The BNP has failed to make a major electoral breakthrough, partly because the anti-immigrant vote was split with UKIP and partly because of a strong, united anti-BNP campaign.
It was, according to British National Party (BNP) propaganda, supposed to be the election that would see the BNP gain its first member of the European parliament, its first London Assembly representative and its first city council. Instead, the party has only managed a small increase in its tally of local councillors, from 17 to 21.
Europe: the UKIP factor
Across Britain, 808,200 people voted for the BNP in the elections to the European parliament, amounting to 4.9% of the vote. Its best results were in the West Midlands and Yorkshire / Humberside where it managed 7.5% and 8.0% respectively. But overall, the expected breakthrough was offset by a surge in support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
UKIP had made opposition to immigration a key issue of its campaign. And its most famous candidate, Robert Kilroy-Silk, is well-known for his outspoken views on asylum seekers and Arabs. For some potential BNP voters, UKIP is likely to have been a more respectable way of expressing opposition to immigration. Kilroy-Silk was elected to represent East Midlands in the European parliament. He joins eleven other UKIP candidates who succeeded in becoming MEPs.
Were it not for UKIP sharing anti-immigrant votes with the BNP, it is probable that BNP leader Nick Griffin would have been elected as an MEP in the North-West and Nick Cass elected as a BNP representative for Yorkshire and Humberside. In both of these areas, the BNP would have gained an MEP if a quarter of UKIP’s votes had gone to the BNP.
The votes polled for the BNP in each region for the Euro elections were:
- Yorkshire and Humber: 126,538 (8.0%)
- West Midlands: 107,794 (7.5%)
- East Midlands: 91,860 (6.5%)
- North-West: 134,958 (6.4%)
- North-East: 50,249 (6.4%)
- Eastern: 65,557 (4.3%)
- London: 76,152 (4.0%)
- South-West: 43,653 (3.0%)
- Wales: 27,135 (3.0%)
- South-East: 64,877 (2.9%)
- Scotland: 19,427 (1.7%)
Council elections: no leap forward
In the local elections, the BNP lost councillors in Blackburn, Thurrock, Dudley and Sandwell. It retained its existing number of councillors in Broxbourne, Burnley, Kirklees, Calderdale and Stoke-on-Trent. Only in Bradford and Epping Forest did the BNP break new ground, gaining its first seats on these councils.
In Burnley, where the BNP had hoped to gain control of the council, the party took just one seat, from Labour, while also losing a seat to a revived local Tory party. The BNP was left with a total of six seats on Burnley council, as before.
Vigorous campaigning against the BNP in its key target areas of Oldham, Burnley and Sunderland thwarted potential gains there. In many towns, such as Oldham, the entire council was up for re-election. But Oldham has yet to elect a BNP councillor.
It was only in Epping and Bradford, till now not thought of as BNP territory, that the party picked up gains. In Epping, the BNP pledged to ‘evict Gypsies immediately’ and local Gypsies, some of whom have lived on their own land at Paynes Lane, Lower Nazeing, for fourteen years, may now face eviction.
The BNP’s councillors, following last week’s elections, are:
- Bradford: Angela Clarke (Keighley West), Christopher Kirby (Worth Valley), James Lewthwaite (Wyke) and Arthur Redfearn (Wibsey)
- Broxbourne: Ramon Johns (Rosedale)
- Burnley: Barry Birks (Whittlefield with Ightenhill), Carol Hughes (Gannow), Len Starr (Hapton with Park), Patricia Thompson (Briercliffe), Brian Turner (Cliviger with Worsthorne) and Sharon Wilkinson (Hapton with Park).
- Calderdale: Adrian Marsden (Town), Richard Mulhall (Illingworth and Mixenden) and Geoffrey Wallace (Illingworth and Mixenden)
- Epping Forest: Terence Farr (Loughton Alderton), Patricia Richardson (Loughton Fairmead) and Tom Richardson (Loughton Broadway)
- Kirklees: David Exley (Heckmondwike)
- Sandwell: James Lloyd (Princes End)
- Stoke-on-Trent: Steve Batkin (Longton North) and Mark Leat (Longton North)
London: no seats
The BNP failed to gain any seats in the Greater London Assembly, despite the proportional system of voting. It polled only 90,365 votes (4.7%) in the Assembly vote and the BNP’s mayoral candidate, Julian Leppert, received just 58,405 first preference votes (3%). In both London elections, the BNP came sixth place.