LOCAL GROUPS REPORT
Across Britain communities organised against the BNP. The material on this page consists of reports from many areas and shows how widespread the activities were.Bradford breakthrough for the BNP
The battle for the Home Counties
BAR rises to the challenge
BNP councillor all alone in Kirklees
Searchlight shines in Wales
Northeast is a fascist free zone
BNP beaten in Black Country
BNP retreat in Burnley
BNP fails on all fronts in London
Bradford breakthrough for the BNP
Paul Meszaros, Bradford TUC
The British National Party's breakthrough in Bradford where it has won four seats is a disaster for the district and for community relations in the city. However it is not a surprise. Levels of division and racism in the area are at an all time high. In every ward where the BNP stood, the population is over 90% white, which is indicative of the continuing massive racial segregation. This is not London, this is not a multicultural society.
In Keighley, where Angela Clarke won easily for the BNP, we have also had to deal with widespread allegations of Asian paedophile gangs preying on young white girls. The BNP used this issue and launched a campaign called Mothers Against Paedophiles. Unfortunately when local anti-fascists tried to expose this as a BNP front the local Labour Party used its influence with the Keighley News to kill the story. The Labour Party in Keighley refused to recognise the threat posed by the BNP until it was too late.
In Worth Valley the BNP squeezed into third place by seven votes - ensuring its candidate's election in this three-vacancy ward - despite local Conservatives working with us against the fascists. The BNP victories in Wyke and Wibsey are harder to wear although again, with some very noble exceptions, not all people in Bradford South Labour Party understood the threat we faced.
On a more positive note we worked with the main parties to positive effect in the BNP's target wards. In Queensbury the Tories defeated the local BNP leader Paul Cromie and his wife and Labour beat the BNP in Royds. These were both areas to which we were able to commit serious resources.
An absolutely key success in the campaign was that the BNP only fielded 10 candidates when it was expecting over 20. This was due to a number of factors, but intelligence reports suggest that the Searchlight tabloid was effective in warning off some prospective candidates.
It is now clear that the problems with racism and divisions in Bradford cannot be wished away by burbling inanely about cohesion and diversity. There are deep and ingrained problems in an area where so many people voted nazi. Not enough people understood the message about what the BNP really represents.
There are real high points to the campaign as well as lessons but these are overshadowed by the BNP's success. We must redouble our efforts to expose them in the coming months.
Our day of action was a massive success but would have benefited from more support from trade unions' regional offices. Not all the left and trade union move-ment in Bradford pulled behind our campaign and towards the end we were badly stretched. In the coming period it is vital that we are responsible and do not hand the BNP more victories by provoking disorder. Bradford never really recovered from the riots of summer 2001 and a repeat of that would spell catastrophe.
The battle for the Home Counties
The three new BNP councillors in Epping Forest District would appear to vindicate Nick Griffin's declaration over a year ago that his party's way forward in the south lay in the Thames "white flight" corridor and the Home Counties.
The BNP's victories in Loughton were the result of the party concentrating its forces in a small area with an ageing council housing estate and a history of far-right activity and collaboration between right-wing Tories and nazis. An anti-Muslim hoax leaflet distributed in the area before the election added to local tensions. Distribution of the Searchlight newspaper to every home in the three wards did not deter enough voters from supporting the fascists.
The BNP threw in its secret weapon in the form of Eddy Butler, a vicious but bright fascist who lives close to the Richardsons, the husband and wife team who won two seats. Patricia Richardson is the BNP's much publicised Jewish-born collaborator. Butler has been acting as the BNP's election training officer and claims he was almost solely responsible for last year's BNP victories in Broxbourne and Thurrock. He had left the party after being exposed in the first World in Action programme about the nazi terror group Combat 18, and joined the breakaway Bloomsbury Forum with the former BNP press officer Michael Newland. He then slipped quietly back into the BNP in his new secret role.
In the final weeks of the campaign Griffin abandoned Nick Geri, the BNP's Anglo-Italian Thurrock councillor, and directed all efforts into Loughton. Not surprisingly Geri lost the seat he had won in a by-election last September.
