'BNP played on prejudices with lies'

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Andrew Brunt made a sweeping gesture at the predominantly Anglo-Saxon shoppers around him. "Look at the state of this place. From what it was five years ago, it's like a different country. You can't say it is a community, everyone speaks a different language," the 31-year-old driver from Barking, east London, said.

"We have been taken over. It's too late. This should have been done years ago," he added, proclaiming loudly that he was among the voters who helped the BNP win 11 seats in Barking and Dagenham

There was a boastful bluster among supporters of the far-right party as they meandered around the pound-saver emporiums of Barking.

"Yes," proclaimed one grandmother, punching the air with glee when asked to comment on the BNP's success, though she conceded that she "didn't bother" to vote.

"Why have we got the Army in Iraq?" asked a 74-year-old former car worker angrily. "We should bring them back here to deal with this lot."

Liam Smith, a Labour councillor who won his seat, blamed the far right for spreading lies: "It's all about housing. Rumours claim people from overseas are getting housing, which is totally untrue."

The Rev Gordon Tarry, whose parishioners include many Africans and West Indians, said: "I think the BNP fed lies and misrepresentations to people. They played on people's fears and prejudices with blatant deceit. I think it is a very sad day. Labour has a lot to answer for now. It is a combination of deprivation and statistics, which show that when you get beyond 15 per cent non-white population, you get this sort of thing. We have just gone over 15 per cent and it is a ripe situation to be exploited for the evil purposes of the BNP."

And Sophia Otoo-Arthur, a Ghanaian who moved to the area 15 years ago, said: "Of course I am worried, but what else can I do? I just tell my children to be careful."