NICK GRIFFIN is to quit as leader of the fascist British National Party.

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“I intend to hand the party over to someone who will be able to drive support up to where it can be a serious contender for power,” said Griffin today.

But despite the decision, which was probably forced on him by internal rivals, Griffin plans to cling on to power within the fractious far-right party until 2013.

Griffin said he wanted to stay on for two more years as the rebuilding of the party’s administration was “still going to take at least 18 months to implement”.

“By then I would have been leader of the BNP for 15 years and that is long enough,” said Griffin.

“It will be time to make way for a younger person who does not have any baggage which can be used against the party.”

Though the BNP raised its national vote at the recent General Election – mainly due to fielding more candidates – Griffin himself suffered a personal drubbing in his quest to become MP for Barking, a part of east London the fascists had earmarked as their bridgehead.

In the event, not only did Griffin lose badly to Labour, but the BNP also lost all its 12 councillors on the area’s local council in the simultaneous local authority vote.

Splits within the BNP are thought to be among the reasons for the party’s lack of a breakthrough. In the run-up to the election, one of the BNP’s leaders, Mark Collett, was arrested on suspicion of threatening to kill Griffin.