A fourth BNP candidate in Epping Forest failed to get elected. Voters may have remembered that he was booted out of the police service before the Lawrence Enquiry for his racist views. In Broxbourne anti-fascists mounted a huge campaign and prevented the BNP winning another councillor although its candidates took 30.7% and 20% of the vote in the two Cheshunt wards.
The other town where the BNP expected success was Basildon but again local anti-fascists were able to get the Searchlight newspaper and other material into the six wards where the BNP was standing. A last-minute open letter to 5,000 homes in the ward being contested by Sid Chaney, pointing out his connections with paedophiles, made a serious dent in the BNP's efforts. But there is no escaping the fact that he still took over 500 votes.
In the southeast region the BNP fared poorly. The Searchlight newspaper was widely distributed in Kent, and in Bedfordshire and Sussex the trade unions and community-based groups, including Conservatives, held the BNP back. In Aldershot, Hampshire, the thuggish Warren Glass, recently arrived from west London, got hammered. Last minute strategic interventions by the trade unions swept away the BNP's chances in many areas.
If there were fall-outs within the BNP before the election, there will undoubtedly be real recriminations now it is over. Many activists, and especially John Tyndall, Griffin's predecessor and rival, see the recruitment of a Jewish candidate as the final insult to all they hold dear, election victory notwithstanding.
The BNP polled 65,557 votes (4.3%) in the Eastern European constituency and 64,877 (2.9%) in the South East.
BAR rises to the challenge
By Maz Cook, Broxbourne Against Racism
Last year the BNP stunned everyone by taking a Conservative-held council seat in affluent Broxbourne with 48% of the vote. This year they were out to build on this result but now they were faced with organised opposition in the form of Broxbourne Against Racism.
In the end the BNP failed to win either of the seats they contested and this was in no small part due to a year-long locally-based campaign organised by BAR.
We received excellent local press coverage, including stories on the ineffectiveness and inaction of the BNP councillor. We have distributed three issues of the Cheshunt Citizen newsletter, a Broxbourne edition of the Searchlight tabloid, and various other leaflets.
We also developed several ways of communicating with our supporters and this proved invaluable to our campaign. We have a website, mobile phone and landline dedicated to BAR. Through these, new supporters were getting in touch right up until the elections … even on the day itself.
The BNP's electioneering frenzy in Cheshunt involved the distribution of leaflets claiming hundreds of thousands of homes were being built around Cheshunt for asylum seekers. This was an outright lie - one for which we have reported Ramon Johns (election agent for Ian Seeby) to the Electoral Standards Board. They also canvassed door to door, which neither the Conservative nor Labour party did.
In Cheshunt North, the BNP's main target, the turnout increased hugely, from 1,463 to 2,028. The main beneficiary was the Conservative Party, whose share of the vote rose by 4.49% while the BNP's share decreased.
The Cheshunt Central result looked worrying at first glance, with the BNP coming second. Turnout was up by 609 votes and almost half of these went to the Conservatives. In terms of vote share, the Labour vote decreased by about the same amount as the BNP vote increased. However, although the BNP came second, the Conservatives had a massive majority, finishing ahead of the BNP by 30%.
BAR would like to see local political parties make more effort to campaign on genuine issues at election time. Some people will vote for the BNP just because they are the only people that bothered to knock on their door and talk to them. BAR will work against racism and against the racist BNP, but we will also work as closely as possible with local parties and community groups to ensure there is no political vacuum for the BNP to fill.
This has been a wonderful result for Broxbourne, and for BAR. We are confident the BNP will never win another seat here, and that when Ramon Johns's term is up in three years Cheshunt will expel its extremist councillor once and for all. We have a huge army of local activists and the will to use them. The BNP are on their way out in Broxbourne!
BNP councillor all alone in Kirklees
By Terry McKay, Kirklees Unity
The BNP had threatened an unprecedented breakthrough into local politics in Kirklees with what it claimed would be at least six councillors from its 16 candidates. As it turned out they barely managed a dent in the armour and were last seen exiting the count at Dewsbury sports hall whimpering into their tattered rosettes. The BNP began and ended the election with one councillor, hardly the stuff of a major breakthrough.
