Former Tory leads BNP push for Bury

For the first time the BNP have a parliamentary candidate standing for Bury South, home to two significantly Jewish areas.

This week, election leaflets for Jean Purdy, a former Conservative activist and senior NHS nurse, landed on doormats in Whitefield and Prestwich setting out three objectives: to stop immigration, pull out troops in Afghanistan and to raise the weekly pension.

A Conservative spokesperson sought to distance the party from Ms Purdy, saying: "We disown any association with her. Their values are not ours."

The real BNP target is the town of Radcliffe, which falls inside Bury South and has increasingly become the focus of BNP efforts. Last year Ms Purdy came third in a local by-election.

Conservative parliamentary candidate Michelle Wiseman said that the BNP could do well in the council elections, in which 10 BNP candidates are being fielded.

"They might pick up some of the votes in some of the less well-off areas in Bury South. In one local election they got 19 per cent of the vote."

Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis, who currently holds the seat, said: "I first met Ms Purdy a few years ago when she was campaigning for the Conservatives. I was therefore somewhat surprised when she emerged as a BNP candidate. I have every confidence that people of Bury South will reject the BNP message of hate and division. My grandfather died fighting fascism in WWII: he would be horrified at the notion that any British person would contemplate voting for a fascist party."

Later, Mr Lewis appeared to admit Gordon Brown's lack of charisma. But, he said: "Although the Prime Minister doesn't smile a lot and isn't a Pop Idol, he will take us on to recovery."

He spoke after heated exchanges from 35 mainly Jewish professionals at a business breakfast at Manchester's Midland Hotel on Wednesday. Participants attacked the rival Bury South Jewish candidates over the main parties' honesty on spending cuts.

Solicitor Stephen Fruhman asked: "How can we vote on the basis that we don't know what cuts will be made?"

Conservative Michelle Wiseman defended her party's plan that "administration of the NHS will be cut," while Mr Lewis pointed to cautious slashes across Whitehall.

Mr Lewis was cut down by solicitor Daniel Berke when he claimed that Labour government investment had made Manchester's King David school a top performer.

"It's Joshua Rowe that's turned around KD, not the Labour government," said Mr Berke, referring to the school's chair of governors.

The event, organised by Harris Frazer, director of financial services company Manson, came ahead of a community hustings at Manchester Maccabi on Wednesday night.

    Last updated: 3:18pm, April 29 2010