THE far-right British National Party, due to hold its first-ever party political broadcast on BBC TV tonight, has admitted targeting schools as part of its campaign to gain political credibility.
The party has fielded a full list of candidates, 71 in England, eight in Scotland and five in Wales, for next week's European elections. It hopes to win at least one seat.
In what it terms a "life-and- death battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation", a BNP website explains how schools can take part in a mock Euro-election and gives details of how to receive an official Hansard Society school election pack. It encourages pupils to download posters from the site - "Let's get those photocopiers going."
This week a Hansard spokesman pointed out that the packs did not refer to the BNP.
However, Michael Newford of the BNP said: "We want to get more involved with schools. I'd certainly like to speak to and visit more schools. We also hope to attract more young people."
The BNP has also set up a new Internet website - Young BNP - aimed at secondary pupils, together with materials intended to help "white children understand their culture and who they are".
The rhetoric of the modern BNP has changed greatly from the National Front of the 1970s. In recent years it has tried to disassociate itself from openly violent right-wing groups such as Combat 18 and the newer White Wolves, both of which tried to claim responsibility for the recent London nail bombs.
Instead, the BNP hopes to exploit anti-European feeling in the UK, and gain credence through Euro-politics, modelling itself on the far-right parties of western Europe such as the French National Front.
Its leaders do not admit to racist or white supremacist views and have softened some of the harder NF stances, such as forced deportation of ethnic minorities. They want to see "voluntary repatriation grants" instead.
The BNP claims to have at least 1,000 members, including some teachers.
Nick Lowles, co-editor of Searchlight magazine, said: "The BNP quite cleverly are trying to put a respectable face to their politics. However they are the same old BNP."