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BNP COUNCILLORS -- THE PERFORMANCE OF EXISTING BNP COUNCILLORS
All over the country hundreds of BNP candidates are putting the final touches to their election manifestos. On past experience most will be complete works of fiction. Nick Lowles looks at the performance of the existing BNP councillors.
The public does not trust politicians. Sleaze, the Iraq war, spin and a sensationalist media have all contributed to widespread scepticism and the BNP capitalises on it.
“The old gang” is how the BNP dismisses the other parties. And the fascists know they are tapping into a mood that many people share. By contrast, they tell voters, they offer an alternative – they speak up for the Silent Majority.
Research shows that the BNP benefits from being “new” and “different”. “Let’s give them a chance”, say some voters. After all the BNP is all things to all people. It has not been tested and it can promise the world.
But when they have got into office BNP councillors have failed to perform.
Last summer many commentators were seriously concerned that the BNP would eventually take control of Burnley council. It was not an unrealistic prospect. The BNP had just got seven new councillors elected and had polled more votes than Labour across the town.
The performance of the BNP councillors has ensured that this is no longer a possibility.
The Burnley BNP councillors have been a disaster, not only for the people who voted for them but for the BNP nationally.
Last summer it was revealed that BNP councillors had only spoken once in a full council meeting in 14 months of holding office. Rather than apologising or even being embarrassed, their group leader, Len Starr, not only confirmed that they had stayed silent but went on to say that they had no intention of presenting any proposals to the council in the foreseeable future. And this was when they were the official opposition party.
New BNP councillor Brian Turner then angered residents when he slammed a community project as “politically correct nonsense”. Unfortunately for “turnip” Turner, as he is known locally, the scheme had been drawn up by the community itself. Rather than apologise for his stupidly, Turner then claimed his comments had been made up by an imposter!
The BNP’s position deteriorated even further when another of its councillors, Luke Smith, smashed a bottle into the face of a fellow BNP supporter. In the resulting by-election the BNP vote halved and the party slipped down into third place.
When the BNP did eventually break its silence it only got into further trouble. Burnley council had made an application to the government for £150m to build five “state of the art” new schools. The BNP opposed the plan claiming that the schools were a cover to force integration on white parents. When the government rejected the application the BNP was jubilant and took full credit. Quite obviously, this has infuriated many parents.
At least the BNP councillors turned up for the budget meeting this time, unlike last year when they were all absent. It hardly made any difference as they just sat there in silence. This was the final straw for BNP councillor Maureen Stowe. She walked out of the party the following day and has now attacked her former colleagues publicly.
It was yet another public relations nightmare for Burnley BNP. But it wasn’t over yet. Rather than quietly accepting her resignation, BNP members have gone on the attack. One leading BNP official described her as a “witch”, others as “a Jewish plant” and a “thief”. Stowe is a 62-year-old grandmother who is extremely popular in her local area. The BNP’s disgusting personal attacks on her have lost it yet more votes.
The BNP did have one councillor in Blackburn, Robin Evans, but last September he walked out of the party. He then wrote a letter to his former BNP colleagues denouncing Blackburn BNP as a party of drug dealers and football hooligans.
He has remained a councillor, describing himself now as a “national socialist”, but plays little part on the council.
Last year Searchlight reported that Evans could not follow council business. “This is all mumbo jumbo,” he told fellow councillors. “I don’t understand a word of it.” The mumbo-jumbo he was referring to was the council budget!
BNP councillor Ramon Johns made big promises during his election campaign last year. He claimed he would “fight crime” and prevent the council from “dumping young families in sub-standard temporary accommodation”, “campaign for Cheshunt police station to be kept open 24 hours a day” and “put pressure on WAGN to run a more efficient rail service”.
Of course he has done nothing on any of these issues. He has not spoken in a full council meeting nor made one single policy proposal. He claimed he was opposed to the “old gang” but has ended up voting with the Conservative council on almost everything.
Despite his inactivity, he has taken his full allowance. He has also gone back on his word. He told voters that he believed “pensioners should get free bus passes” but when Labour councillors moved such a motion on the council he voted with the Conservatives to oppose it.
Last summer Sandwell’s two BNP councillors thought they would outfox their political rivals by proposing a motion to the full council calling on the government to stop sending asylum seekers to the borough.
They knew full well that the motion would fall but they would then be able to tell electors that the BNP was the only party that opposed the arrival of more asylum seekers in the area.
To their surprise the motion was passed with an amendment. The BNP happily supported the new motion quite unaware that the changes reversed everything the BNP originally wanted.
So the BNP councillors voted for a motion that sympathised with the plight of asylum seekers, condemned the government for being too harsh on them, attacked the press and politicians who tried to whip up racism and called on the council to accept their responsibility to take more.
The BNP councillors did attend the council budget meeting but sat there in silence. Other than voting in support of asylum seekers the councillors have done little and seem out of their depth.
Steve Batkin, the BNP’s Stoke councillor, has also failed to impress. During his election campaign last year he questioned the Holocaust and claimed that Jewish people only made an issue of it to make money.
His performance has not improved since then. He missed a few meetings early on but now just sits in silence. After eight months in post he had to ask council officials to explain what abstaining meant.
Earlier this year it emerged that he had not paid his council tax since becoming a councillor. He claimed this was because of the long queues of asylum seekers at the council tax office but of course this was nonsense because that office has nothing to do with asylum seekers. However, while he dodged his tax, he did find time to claim his full councillor’s allow-ance of £100 a week.
Even the BNP has realised that Batkin has failed the voters of Stoke. The BNP removed Batkin as council group leader after a series of highly embarrassing gaffes and replaced him with the independent turncoat Barry Cuthbertson.
But already this move seems to have backfired. No sooner had Cuthbertson taken over from Batkin than it emerged he was under official investigation for a foul-mouthed outburst against some local residents.
David Exley was elected for the BNP in a council by-election on the back of many promises. He told voters that he would fight for better CCTV, “fairer funding” and zero tolerance.
He has done very little and has certainly not raised any of these issues in the council chamber.
His only contribution to a council debate was to ask whether Muslim teachers got more holidays than Christian teachers! (The answer David is no.)
The BNP councillors in Calderdale are the exception to the pack. While virtually every other BNP councillor has been almost invisible, the same cannot be said of the three in Calderdale.
At the recent budget meeting they proposed 13 amendments and spoke at every opportunity. Although none of their motions were carried, they did enough to receive a sickeningly glowing report (“BNP flex their muscles”) in the local paper.
More recently they have tried to hijack a National Union of Teacers campaign to fight the closure of Mixenden Primary School, which has failed two government inspections. Unfortunately, the opport-unity for the BNP arose because the other parties (with the exception of one Liberal Democrat councillor) have all supported the closure.
The Calderdale BNP councillors have been active because they are politically hardline and understand the purpose of their role. Two of them, Richard Mulhall and Adrian Marsden, were both previously linked to the nazi terror group Combat 18.
However, it has not all been good news for the BNP. The party’s third councillor, Geoffrey Wallace, who defected from the Tories in December, has been booted off the Governing Bodies of three local schools for non-attendance.
Overall, the BNP councillors have failed miserably in every respect. Most have simply not been up to the job while others have found it is easy to promise the world but a lot harder to deliver.
Destroying the myth that BNP councillors will make a difference is an essential part of the work anti-BNP groups need to do. But we will only do this if we have the information to expose their ineffectiveness.
It is vital we keep copies of everything BNP candidates produce or say during the election campaign. Then if they get elected, their every movement is shadowed.
This article appeared in Searchlight Magazine April 2004.