'Up to one in 10' English Democrat members were in BNP
Up to one in 10 members of the English Democrats have converted from the British National Party, their leader has told the BBC.
Robin Tilbrook said it was "perfectly fair" for people to "change their minds" and join a "moderate, sensible English nationalist party".
He said between 200 and 300 of the English Democrats' members were ex-BNP, most having joined a year or so ago.
Mr Tilbrook's party campaigns for a separate parliament for England.
Peter Davies, who has served as English Democrat mayor of Doncaster since 2009, recently left the party, saying it was "odd, to say the least, and, to me personally, unacceptable" that former BNP members were being "hoovered up".
But, speaking on BBC Two's Daily Politics, Mr Tilbrook, said: "Peter is now someone who's an ex-supporter of six parties and he's simply one of those people who's quite difficult to work with. He glorifies in the title of being the 'maverick mayor'."
He added that the recruitment of former BNP members had been "fairly small" and had mainly "happened a year or so ago".
Mr Tilbrook also said: "I think probably out of about 3,000 members that we've got, we've probably got 200 or 300 that are ex-BNP.
"As long as they are genuine converts to what we are talking about, I'm not bothered about it...
"The fact is that people are able to change their mind and they should be allowed to, within reason.
"What you are looking at is a situation where people are becoming more and more concerned about English national identity."
The English Democrats call for more equal public spending on services in England and Scotland, withdrawal from the European Union, the deportation of all illegal immigrants and making St George's Day a national holiday in England.
Mr Tilbrook told Daily Politics: "It's important that there should be a moderate, sensible English nationalist party that represents that view. We are that party."
He added: "We have stood non-white candidates. We are perfectly happy to do so and we are perfectly happy to have people join us who are genuine converts to our party. Any sensible party would do so.
"The Conservative Party undoubtedly has people in it who are ex-BNP as well. Labour has at least two councillors who are ex-BNP activists and, in one case, a person who was a BNP councillor.
"It's a completely ridiculous point to say that you shouldn't allow people to change their minds. This is grown-up politics. People change their minds. It's perfectly fair and reasonable that they should do so."
No BNP spokesman was available for comment.
On its website, the party describes the English Democrats as "a part of the liberal-left attack on our nation". It adds: "They are just another safety valve, designed to lead good people up a blind alley, and to divide the true nationalist cause."
The English Democrats are fielding 38 candidates in next week's English local elections, 23 of them in Kent.