LONDON – LONDON (AP) — British politics has come down to this — legal battles over a jar of Marmite.
The intensely salty yeast spread loved or hated by millions of Britons is in an unsavory quarrel with a far-right political party.
Marmite's owner, Unilever NV, on Thursday threatened to sue the British National Party for using Marmite's image without authorization in an election video. The small but vocal party, meanwhile, claims that Unilever had created ad campaigns spoofing the BNP, and said that featuring Marmite in its online broadcasts was just a counter-spoof of those "smears."
Unilever is seeking an injunction to remove the Marmite jar from the BNP's online broadcast, which featured a jar of the yeast spread in the upper left corner of the video as BNP leader Nick Griffin spoke about asylum seekers and foreign migrants.
"We want to make it absolutely clear that Marmite did not give the BNP permission to use a pack shot of our product in their broadcast," Unilever said in a statement. "Neither Marmite nor any other Unilever brand are aligned to any political party."
Marmite, made from brewers' yeast extract, has a quintessentially British image. Its marketing slogan, "Love it or hate it," spoofs the divide between loyal fans who adore its distinctively yeasty taste and those who find it overpowering and disgusting.
In one of its online marketing efforts, Marmite created two fictitious political parties — the "Love Party" and the "Hate Party" — that battle each other to gain supporters and haters of the yeast spread.
BNP claimed that it was the inspiration for Marmite's "Hate Party." In real life, the BNP, which is billed as the party of indigenous Britons and opposes immigration, has been accused of spreading hatred of migrants.
The party said it was complaining against Unilever to the Electoral Commission for "interference with the electoral process."
"Quite simply, if you start a spoof, you should expect to get spoofed," Griffin said in a statement on the BNP's Web site.
Griffin however, claimed he was not responsible for the Marmite logo appearing in the BNP's online broadcast — an unknown "joker" had inserted the image, he said.
The video was removed from the BNP's Web site later Thursday.