Local Elections: Bomb explodes at BNP headquarters: Anti-terrorist squad called in over blast just hours after extreme right party says candidates will fight 50 council seats

Click to follow
A LETTER BOMB exploded at the headquarters of the British National Party yesterday only hours after the extreme right group claimed it would fight up to 50 seats in next month's local council elections.

A 57-year-old party worker suffered cuts and burns to his hands and face at the heavily fortified offices in Welling, south London, only hours after nominations for council elections closed at noon. The anti-terrorist squad was called in to investigate.

Last October more than 200 police were injured when anti-racist demonstrators tried to march on the headquarters. Richard Edmonds, BNP spokesman, said yesterday's attack would not stop the party fighting council seats.

The BNP is focusing its campaign on the east London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham, both of which have large Asian communities.

In Tower Hamlets it will field eight candidates in four wards. Last October, the main parties in the borough, currently controlled by the Liberal Democrats, were rocked by BNP member Derek Beackon's seven-vote win over Labour in the Millwall ward, amid violent race clashes. Mr Beackon is defending his Isle of Dogs seat, and two other party members, Alan Smith and Gordon Callow, are also standing in the ward.

Although the extent of the BNP's effort nationally was unclear last night, another six candidates had been declared in Newham, one in Hull and one in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear.

Yesterday, Liberal Democrat leaders criticised the other parties for refusing to form an alliance against the BNP. 'Our overriding objective in Tower Hamlets must be to stop the BNP getting elected,' Mathew Taylor, the Liberal Democrat MP in charge of campaigns, said.

He said he was disappointed that the other parties had ignored an offer by the Liberal Democrats to stand down in Tower Hamlets to allow candidates, selected by the local people from the main democratic parties, to challenge the BNP on a joint slate.

Mr Taylor said the BNP had never had an overall majority and could only win seats by the other parties splitting the vote.

In December, an internal investigation by the Liberal Democrats into alleged racism in the local party recommended the expulsion of activists, and the party's vote could now be split by a challenge from their own outcasts. Jeremy Shaw and Betty Wright, two former Liberal Democrats, are fighting as independents in Tower Hamlets. They have issued a campaign leaflet saying: 'We've had enough of double standards, and hypocrisy and corruption . . . of being called racists, but not enough to stop us fighting on for you.

'Posh, soft Liberals have no idea of the real problems in the East End . . . Because they live in cloud cuckoo land, Ashdown and Co don't have a clue,' the leaflet says.

'I think people will draw their own conclusion,' Mr Taylor said. 'We have dealt with what happened in Tower Hamlets. If some people don't agree with that its better they leave the party than stay within it.'

There is also a fear that the decision by James Hunt, who stood as a Labour candidate in Millwall last year, to stand as an independent this time will split the Labour vote.

Even contesting 50 seats the BNP would not be entitled to a television party political broadcast. A party has to contest 8 per cent of the seats to merit air time.

More than 10,000 candidates from all parties are expected to contest nearly 5,000 seats in the 5 May elections for 32 London boroughs, nine Scottish regions, 3 Scottish island groups, 36 metropolitan districts, 4 Welsh districts and 114 English non-metropolitan districts.

The Prime Minister, John Major, is putting himself at the forefront of the Conservative campaign and the polls have been billed as critical to his leadership survival prospects.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments