This long running case was brought by a minibus driver of disabled passengers who was dismissed after he was elected as a BNP councillor in the Bradford area. He was summarily dismissed on health and safety grounds, on the basis that the situation would cause problems for passengers and their carers as well as other employees and could put at risk the employer's contract with the council. The complainant did not have the (then) one year's service to bring an ordinary unfair dismissal claim, but claimed instead that his dismissal was discriminatory on racial grounds (the BNP was at that time open to "whites" only). However, his discrimination claims were rejected - the reason for his treatment was not his race but his membership of the BNP. (At that time, the religion or belief discrimination provisions did not include, as they now do, "any philosophical belief".)
Although the complainant could not make a human rights claim against his employer, because it was not a public body, he could and did claim against the UK Government that his right to freedom of association had been infringed because he could not bring an unfair dismissal claim to test whether his dismissal was unfair. Although human rights case law establishes that an employer can restrict freedom of association where this is necessary in a democratic society, in this particular case, a number of factors (in particular, the employee's good work record, the fact that no problems had actually arisen and that no alternative job was considered) led the Court to conclude that his Article 11 rights had been infringed: the UK Government had not taken "‘reasonable and appropriate" measures to protect employees from dismissal on grounds of political opinion. It could have done so by removing the qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims in this situation. The offensive nature of an individual's political opinion did not affect this.
The upshot of this case is that the Government will have to consider allowing an exception to the (now) two year qualifying period for unfair dismissal and/or allow claims for unlawful discrimination on grounds of political opinion. This will inevitably reopen the debate as to whether membership of a political party qualifies as a religious or philosophical belief: at the moment, the somewhat uncertain position appears to be (based on Grainger v Nicholson - a case from 2009 where the EAT found that belief in climate change was a philosophical belief) that a political belief can be protected provided it is "worthy of respect in a democratic society".