Scoring a political stunt against a major company as Unilever in the run-up to a General Election campaign would usually be regarded as a positive event. But when you deliberately flout heavily protected trademarks and go up against a multinational with astronomical resources and an army to defend itself it can be generally regarded as a very crass and stupid thing to do. When you also endanger the welfare of the individual under whose name the trademark breach occurs then that is also regarded as an extremely foolish and irresponsible matter.
What may have started out as something of a schoolboy prank by naive and idiotic individuals (Nick Griffin, aided and abetted by Paul Golding and Jim Dowson) has now turned into a PR disaster for the BNP and a personal nightmare for Simon Bennett, former BNP Webmaster.
Staging such an ill-judged stunt as spoofing the Marmite brand on a piece of video footage promoting Nick Griffin and the BNP electoral campaign is not the work of a normal political party or of mature and worthy politicians. Instead, it was the pathetic attempt by the BNP Chairman to milk media coverage against Uniliver, which was encouraged by so-called ‘Industry Expert’ Jim Dowson (who had no thought of stopping this stunt that has backfired so spectacularly against the BNP). Meanwhile, Simon Bennett was faced with being sued by Unilever for breach of a protected trademark when the BNP used the Marmite image on its video spoof, as Mr Bennett’s name was on the website which he controlled at the time. Despite cajoling and disguised threats against Mr Bennett by Griffin, Mr Bennett chose not to perjure himself in court which would have risked him a possible jail sentence. Meanwhile, Mr Bennett faced a heavy fine and the possibility of having his house re-possessed to pay for the legal action against him, whilst the BNP leadership left him adrift with his family not knowing what to do.
Where was the legal counsel during this time? We know that Lee Barnes, the BNP Legal Director, is the right-hand man of the Puppet Master himself and is a confidant of Griffin. Barnes provides legal strategy for the BNP and counsels Griffin over what he can and cannot legally do on a political level, although the BNP employs legal professionals to fight legal cases.
So where was Lee Barnes during this affair? The spoof clearly took some time to set up and during that time Simon Bennett expressed his opinion that it was unwise, where he was over-ruled by others, despite the fact that it was Simon Bennett’s head on the line if the stunt went belly-up (which, of course, it did so spectacularly).
The fact is that Lee Barnes was fully aware of the stunt as his own blog shows. On 22 April he published the following which showed that he thought it was all ‘a good laugh’ and also that he encouraged others to disseminate it across the Net so as to make it go viral, no doubt in the misguided hope that it would upset Unilever and maybe encourage a media circus. He was fully aware that the unauthorised use of Unilever’s trademark was unlawful as he stated that “Any resemblance to any real products is purely coincidental”. Was he not aware of the legal ramifications that such an act may entail, that the company would take great umbrage at having their trademark used and that its team of lawyers would be on the case against the BNP? Was he not aware that as a consequence those whose names that appeared under the publishing source, that is, the BNP website, would be in danger of being sued with all its attendant legal and financial consequences? Such a cavalier disregard of the well-being of both the party and of those officials who were at risk shows a lack of judgement and also a legal crassness that can be considered as highly irresponsible in the extreme.
However, it is the case with the BNP leadership and the cabal that governs it, that ineptness and negligence are not dealt with in the same way as in any other political party, or indeed organisation. Whilst those responsible go unpunished time after time and are rewarded for their craven loyalty to Griffin, those officials who are just trying to do their best for the party and its members are treated with contempt, disloyalty and disregard by the leadership, jettisoned like excess baggage if an insoluble problem arises, or if that particular individual refuses to give in to Griffin’s bullying and selfish ambitions. We’ve seen with all of the BNP Treasurers when they try to act in a transparent manner, from Mike Newlands and the Edwards’ onwards to Michaela McKenzie, and we’ve seen it with how Griffin protected Collett, until he became expendable with the arrival of businessman Jim Dowson.
Lee Barnes is not a practising lawyer so he cannot be sued by the party for negligence or bad advice, but he is the Legal Director and he has legal qualifications which make him a source of legal expertise within the party, and particularly for Griffin.
He was fully aware of the spoof campaign and gave it is blessing, and failed to assess the legal situation for the party and for the individual who would be held legally responsible in the event of the company retaliating. Griffin seems to have goaded Unilever into reacting so as to precipitate a legal crisis that he would be able to exploit for publicity purposes. It backfired spectacularly when Unilever did react – and reacted with a full legal offensive. Webmaster Simon Bennett got caught in the legal firing line, as was obvious if a protected trade mark was being unlawfully used, and it was Simon Bennett who faced the consequences as he was liable for it – as the registered owner of the BNP website.
A similar event occurred in 1999 when Griffin decided to spoof the Metropolitan Police in a leaflet and cost the party £12,000 in legal fees. Griffin at the time was advised by Tony Lecomber, who is widely regarded in nationalist circles as a State asset.
In the recent ‘Marmitegate’ episode Mr Bennett expressed anger about being left up “the proverbial creek” over the Marmite scandal, in which the BNP was served with an injunction by the food brand’s owners after it used Marmite images in an online political broadcast.
He wrote in his posting: “I had warned them [Griffin and Dowson] not to proceed, but both were insistent that this is a brilliant publicity stunt.”
Mr Griffin had claimed that a “joker” had inserted the images into the broadcast, which the BNP was forced to remove from its site. Bennett has since provided a full statement about the affair which shows that Griffin and Dowson attempted to cover up the affair when it got out-of-hand and attempted to cajole Bennett into committing perjury by asking him to lie in court over the actual events. Mr Bennett to his credit refused and told the truth concerning the issue and revealed further experiences of Griffin and Dowson that he had witnessed over time and which had convinced him that the party under Griffin was corrupted.
Mr Bennett also said that he had been physically threatened over disagreements relating to the website and said he would call the police if they continued. He is now seeking reimbursement for aspects of its design and content which he claims to own.
Lee Barnes may not be a registered solicitor but with his legal qualifications and the fact that he advises both the party and Nick Griffin on matters relating to the law means that he should have known about the legal difficulties that an infringement of a company’s trademark would have brought. This is something that a novice would have been able to have seen. The fact that he then went on to make light of the issue when the company retaliates with an injunction when it was self-evident that the registered owner of the BNP website would be liable shows that his judgement is seriously poor. He may call it “spoofing” but to threaten the well-being and livelihood of the Webmaster through neglect just because he has a visceral hatred of corporate lawyers is beyond a joke. When personal issues and ideologies get in the way of judgement and the protection of both colleagues and the BNP then we have an issue which must be addressed.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Spread It On
BOLLOCKS TO UNILEVER.
Lets go viral.
This is a spoof image.
Any resemblance to any real products is purely coincidental.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
Marmite Get Sulky
Poor old Marmite – they launch an ad campaign to spoof the BNP, and then get all stroppy and threaten an injunction when they get spoofed back.
I hate advertising executives and I hate corporate lawyers.