BNP leader to stand against minister

Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, is to challenge Margaret Hodge, the Culture minister, for the Barking constituency at the next General Election.

He claimed the BNP would stand in more than 200 seats, and that he had chosen to stand in Barking, east London, in a bid to overturn Labour's 9,000 majority. Shortly before addressing the BNP's annual conference in Wigan yesterday, he said: "The thrust of that campaign will be the housing and education problems in the borough, and the way that the Labour Party has let that borough down in a catastrophic way."

He added: "For the first time, we are really serious challengers in a number of seats. We're looking at half a dozen really seriously with big amounts of resources. And on top of that we will be fighting, I'm sure, our largest number ever – so I guess in excess of 200. I'm confident we've got a serious chance." Ms Hodge said that she was "more than ready to expose and expel the BNP from the borough", adding: "I always knew I would have a BNP candidate and it has turned out to be him."

In October the BNP agreed in court to revise its constitution and accept non-white members after being accused of discriminating against racial and religious groups. Opponents questioned the BNP's ability to field 200 candidates, especially as it claimed penury after the court case.

The BNP's profile has risen in recent years as it seeks to tap into discontent among white voters over such issues as immigration, housing and unemployment. In June, Mr Griffin became the party's second MEP, hours after his colleague Andrew Brons. The party's electoral success meant Mr Griffin was controversially invited to take part in the BBC's flagship political debate programme, Question Time.