I think there are a few issues...
For one - and I'm not sure where I stand on this - some people pointed out that the English National Ballet is heavily subsidsed by the government (Westminster) and thus Ms. Clarke is in part a government employee. Thus some would argue that - at least in public - she needs to maintain certain standards. The BNP, by any standards, is extremely right wing to the point of being bigoted and racist. (It is usual, at least in the US, that government employees are not allowed to publicly support or campaign for any person or political party).
I don't think she could be sacked simply for membership of a perfectly legal political party. If ENB did that she could sue for unfair dismissal and win.
Also, I can't remember how the story broke in the first place, but Ms. Clarke's subsequent comments were in violation of her contract, which specifies that such comments (because they were made at that point in the context of her job as a dancer) must be approved by the company's press department. Thus, irregardless of the story's merit, she was not all in the right.
If I remember rightly the story broke when a Guardian journalist managed through false pretences to secure a list of names on the BNP's membership database. There was a huge furore that prompted her to speak (very inadvisably and probably without considering the implications) to the press.
I personally, also think Ms. Clarke put her foot in her own mouth big time. Joining a party that condemns immigration to the point of being offensively racist whilst being married and having a child by an immigrant, and whilst having many workmates who are immigrants is hypocritical. Fine if she had not made any fuss over it, and not commented after the story broke. But she continued to defend the BNP, which just made her look foolish and probably did not endear her to her fellow dancers.
I agree with much of that, but I imagine it would be even more hypocritical to have backed down and not had the courage of her convictions (even controversial ones) in the face of press criticism.
I certainly think she has a right to her own beliefs, and that people had a right to protest her comments (but not to interrupt performances or obstruct those who want to see her dance). However, as a public persona, and someone who benefits from the government purse (in part), I think she has some responsibility for her public behaviour - and coming out in favour of the BNP isn't going to be high in most people's books as far as earning resepect. I don't the story merited being 'broken' to begin with, but I would have respected Ms. Clarke much more had she not made any response (following the letter of her contract) and let the story die down.
I have to admit that the protest against her inside the theatre (at a performance designated as a children’s matinee!) made me extremely angry, as although I believe fervently in the right to demonstrate as a form of free speech, my tolerance of protesters evaporates when their behaviour degenerates into hooliganism.
I find it hard to believe that 'left wing journalists' would have any contempt for ballet. Dance, and ballet in particular, tend to be inhabited by left wing persons.
Sorry Kate, but I feel they do. For some time now there has been a slow drip, drip, drip, against all the fine arts in the media in general and I find it more noticeable in those publications that class themselves as left wing.
I would have liked to have drawn a line under the Simone Clarke story, but it was the "Ballerinas should be seen and not heard" comment that made me post a link to the article as it made me very angry indeed, as LM Tech says, it is particularly offensive.