We at Kirklees Unity have worked closely with Searchlight from the very outset of our campaign back in January. We shared the belief and understanding that localised campaigning and increasingly focussed work had a more positive effect than distributing nationally produced literature, much of which would have little resonance on the streets and housing estates of northern towns such as Dewsbury and Huddersfield.
Over a period of six months we produced a series of local news sheets addressing local issues and also highlighting the threat of the BNP. The three key battlegrounds, Mirfield, Dewsbury East and Dewsbury South, each received five different editions aimed at target polling areas where the BNP had done well in 2003. Many of these were tailored editions, sometimes produced for just a handful of streets. In addition there were separate ward level news sheets for a further six areas, each of which had a much more positive and less threatening feel than our literature in previous years.
Our material focussed almost exclusively on addressing local concerns, always contained at least one positive article and time and again exposed the pitiful record of BNP councillors. Because of the flexibility afforded by producing such localised material we were able to adjust the content and tone of the leaflets to reflect the nature of the targeted area. What works on a working class estate in Batley would have less impact in a rural village such as Kirkburton.
We were also able to distribute thousands of copies of the Kirklees edition of the Searchlight newspaper. Feedback from voters suggests that this was the single most important piece of literature that we put out.
The BNP's campaign lacked any serious momentum and was centred around its district organiser, Nicholas Cass. With just a handful of dedicated activists the BNP found itself over-stretched and unable to extend its appeal beyond key areas.
Another issue that voters communicated to us was the appalling quality of the BNP literature. Cass clumsily churned out a succession of amateurish and barely literate leaflets which lacked any real appeal.
Despite the BNP's failure to gain any seats in Kirklees, its vote rose in line with turnout in most places, the exception being Cass's own ward of Dewsbury South. He fared badly compared with 2003 and was faced with the embarrassment of being pushed into fifth place.
Far from the major breakthrough that it had publicly predicted, the BNP in Kirklees has failed miserably to add to its solitary councillor.
Searchlight shines in Wales
By Steve Silver
Anti-fascists mounted a magnificent campaign against the British National Party in Wales, particularly in the three North Wales wards where the party fielded local council candidates. The BNP had been hoping to make political capital out of recent disturbances in the Wrexham area. In the end it came last in the ballot in all three areas.
Wales Friends of Searchlight organised the distribution of 25,000 copies of a special Welsh edition of the Searchlight tabloid newspaper. The cross-party organisation ensured that every household in all three wards received a copy.
The activity had a massive impact and prompted local labour movement activist Roy Jones to write the following in his Wales diary column in the Morning Star. The article was headed "Searchlight election special just the ticket in north Wales".
"Perversely, it was because of the British National Party's intervention that politics came alive last Monday in the streets of Towyn ward of the Conwy County Borough Council, north Wales …
"…I went on to Towyn which has a BNP candidate and where voters are being beguiled by the party's nazi European candidates.
"There I distributed the Welsh edition of the free anti-fascist Searchlight European election special - what a tremendous service to the anti-racist cause this edition has proved.
"Over the last eight years, the ward's Labour Party councillor Mike Butler has had to walk the streets leafleting, a lot of the time unaccompanied. Despite the involvement of a BNP candidate, it looked as though he was going to be doing the same again this time round.
"I met Mike along the way and we swapped some friendly words. Then, on Tuesday morning, he rang to say that after I had gone the streets came alive with other people putting out Searchlight.
"'I haven't seen anything like it since Wapping,' he said.
"'It was like old-time street politics, as the electors responded well to the people with Searchlight. Please thank the paper and the organisers.'
"One outcome of these events was to leave a bewildered BNP candidate, who complained that those taking part were not being 'fair' to him and that he wasn't a nazi. I would suggest that even he will have learned something from Searchlight about fascism."
