BNP to use Prophet cartoon in campaign

The extreme right-wing party, which hopes to field 1,000 candidates in England, will include in its campaign material one of the cartoons which sparked outrage among Muslims across the world, showing the Prophet Mohamed with a bomb in his turban.

One leaflet asks voters: "Are you concerned about the growth of Islam in Britain? Make Thursday 4 May Referendum Day." It adds: "We owe it to our children to defend our Christian culture."

Labour MPs condemned the BNP's attack on Muslims while also urging their party's leaders to take more seriously the threat from the BNP in its working-class heartlands.

Mainstream parties say the BNP's campaigning has become more sophisticated. The party is using telephone canvassing for the first time and playing down its hostility to blacks and Asians in order to focus on Muslims. Other campaign literature contrasts the jailing of the Muslim cleric Abu Hamza for inciting murder and racial hatred with the partial acquittal of Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, who faces a retrial on unresolved racial hatred charges on 15 May.

The BNP, which now has 19 councillors, is expected to focus efforts in areas where it has performed strongly in the past such as parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and east London, where it won 35 per cent of the vote in recent by-elections in Barking. Its share of the vote rose from 1 per cent at the 1992 general election to 4.2 per cent last year.

Labour MPs are worried that the BNP could capture more council seats by exploiting the disenchantment with the Government among traditional Labour supporters and stoking fears about the Muslim community. The MPs fear that Tony Blair's determination to retain the support of Middle England could leave Labour vulnerable to a BNP advance in working-class areas.

Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham, said: "The BNP's pitch is to be more Labour than New Labour with a virulently anti-Muslim agenda." He said Labour's strategy of targeting swing voters in marginal seats was "diametrically at odds" with the need to reassure traditional supporters about the Government's record.

Sadiq Khan, MP for Tooting, called on Labour to agree pacts with Liberal Democrats and Greens under which one of them would take on the BNP in its target seats and the others would stand down. Such a strategy helped to defeat the BNP in a Barking by-election last year, when it tried to exploit the London bombings. Mr Khan said: "We have not successfully tackled the new BNP, who are suit-wearing men, and some women, Oxbridge graduates, who talk in pleasant language."

Ian McCartney, the Labour chairman, said: "The BNP's strategy is straight out of the Nazi textbook. Their tactics are becoming increasingly sophisticated but they always involve blaming one part of the community for local problems. They take up legitimate grievances and they exploit those issues for their own racist aims."

A BNP spokesman said it would campaign mainly on local issues and denied it was "exploiting" recent events. "We are saying that there are worries in society about these issues," he added.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Tax Manager / Accountant

£35 - £50k DOE: Guru Careers: A Tax Manager / Accountant (ACA / CA / CTA) is n...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Business Development B2B - Year 1 OTE £25,000

£17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Several opportunities to join t...

Recruitment Genius: Systems Administrator

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a small, busy team s...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Field Engineer

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT Support c...

Day In a Page

A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works