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UK Politics

BNP wins Lancashire council seat

The BNP today won its first county council seat in Lancashire in the party's stronghold of Burnley as Labour faced a routing in the town's local elections.

In the first three results to be announced from the count, the far right party won one seat on Lancashire County Council and the Liberal Democrats two seats, from Labour.

Previously all six seats were held by Labour since 2005, with three more results to come.

Burnley, scarred by race riots in 2001, already has four BNP members who sit on the local borough council.

The BNP's Sharon Wilkinson defeated Labour's Marcus Johnstone in the Padiham and Burnley West ward to gain her seat on the county council.

The BNP breakthrough in the Lancashire County Council elections will strengthen the party's hopes of getting their leader, Nick Griffin, elected as Euro MEP for the North West.

Griffin only needs around 8 per cent of the Euro votes across the region, to be elected to Strasbourg.

In Burnley, with 11 per cent of its 65,000 electorate from ethnic minorities, mainly Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the turnout was around 35 per cent from the first three results, well down from the 2005 election turnout of 59.54 per cent.

Ms Wilkinson said: "It is absolutely wonderful for the party and gives me the opportunity to represent more people."

And there was more bad news for Labour, with the Liberal Democrats taking the remaining three seats from them - wiping Labour of the map.

Kitty Ussher, local Labour MP for Burnley speaking from the count, said: "It is disappointing. We have lost some really good county councillors who have worked very hard to serve their community.

"I think we were the victims of uncertain economic and political times nationally.

"Hazel Blears wore a brooch saying, 'Rocking the boat'. If you are in choppy waters you don't change the captain.

"I think with James (Purnell), I read what he said, I'm sad he did that.

"We have a very good and able Prime Minister to take us through this difficult time."

Gordon Birtwistle, the Liberal Democrat leader of Burnley Borough Council and prospective parliamentary candidate for the town, said: "We are over the moon, we have completely wiped Labour off the map.

"They had all six seats, today they lost the lot, of which we took five of the six.

"Obviously Labour nationally are in a catastrophic position."

Tony Martin, who had been a Labour county councillor in Burnley for 20 years until today's defeat, said: "It has been an absolutely awful day for Labour in Burnley.

"We expected the results to be bad but we hoped we could hold on to a couple of seats.

"I'm devastated I lost my own seat and ended up coming third.

"It is the same for Labour as it was with the Tories in 1997. They just had to reform themselves and are now doing very well with Cameron.

"We have been in power for 13 years and sometimes you get the backlash.

"We will be back."