Sunday, April 08, 2007

Bad news about the BNP

Far right to fight record number of council seats
Alarm for anti-fascist groups as BNP targets voters in countryside areas
Jamie Doward and Andrew Wander
April 8, 2007 The Observer

The British National Party is to field a record 655 candidates at next month's local elections, double the number who stood for it last time around.

The revelation has alarmed anti-fascist groups, which had predicted the party would field around only 500. They warn that the BNP is attempting to take its message out of the cities and into rural areas which have seen an influx of in eastern European immigrants.

The party, which fielded 365 candidates at the last local elections, now holds 49 council seats. It appears to be gathering support in the run-up to polling day on 3 May as its chairman, Nick Griffin, takes personal responsibility for the campaign, touring remoter areas in an attempt to spread its message. The anti-fascist group Searchlight has identified 92 wards which could fall to the BNP and says the party believes it could win as many as 100 seats.

Last night the BNP said it had seen a surge in supporters in recent weeks and that the total number of candidates it intends to field could rise above 700. 'We have more than doubled the number of candidates standing,' said Phil Edwards, its spokesman. 'We just want to give people the chance to vote for us. Many of our new candidates have joined the party quite recently. This shows we are becoming a mainstream political party and are gaining support.'

But the organisation Unite Against Fascism said people needed to see through the BNP's increasingly slick messages. 'It is a fascist party,' said Denis Fernando of UAF. 'It has a history of criminal convictions, violence and Holocaust denial. These are not the politics of a normal political party, but a fascist group, utilising the democratic system to gain a foothold in mainstream politics.'

The BNP has been buoyed by its performance last month in a by-election in the Bede ward of Bedworth in Warwickshire. The town has previously shown little inclination for right-wing politics, but in Bede, the BNP came second behind Labour with 31 per cent of the vote, taking more votes than the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats combined. In contrast, the party picked up just 9 per cent of the vote at the 2004 European elections.

Key areas identified by BNP strategists for the local elections include rural areas in the south west and eastern England as well as Wales, where the party is putting up a record 20 candidates in the National Assembly election.

The message boards of Vote Freedom, the BNP website which is co-ordinating the party's local election campaign, carry an increasing number of comments from sympathisers disillusioned with the three main political parties.

One supporter in Melton in Lincolnshire, who identifies his main concerns as crime, health and a 'fair deal' for agriculture, said: 'I don't think the three main parties are capable of providing the solutions. When I went to my first BNP meeting I didn't find any jackbooted skinheads. I found ordinary men and women like myself.'


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