Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell confronted BNP leader Nick Griffin today over his party’s record of homophobia, anti-Semitism and verbal attacks on Muslims.

Mr Griffin, who was barred from a garden party at Buckingham Palace today, was leaving the BBC studios in Westminster when Mr Tatchell ambushed him in a stairwell.

Mr Tatchell said: “Hi Nick, isn’t it about time you apologised to the British people for your party’s long history of anti-Semitism, homophobia and attacks on the Muslim community?”

As he was manhandled down the stairs by Mr Griffin’s security, Mr Tatchell shouted: “This is the BNP in action. Look at them, they’re thugs.”

He added: “Why don’t you apologise, you gutless coward? You attack the vulnerable and you won’t even face an accuser.”

Mr Griffin did not respond to Mr Tatchell’s taunts but told Radio 4′s PM programme this afternoon that Mr Tatchell had “assaulted” him by shouting and his security feared the activist would become violent.

Mr Tatchell said this afternoon: “Griffin looked sheepish. He seemed stumped for an answer. I asked him again. Then he just ran off. What a coward.”

He added: “For many years, the BNP has preached a totalitarian ideology of anti-Jewish, anti-black, anti-gay and anti-Muslim hatred. The party has a long and strident hatred of non-white immigrants and asylum seekers. It’s racist views are an affront to democratic values.”

Mr Griffin was invited to the Buckingham Palace event in his role as an MEP but the invitation was withdrawn today over claims he “overtly” used the invitation for political purposes.

A Palace spokesman said he had “increased the security threat and the potential discomfort” to other guests.

In a statement, Mr Griffin said: “Nowhere in the book of rules given to all attendees does it say anything about not giving media interviews and, of course, countless people have done precisely that in the past.

“This decision is an attack on the media and their right to report on important events of the day.

“It is an attack on the right of every person in Britain to get the news of current events reported by the media, and it is an attack on the one million plus patriots who voted for the BNP.

“The move has obviously been made under pressure from the Con-Dem regime who are desperate for any reason to bar the BNP.”

The party’s other MEP, Andrew Brons, was expected to attend the event.

To see BBC footage of Mr Tatchell confronting the BNP leader, click here.