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.
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Feminist quotes to inspire you on the International Women's Day
Oscar Pistorius trial first week: Never mind a media scrum – murder case becomes bizarre safari following the tracks of a wounded lion
Belle Knox: How the porn star student from Duke University became bigger than Justin Bieber
International Women's Day 2014: Mothers and daughters around the world describe hopes and dreams in touching photographs
Apple's Tim Cook: Business isn’t just about making profit
Thousands of young people forced to go without food after benefits wrongly stopped under 'draconian' new sanctions regime
Ukraine crisis: New navy chief 'defects' and surrenders Crimean HQ as Putin claims ultranationalists forced intervention
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 4 Too upsetting? Academy members voted for Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave 'without watching it'
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...