Relief as extremists fail to make big gains

By Dana Gloger, May 9, 2008

The British National Party won one seat on the London Assembly in last week’s elections, but did not make the large-scale gains nationally or in the capital that some had feared.

Richard Barnbrook, 47, the party’s mayoral candidate, took 5.3 per cent of the vote, giving him a seat on the assembly. Candidates needed five per cent of the overall vote to win a seat.

There had been fears that the BNP could win two or even three seats on the London Assembly.

In the local elections, the party polled around 252,233 votes but only gained 10 extra councillors, although they fielded around 650 candidates across the country. They won an extra 13 wards, but lost three existing councillors.

Their gains included three extra councillors in Stoke-on-Trent, one in Amber Valley, another in Rotherham and gains in Thurrock, Three Rivers, Pendle, Calderdale, Nuneaton & Bedworth.

The party held on to seats in Burnley and Epping Forest, though it also lost two seats in the latter and did not make any gains in Wales.

Pat Richardson, the BNP’s only Jewish councillor, blamed the Board of Deputies and anti-fascist magazine Searchlight for her party’s poor performance in Epping Forest.

The Loughton Broadway councillor said: “Faith groups, including the organisation Churches Together, the Board of Deputies and Searchlight, leafleted the area claiming that we are racists.

“We got a lot of abuse from people, many of whom do not even live in this area.”

Mrs Richardson added that she saw no conflict between being Jewish and being a member of the BNP.

“We have Jewish supporters around and about and I am not the first BNP candidate who is Jewish. There was one several years ago,” she said.

The BNP now has 55 councillors across England and Wales. The party’s deputy leader Simon Darby said he felt “very positive” about the election results.

Ruth Smeeth, of the Community Security Trust, who helped co-ordinate the JC-supported Hope not Hate campaign urging people to go to the polls in order to stop the BNP making gains, said that she felt more Jewish people had cast their vote this year.

“Turnout was up in many of the areas where Jews live, and in Kirklees, where the BNP lost a seat, we had specifically asked Jewish people to cast their votes. I think the campaign really helped,” said Ms Smeeth.

Henry Grunwald, president of the Board, said that Jewish voters had heeded the message to vote. “I can’t remember a time when the community responded as well as it did on a domestic issue,” he said.

Last updated: 9:58am, August 18 2009