Nick Griffin, British National Party leader, insisted on Friday he would fight for re-election to the European parliament in May, in spite of being declared bankrupt.
But Mr Griffin’s financial problems echo the decline of the BNP in recent years, as the UK Independence party has replaced it as Britain’s principal vehicle for anti-immigration and anti-EU protest.
The BNP leader, who was declared bankrupt at Welshpool County Court, said he would turn his experience “to the benefit of hard-up constituents by producing a booklet on dealing with debt”.
He tweeted: “Being bankrupt does not prevent me from being or standing as an MEP. It does free me from financial worries. A good day!”
He will be automatically discharged from bankruptcy in one year, in accordance with the Insolvency Act.
Mr Griffin was elected as an MEP for the northwest in 2009 on an 8 per cent share of the vote, as his party tapped into growing public concern about immigration and tensions between white and Asian communities in some northern towns.
His appearance on the BBC’s Question Time programme in 2009 was a sign of how seriously the rise of the BNP was being taken by the media and political establishment.
But the BNP failed to win any seats in the subsequent 2010 general election and polled under 2 per cent of the vote; Mr Griffin finished third behind Labour and the Conservatives in Barking constituency in Essex.
Since then, the BNP has descended into infighting and voters with a grievance have increasingly turned to Nigel Farage’s Ukip as a means of expressing their anger with the political class.
Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos Mori, said: “Ukip have become the acceptable far-right party, not that they would accept that they are far right. It’s acceptable to tell pollsters you support Ukip.
“The BNP receives so few mentions in opinion polling that they don’t show up – they are probably at around 1-2 per cent.”
Barring a surprise revival in the party’s fortunes, the BNP is likely to lose both its seats in the European parliament.
However, Mr Page notes that Ukip has shown signs of the kind of internal squabbling that plagued the BNP and has a similar dependence on a single, high-profile leader.
“If Farage did go, that would undoubtedly cause Ukip trouble,” Mr Page said. “Most people can’t name any other member of Ukip apart from him.”
Mr Griffin said his bankruptcy did not affect party funds in any way, adding: “Our campaign in May will be our most professional yet and I will be our lead candidate in the northwest.”
The BNP website – which wishes supporters a “white Christmas” – said Mr Griffin’s bankruptcy petition was presented for judgment by his former solicitors.
The party said Mr Griffin had applied for an Individual Voluntary Arrangement, offering to pay 42p in the pound over five years to all his creditors, but this was rejected by the petitioning creditor, who said they would not accept any kind of deal under any circumstances.