British National Party activists have been criticised for using mobile food banks to gain votes ahead of the May elections in the same way the Nazis employed Hitler's soup kitchens to help their rise to power.

The far-right party have been offering food to deprived areas across the UK in a bid to build trust with the electorate and have produced a YouTube video to teach volunteers how to come on board.

But Weyman Bennett, the general secretary of Unite Against Fascism said offering social welfare was an age-old ploy of extreme right parties to build support in poor areas. Hitler's soup kitchens helped the Nazis rise to power in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.

"I think the BNP are repeating those methods with this period of austerity. There is a danger with austerity that people get exploited and used," he told The Independent.

"They are pretending almost to be a charity", adding that this would encourage "the homeless and the desperate to support a rotten organisation".

Simon Darby from the BNP said the bedroom tax and the high cost of energy was driving the demand for food and denied it was a bribe saying the food would be given to non-BNP supporters.

"It's beyond belief. People are really, really struggling to make ends meet. It's no joke. It really is a genuine need for people.

"It (giving out free food) is a very, very practical way to express sympathy with people. So many people are cynical about politics now.

"It's a way of getting people to trust you and bringing real meaning to politics...a way of embedding yourself in the community."

Bennett is now urging the Electoral Commission to investigate the legality of the BNP scheme.

A spokeswoman for the commission said she had not heard of political parties giving out food in this way in the UK.

"I assume if we knew it was going on, we would want to consider the matter and see whether anything needed to happen with it."

She said it would be a criminal offence if any donations of food were worth more than £1,500 as it would be labelled as "treating", which specifically relates to giving food, but this requires a "corrupt intent" to influence voters.