Wales Friends of Searchlight is continuing to organise against the BNP and say that the fact that the BNP has once again failed in Wales will not lead to any complacency on their part. They will be stepping up their monitoring work over the coming months to ensure that their tiny number of activists continue to make no progress.
Northeast is a fascist free zone
By Tyne & Wear Anti-Fascist Association
Even with a strong anti-fascist campaign and a decidedly lacklustre fascist one, until the morning of Friday 11 June no one dared hope that the all-out elections this year would prove such a wash-out for the British National Party in the North East.
We saw only a modest increase in the number of candidates, from 54 last year to 57. Admittedly this was in a smaller number of local authorities, but it fell far short of their target of 125. The departure of last year's Sunderland organiser, John Martin, seemed likely to inflict damage. Apart from the bad publicity resulting from his departure, Martin's energy had compensated for a dearth of activists and funds.
Last year, Sunderland BNP gained national and international attention for its full slate of candidates. In comparison, this year's campaign was distinctly low key (fewer leaflets, virtually no door-knocking), perhaps because the fascists did not want a high profile repeat of last year's failure to win a seat. Anti-fascist campaigners waited for a killer propaganda story or final burst of activity from them. It never came.
Still, there were reasons enough to be nervous about Sunderland. The BNP stood a full slate again, although a quarter of the candidates came from just two families, those of the new Sunderland organiser Joe Dobbie and its secretary Ian Leadbitter, indicating difficulties in attracting new blood. In each of the wards most at risk - Castle, Redhill and Southwick - the BNP candidates were up against just three Labour candidates and two Conservatives. And the 14,000 votes they managed in the city last year should have provided a good springboard.
The anti-BNP campaign had been growing since autumn, building coalitions around the region under the joint banner of North East Unites Against the BNP. Trade unions, the Anti Nazi League and Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Action (TWAFA) were well represented and we were successful in drawing in support and invaluable local knowledge from faith groups and community workers.
Nearly 90,000 Searchlight papers in three different editions were delivered throughout the region, as were thousands of copies of an imaginative regional leaflet aimed at a younger, less overtly political audience. TWAFA produced "emergency response" leaflets locally to respond to particular concerns, such as in Hendon, Sunderland, when the BNP tried to exploit the murder of a white teenager, claiming, with no evidence, that it was racially motivated.
A self-assured BNP arrived at the Sunderland count (the only one held on Thursday night), pausing briefly for Leadbitter to get himself arrested for punching a protester in full view of the police. The veteran Hendon candidate David Guynan felt confident enough to offer a victory sign to the media. As the night wore on and the extent of their failure, in the city once described as the jewel in their crown, became clear, their mood deflated rapidly. To the delight of anti-fascist campaigners and members of the other parties, not only had the BNP come nowhere near to winning a seat, its share of the vote had actually fallen almost everywhere. Guynan's victory signs were replaced with ruder gestures and cries of, "It's a fiddle!"
The following morning, the BNP regional organiser Kevin Scott reconciled himself to seeing the pattern repeated across the region, his pathetic remaining hope being that the BNP would outstrip Respect in the European poll.
The BNP in the North East had set their sights on this year's elections for over two years, confident of a breakthrough, and it was all in vain. TWAFA's assertion that the BNP will get nowhere in the North East until they ditch Scott is looking increasingly accurate. Long may he continue to run the BNP in our proudly BNP-free region!
BNP beaten in Black Country
By Sandwell UAF
One of the most satisfying elements of election night was the defeat of the BNP in the Black Country, an area where it was expected to do well, especially given the local backlash over the three local young men recently released from US custody in Cuba.
In Dudley, the party's West Midlands organiser Simon Darby lost his seat while in neighbouring Sandwell, its local organiser John Salvage lost his. Overall, the BNP now only has one councillor (down from three), which is well below expectations given the all-out elections. It also failed to make a breakthrough in Walsall, another key target authority.
Sandwell Labour councillor Gurinder Singh Josan is in no doubt that last year's success shook up the local Labour Party.
"The anti-BNP campaign was successful in that it united people and enabled us to coordinate our work," he told Searchlight.
