Two BNP supporters look on as their man finds his seat.
I step out of the City Hall lift and into the centre of a blazing row. Outside the glass doors of the chamber, two BNP supporters are shouting at a man, as he tells them that Nazis aren't welcome in London.
One of the two is a red-headed woman who I think I recognise from BNP videos and the other is a short balding man who is becoming increasingly angry. He turns to the other man and says:
"Look you. London is a violent crime ridden cesspit and Richard Barnbook will be a breath of fresh air."
Inside the chamber and there is more than a breath of fresh air between Barnbrook's seat and the rest of the assembly. The seating is arranged in a horseshoe shape and whoever was in charge has put Barnbrook right at one end, with a one-seat gap between him and the other members. If it was meant to alienate him then it has worked, and from what I saw today it will be a position he will have to get used to.
I sit myself behind the BNP supporters as we wait for the other assembly members to arrive. They are now joined by a man with an Italian accent named Guiseppe. After the meeting Barnbrook welcomes him by his first name so I assume that this must be Giuseppe De Santis.
De Santis was part of the BNPs unsuccessful attempts to create a Europe-wide alliance of far-right groups. He was also as it happens, a member of the 'better off out' campaign to leave the EU run by the Freedom Association. They too it seems have few qualms about who helps their cause.
The first piece of business is the election of the Chair and deputy chair. The 'rainbow' coalition of Labour Lib Dems and Greens all unite to elect Jeanette Arnold to the position of Chair. Jeanette is a black Labour member representing Hackney and from the look of it Barnbrook isn't pleased. His supporters give each other a knowing look.
But when the position of Deputy Chair is put to the vote I am momentarily surprised by Barnbrook's choice. Throughout the session Barnbrook either votes with the Tories or abstains. But when the Assembly are asked to choose between Tony Arbour of the Tories or Darren Johnson of the Greens, Barnbrook gives his vote to the latter.
I am left puzzled for a second, wondering why Barnbrook voted with the left coalition against a Tory candidate and then suddenly it strikes me: Tony Arbour isn't white.
Because for all their ideological mumbo jumbo, the default position of the BNP is White Power. And while they may hate the environmentalist or the communist, there is no hatred that will overcome their race hatred. And as their friendship with De Santis shows, despite all of their spiel about unsustainable immigration, there is clearly no limit to the number of foreign white Nazis that they will welcome to these shores.
As the meeting continues Barnbrook seems completely out of his depth. At several points he tries to hijack proceedings with a rambling speech about his complaint to the Standards Boards for England (or 'standing board' as he calls it) but he is twice silenced by the word of the chair (or mayor as he calls her.) And as the meeting draws to a close I wonder just what he expects to get out of this assembly.
From what I saw today it's clear that Barnbrook's real interest is not in being part of the assembly as he claims, but in manufacturing conflicts and gaining publicity for his party.
However, with Labour and Tory threats of non-cooperation, and with the seating arrangement in the assembly, the other parties are at risk of playing directly into his hands. Because by trying to extend the 'no-platform' approach into an elected assembly, they are only dressing him in the martyrs clothes that he seeks.
So for my money the best way to deal with Barnbrook would be to call his bluff and to give him exactly what he asks for. Involve him in the driest of committees and give him the most tedious of the assembly's tasks. Because by denying him cooperation, the assembly are only allowing him to pose as the champion of democracy that he most definitely isn't.
So give him what he asks for and test his clearly limited abilities. Because it is only then that Londoners will see just what little commitment the BNP really have to this city.