Pack your bags and go, victor Margaret Hodge tells Griffin

Hopes haboured by the British National Party of winning its first parliamentary seat were crushed this morning when tourism minister Margaret Hodge retained her Barking seat.

Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, had hoped voter disenchantment and a split vote would hand him victory over Labour in the east London constituency but instead found himself in a distant third.

As she was declared the winner with an increased vote and a massive 16,000 majority, a delighted Ms Hodge told the BNP: "Pack your bags and go!"

She has held the constituency since 1994 but in recent years was increasingly concerned about voters defecting to the BNP because they were convinced no one was listening to their worries about immigration, housing and jobs.

The BNP targeted the constituency as one of its principle hopes but instead saw Ms Hodge's vote surge to more than 24,000.

She said: "This really is a great moment in our history. On behalf of all the people in Britain, we in Barking have not just beaten but we have smashed the extreme right.

"The lesson from Barking to the BNP is clear: Get out and stay out, you're not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy. Pack your bags and go!"

Simon Marcus came second for the Conservatives with 8,073 votes, while Mr Griffin languished in third with 6,620 votes.

BNP hopes had earlier been raised by several victories in East London, including in June last year when Mr Griffin and Andrew Brons were elected for the BNP as MEPs, leading to the BBC's decision to allow the BNP to appear on Question Time.

Mr Griffin, in his post declaration speech, accused Ms Hodge of shedding "crocodile tears" over the pace of change and labelled her and the Labour Party an "absolute disgrace". He added: "It's too late for Barking, but it's not too late for the rest of Britain."

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