "All these black c**** are getting housing. Excuse my language," declared one.

Mr Baillie nodded sympathetically, telling him the problem was the influx of asylum seekers who were changing the identity of the country.

The first sign that things were going wrong came a few minutes after 12. Mr Baillie informed the waiting media that Mr Griffin would be late, having been held up. Mr Baillie disappeared.

Forty-five minutes after that, two BNP men emerged from a Mercedes people-carrier.

Mr Griffin would not be coming at all, they said. He had been invited to a veterans' charity in Hamilton.

"Rather than cut short his visit to the servicemen, he is taking time with them," one of them said. He hadn't bottled it at all, they added – he had simply decided to spend more time with deserving veterans.

The media headed for Lanarkshire, where Mr Griffin was found at the headquarters of Feba, a charity set up last year to offer support to veterans.

Feba founder Tommy Moffat has said he was forced to accept support from the BNP, because he was turned down for help by government.

"I will be down in Springburn later," Mr Griffin insisted.

But his minders said he had an important speaking engagement. In St Helen's, Lancashire.

Mr Griffin and Mr Baillie posed for pictures. "Sorry I didn't get there," said the leader to his colleague. And with that he disappeared into a waiting Volkswagen. The march of the far-right on to Scotland's turf, it appeared, would have to wait for another time.

&#149 The BNP could be invited on to Question Time up to once a year if it maintains its current support levels, BBC director-general Mark Thompson has said.

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