BNP wins 16% of vote in local election
A CALL by the far-right British National Party for a council by-election in Hertfordshire backfired last Thursday when its candidate was trounced by both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats.
However, as support for Labour evaporated, the BNP took more than 16 per cent of the vote, sounding a warning to anti-racists that it may be on target for five per cent of the London-wide vote needed to win a seat in the London Assembly elections.
The party’s candidate, Mark Fuller, triggered the election, at Welham Green ward in Welwyn Hatfield, by persuading local people to write to the council calling for a vote to fill a seat left vacant by Conservative councillor Peter O’Brien. He had resigned over child-pornography allegations.
The results showed that the Tories were still popular, scoring 539 votes, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 484 and the BNP third with 214. Labour trailed with just 88 votes.
The BNP faced accusations by local Tory MP Grant Shapps of wasting public money by demanding an “unnecessary election”.
Mr Shapps said: “We have local elections in four months’ time, so I can’t understand why the BNP should have forced this poll, which has cost thousands of pounds. There are other councillors in this area so the people are not under-represented.”
The MP told the JC: “It shows that when the mainstream parties campaign on the true interests of the public, then fringe and extremist parties are defeated.” But a spokesman for the BNP, which has recently been damaged by reported splits between its leader Nick Griffin and several senior rank-and-file members, described its 16.2 per cent share of the poll as “brilliant”.
Gerry Gable, publisher of Searchlight, the anti-fascist magazine, said that the BNP vote was the result of a determined campaign in which the party had “bussed in” large numbers of canvassers. It was also leafleting and canvassing in the capital ahead of May’s London Assembly and mayoral elections.
Searchlight, Hope Not Hate and other anti-BNP groups are to host a meeting in Parliament next week as part of their campaign to head off the BNP. The main speaker is to be Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, where there are 12 BNP councillors on Barking and Dagenham Council.