BNP contests seat where racist killing took place

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The mainstream political parties on Merseyside have pledged to do all in their power to combat the threat of the British National Party (BNP) after it announced it was to field a candidate in the borough where the teenager Anthony Walker was murdered nine months ago.

The party's decision to field a candidate in Knowsley comes a week after the BNP beat the Conservatives into fourth place in a by-election on neighbouring Sefton borough council. Michael McDermott, their chosen candidate, secured 159 votes, against 143 votes for the Tory candidate Antonio Spatuzzi in the by-election for Waterloo's Church ward.

The party's decision comes amid recurring evidence that the murder of 18-year-old Anthony by racists has failed to stop acts of violence against a few ethnic residents. Six weeks ago the parish priest who led a vigil in memory of Mr Walker said he had become the victim of a hate campaign. Fr Anton Fernandopulle, vicar of St Aidan's church in Huyton, said teenagers had thrown a brick at him, called him a "Paki" and while he was stationary at traffic lights banged on his car and made the sign of a gun with their fingers. "It is since I have arrived in Huyton I have suffered some problems. I do not know why these youngsters are doing this," Fr Anton told the Liverpool Echo.

Alec McFadden of the Merseyside Campaign Against Racial Terrorism expressed dismay at the BNP's decision to field a candidate in Knowsley. "After Anthony Walker's murder, it is incredibly insensitive," he said. "We will be leafleting across Merseyside to stop them winning votes."

In 2003, the BNP fielded Joseph Owens in Liverpool's local elections. Mr Owens, a well-known figure in the Liverpool security scene, had served eight months in jail for sending razor blades in the post to members of the city's Jewish community in 1982. He was also convicted and jailed in 1994 for carrying CS gas and knuckle dusters when he worked as a clubland bouncer.

The use of tactical voting by supporters of mainstream parties to counteract the BNP was illustrated last month in Bradford when the far-right party lost Keighley West, one of its four seats on the council, to the Labour candidate Angela Sinfield. In Calderdale, West Yorkshire, where the party has also fared well in recent years, Adrian Marsden, the first BNP councillor elected to the area, revealed that he would not stand in the May elections.