BNP to make record gains in elections, warn MPs

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The British National Party could make unprecedented gains in next month's elections, including its first European MP and member of the London Assembly, MPs from all parties are warning.

The British National Party could make unprecedented gains in next month's elections, including its first European MP and member of the London Assembly, MPs from all parties are warning.

The extreme-right party is putting up a record number of candidates and could win seats in the local, European and London elections.

The prospect of a rise in the far-right vote in Britain has alarmed Labour MPs who fear low voter turnout could boost the BNP vote to an all-time high.

They say the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, could become the party's first MEP. He is standing in the North West England constituency, where he needs only 9 per cent of the vote to be elected under the proportional representation system.

Although the BNP currently has only 17 councillors in Britain, a recent poll showed it had 5 per cent of the vote in London, enough to achieve its first London Assembly seat.

Labour MPs say the party is trying to whip up fear about asylum-seekers and appeal to latent racist sentiment. Frank Dobson, the former health secretary, warned that the BNP was organising and had formed close links with neo-fascists in France, Belgium and Holland.

The BNP is expected to field up to 600 candidates in the local elections, with 101 in Yorkshire alone, and it has told its supporters that June offers "an opportunity which is unprecedented in recent times." Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, said he was "cautiously optimistic that we can do a lot better this time".

A coalition of religious leaders of all faiths, politicians - including London mayoral candidates Ken Livingstone, Simon Hughes and Steve Norris - and hip-hop stars including Miss Dynamite and So Solid Crew, will launch a campaign tomorrow to mobilise the public to vote against the far right.

A giant billboard warning "The Racists are more Dangerous than Ever - They Are Voting" will be unveiled by anti-racist activists who believe low voter turnout could give the BNP disproportionate support.

Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote called on "voters black and white to democratically defeat the BNP to stop the threat of a racist mandate being legitimised".

Martin Salter, Labour MP for Reading West, warned that the party was also "on the way back" in Burnley. "The BNP are gambling on low voter turnout. They want to slip in under the cloak of apathy," he said.

The BNP already has three seats in Calderdale - the West Yorkshire district which includes Halifax - and is fielding 14 candidates this time.

The BNP's biggest municipal assault comes in Leeds, where it is fielding 23 candidates, compared with eight at the last election. There are another 14 in Barnsley, many of them women, and 12 in Wakefield, against two in the last election.

In Yorkshire the Church has taken the lead against the far right launching an anti-BNP "rainbow ribbon" campaign, similar to that used by the anti-apartheid movement. Two weeks ago, West Yorkshire's Ecumenical Council issued an unprecedented joint statement urging people to vote or risk BNP successes.

Comments