The British National Party (BNP) won another council seat yesterday, gaining 679 votes in the Mixenden ward of Halifax, West Yorkshire.
The far-Right party managed to gain 29 per cent of the votes cast. Their candidate, Adrian Marsden, 42, overturned the Labour majority in an election which had a turnout of 37 per cent – considered high for a district council election.
The BNP won three council seats in Burnley in May 2002 and a council seat in Blackburn in November 2002. The party also gained 18 per cent (8,213 votes) in the first round of the mayoral elections in Stoke in October 2002 and 20 per cent (519 votes) in the Downham ward council election in Lewisham, south London, in November 2002. In May, the BNP will be contesting a further round of council elections, with candidates fielded in Cumbria and Lancashire.
The main focus of the BNP’s Halifax campaign was fears over asylum seekers. The party would have been able to benefit from the mood of national hostility whipped up by the tabloid media in recent weeks. As their leader Nick Griffin commented earlier this month, the British press are helping to spread the BNP’s anti-immigrant message: ‘One could today be forgiven for thinking that the editors of five of Britain’s national daily papers – the Daily Star, The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph – had suddenly become BNP converts’.
Since Nick Griffin assumed the leadership, the BNP’s efforts have been focused on targetting council seats where votes are split between Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and the BNP can profit from a faltering Conservative Party. The aim is to emulate the successful electoral campaigns of extreme-Right parties elsewhere in Europe, by presenting itself as a ‘respectable’ mainstream party and seeking to play down its violent street presence.
However, party activists continue to get themselves into trouble with the law. In November 2002, David Wilson, a BNP activist based in West Dunbartonshire, was jailed for four months for distributing ‘threatening, insulting and abusive’ leaflets in the Pollockshields area of Glasgow, Scotland’s largest Muslim community. Wilson was convicted for inciting racial hatred under the Public Order Act after newsletters urging residents to stop ‘militant Muslims running amok’ were posted in July 2001.
- Adrian Marsden (BNP) 679
- Stephen Pearson (Lib Dems) 651
- Michael Higgins (Labour) 641
- Stephen Baines (Conservative) 214
- Michael Mellett (Independent) 142