"The Labour party took the threat of the BNP seriously after their initial election and were open to help and advice from others. The campaign in these areas was begun very soon after the last election. This involved a lot of material going out over the year and also involved a change of approach of Labour councillors. The U-turn over Tipton Baths by the Labour group was a major factor in Tipton and shows the way in which the Labour party acknowledged the threat and took appropriate action."
An important factor was the failure of the existing two BNP councillors to deliver anything substantial over the year. This was highlighted in the Black Country edition of the Searchlight newspaper and local Labour leaflets.
A more targeted approached is acknowledged by Paul Quigley of the local United Against Fascism group. "On the face of it, there doesn't seem to be too much evidence of the number of people voting BNP diminishing. It seems that it's just that we (or rather the voters) got more canny in defeating them through tactical voting. All of the work we have done in getting anti-BNP material out, plus their own gaffs and ineptitude, just fuel this process.
"A case in point is Great Bridge ward, where the BNP actually increased their vote. The best BNP candidate polled 880 votes from an electorate of 8,302 (10.6%), compared to the previously 'successful' David Watkins's 772 from 9,472 (8.2%) in 2003. However, the third Labour candidate in 2004 defeated the BNP by polling 11.8% (by the same measure) compared to only 7.1% in 2003."
However, there is still much work to be done, especially in Princes End ward, where the BNP topped the poll and the local Labour Party still does not seem to have been able to raise its performance accordingly.
Paul Quigley likens the results to the great escape. "They came top in one ward and second in six others across Dudley and Sandwell. There is certainly no room for complacency."
Gurinder Singh believes more underlying changes will help. "The demographics of the area is changing dramatically. In Tipton Green and Great Bridge particularly, there is a lot of new high quality housing. These houses are relatively very expensive and are being bought primarily by affluent and well educated Punjabi/Sikh people who include a lot of young professionals. These people would not only not vote for the BNP but will try to ensure the BNP is not successful in order to protect their investment!"
BNP retreat in Burnley
By Jason Hunter
Intensive localised campaigning has put the BNP firmly on the back foot in Burnley. Compared to the fascists' success in May 2003, when they secured seven councillors in a fanfare of national publicity, they are a shadow of their former selves. They could only find candidates for eight wards and saw their vote collapse to 4,500 in the local elections and 5,300 in the European elections on a high 50% local turnout. In 2002 they polled 10,000 votes and in 2003, 8,500.
It is true that the BNP escaped total humiliation by scraping a narrow victory in one ward. Here, anti-fascist voters were unclear whether a Liberal Democrat or a Labour vote was the most effective way of defeating them. The BNP came through the middle, but with 29% of the vote.
However, they were heavily defeated in wards they won last year. In Cliviger with Worsthorne, where they were defending the seat, they lost to the Conservatives by 350 votes. Generally, mainstream parties fielding more candidates benefited the campaign, giving voters a wider choice of opposition.
The success, however, did not fall from the sky. Nor can it be linked to the UKIP, which did not stand in the local poll and got only 3,000 votes for Europe. It was the result of two months of hard slog by local anti-BNP campaigners. This was built upon during the election period by the distribution of the two editions of the Searchlight newspapers, copies of the Burnley & Padiham Gazettes and direct mail to known anti-BNP voters. In total, over 40,000 pieces of high quality, readable anti-fascist material were distributed in a town of 37,000 households.
This contrasts with the BNP leaflets, which were poor in quality, covered in text, and virtually all distributed well before the election campaign began.
The Labour Party in particular increased its attacks on the BNP in its own literature. Partly in consequence, the Labour vote held up reasonably well compared to the national position and in nearby Pendle and Rossendale.
The anti-fascist material highlighted the general ineffectiveness of the BNP over the past year. The main themes included the BNP's failure to make any proposals on the council or to advance any of its election pledges, and its internal divisions locally and in relation to the national BNP leadership.
The campaign also focused on how the BNP continually runs down Burnley despite definite progress by local councillors, trade unionists and community campaigners in improving the town while the BNP has done nothing. Its opposition to £150 million of funding for new schools because of the political dogma is a particular example.
The resignation of Luke Smith, after a violent attack on a BNP activist, and the defection from the BNP of Cllr Maureen Stowe were incorporated into the campaign. At all anti-fascist and other political meetings, these themes were stressed as a guide to local election campaigners. Linking them to the BNP's sinister national organisation helped bring the message home.
However, this success needs to be seen as a spur for further activity. Strategic blunders and incompetence by the BNP cannot be taken for granted. The incredibly lacklustre campaign of the BNP must reflect the disillusionment of its members. Yet national political developments could move in their favour and give them a second wind. So the fight must go on until they are firmly uprooted from the town.
BNP fails on all fronts in London
By Gerry Gable
"The BNP ain't going to win anything in London are we?" No this is not a pronouncement by some anti-fascist activist, this analytical gem came from Jason Douglas, the BNP's top candidate on the London-wide list for the London Assembly, and how right he was. Maybe he knew that London's voters were not likely to place their crosses against the names of people like himself preaching law and order with two convictions for football hooliganism behind him.
Criminal violence and association with nazi terror gangs was never far away from the BNP's London candidates' lists. Alan Bailey from Havering, doubling up on the party's European and London Assembly lists, had very recently pleaded guilty to an assault charge. Barry Roberts, a long-time associate of nazis in the extremist British Movement and the terror group Combat 18, was being portrayed as merely a self-employed craftsman and father of two.
Who would trust Richard Barnbrook, aka Brook, who has been so devious that even within the BNP he used two names to protect himself from public anger by conceal his teaching connections and a job with a respectable charity. And why could the BNP not own up to the fact that Lawrence Rustem, ninth on both London lists, is Turkish?
Carlos Cortiglia, the Uruguayan broadcaster and translator who appeared in tenth position on the London Assembly list, must present security concerns for those who he claims employ him at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Is he a Walter Mitty, telling audiences of Argentinians that he volunteered to fight for the junta against the UK in the Falklands war, or some kind of oddball who allows his computer to be used for kinky offers?
No explanation was ever given for why Ian Edwards was dropped from the London Assembly list at the last moment. Edwards is the man who was supposed to have received the products of thefts by the computer expert Paul Carman from the headquarters of the Greater London Authority. Was this the reason or was Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, upset at Edwards's invitation to John Tyndall, the former BNP leader, to address the BNP's failed May Day rally in West London.
The prize for biggest jerk must go to Julian Leppert, the BNP's candidate for London mayor. Interviewed on BBC radio, the former barman turned postman made himself and his party a laughing stock even among their own supporters by linking traffic congestion, which he said was his priority issue, with the presence of "400,000 illegal asylum seekers" in London. The incredulous reporter asked him whether he was saying that these asylum seekers were all driving cars and if they went the problem would be solved, to which the cerebrally challenged Leppert replied "yes".
Chris Roberts, the lead candidate on the Europe list, clearly decided early on that he had no chance and took his family off to the USA for a holiday while the London campaign collapsed. After all, what has he got to do with London when he lives in the east of Essex?
The BNP struggled to put out its lacklustre election material while anti-fascists distributed over 130,000 Searchlight election newspapers. Unison and other major trade unions took the fight into potential BNP hot spots.
The papers appeared at work places, faith and community centres, supermarkets, colleges, under-ground and railway stations and door to door. A theft by a BNP activist in Bexley of a couple of dozen papers was made up for by the sight of fewer than a dozen of them running away in Eltham from the superior forces of anti-fascism black and white.
The BNP clearly knew it would get no change out of Londoners and, as we predicted, targeted white flight areas in the Home Counties.
The BNP received 76,152 votes (4.00%; 1999=1.57%) in the European election in London, 90,365 (4.71%; 2000=2.73%) in the London Assembly election (London-wide list) and 58,405 (3.04%; 2000=1.92%) first choice and 70,736 (3.68%; 2000=2.59%) second choice votes in the mayoral election.
These articles appeared in Searchlight Magazine July 2004.