October 26, 2007

Waltham Abbey, Sefton Manor and Nelson, Great Yarmouth by-elections

Two local by-elections occupy us this week, both in coastal districts on either side of the country, One involves the BNP, the other not-the-National Front.

[To pre-empt comments that the BNP also contested a seat at Waltham Abbey, we are aware of this, but the election at Waltham Abbey was for a town ward seat on a council with few responsibilities, and was essentially the same as a parish council election, which we do not usually cover in these reports. However, the odd result merits a few words.

Con 299 (30.4%, -27.4%)
BNP 281 (28.5%, +8.1%)
LD 274 (27.8%, +6.0%)
Lab 131 (13.3%, +13.3%)

As you can see, just 25 votes separate the top three, with the BNP just 19 votes short of a win. If it hadn't been for the Hope not Hate campaign in the area , the BNP may well have scraped through to yet another town/parish council seat. While politically, these seats are of little value, strategically they are well worth keeping an eye on. A councillor's career frequently begins at town/parish level. We ignore them at our peril.]

Sefton Manor

Stretched out along the Irish Sea north of Liverpool, the area covered by Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council incorporates Southport, Formby, Crosby, Bootle, Litherland and Maghull, from which it draws 66 councillors. The council is unusually well-balanced politically, with 26 Liberal Democrats, 21 Labour, 18 Conservatives, and one vacancy (Conservative) in Manor ward, a
part of Crosby and scene of last night's by-election. No party has had overall control since 1986,

In May the BNP fielded just five candidates in Sefton (by contrast the UKIP fought nine seats - the UKIP coming off best in two of the three seats where a BNP candidate also stood). The BNP's performance in all five wards was unconvincing. Their best result came in Ford ward (10.27% and third place, beating the Conservatives and UKIP), the worst in Park ward (5.6% and last). In the other three wards, they scored 7.22% and last in Litherland, 7.18% and fifth of six (beating a Communist) in Church, and 6.8% and last in
Norwood (beaten by the Southport Party).

The BNP did not contest Manor ward in May, and so - again - we are unable to measure their performance against a previous outing. Even a comparison with nearby wards they did contest in May is rendered almost meaningless since these were Liberal Democrat and Labour held wards with entrenched majorities where the Conservative vote fell amongst the also-rans, while Manor ward returned a 48.09% vote share for the Conservatives in May:

Sefton Manor Ward May 3rd:

Lab 1082 (31.50)
Con 1652 (48.09)
LibDem 701 (20.41)

What is immediately obvious is that there was a sizeable Labour vote for the BNP to tap into in a ward Labour would find impossible to win unless Liberal Democrat voters were to switch support in large numbers.

Con 922 (40.52)
LibDem 769 (33.80)
Lab 419 (18.41)
BNP 94 (4.13)
UKIP 71 (3.12)

Total 2275
Turnout 22.8%

The result for Sefton shows the expected drop for Labour but a similarly large drop for the Conservatives too, despite the troubles on the council. The LibDems came out best with a hefty increase of 13% in their vote. The BNP trailed a long way behind with a little over 4%, a fair bit short of the 10% some were expecting. A dismal result for both the BNP and the increasingly disastrous UKIP.

Nelson, Great Yarmouth

On the opposite side of the country to Sefton is the Norfolk resort of Great Yarmouth, served by a Borough Council made up of 22 Conservatives and 16 Labour.

Despite the Norfolk location, and despite the handsome seafront, Great Yarmouth is not all that it seems, hiding pockets of deprivation that have seen it placed amongst the worst in the country and boasting the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Eastern England. Economic and social changes during the 80's and 90's brought serious crime and drug problems to the town.

In the late 90's London boroughs took to decanting asylum-seekers into Yarmouth, which caused great resentment as some landlords transformed hotels that were going concerns into refugee hostels, which impacted badly on a tourist trade that had been in steady decline for years and prompted one well-known tour company to temporarily sever its links with the town.

Despite it all, and despite much talk of the BNP coming to Great Yarmouth (which has never happened), there was very little friction between asylum-seeker and local.

In recent years, in common with most Norfolk towns, Yarmouth has seen a huge influx of Portuguese and East European migrant workers. Given that jobs are hard to come by in Yarmouth, and given that accomodation of any kind is at a premium, this settlement has passed off remarkably peacefully, though there have been low-level incidents, with fault attaching to local and incomer alike.

Nelson ward encompasses most of the seafront and the parallel streets reaching west to the River Yare. It is also amongst the most deprived wards in the country which alone makes it a prime target for racist organisations eager to capitalise on its social problems and to throw the focus of blame on to immigrants and migrant workers.

Tom Holmes, sometime chairman of the National Front, lives in nearby Caister-on-sea, and has regularly fought Nelson ward on behalf of the NF. His behaviour in the 2006 council elections saw him charged and found guilty of racially-aggravated harassment but Holmes was back to re-fight Nelson ward last May and took another shot in last night's by-election.

Old Tom's results in Nelson ward show why the BNP can hardly wait for him to pop his clogs so that they can move in. On his first outing in May 2006 Holmes scored a surprising 25.9% (with 345 votes), coming last in a three-cornered (Con/Lab/NF) contest. At the May local elections Holmes and the NF fell back slightly to 22.85% (with 298 votes) coming third out of four - a Green candidate brought up the rear.

Last night's by-election was very different from previous contests for a number of reasons. Though the ward had always been a Labour-Tory battleground, the Conservatives did not run a candidate, while the previously absent Liberal Democrats did. While the Greens stood again, so too did an independent. And there was a second "independent" - Tom Holmes, forced to fight without a party label as the National Front had neglected to register itself as a political party. However, Holmes fought a National Front campaign, and as the NF will broadcast any success he has we should judge Holmes's candidature accordingly.

Lab 329 (42.39)
LibDem 96 (12.37)
Green 43 (5.54)
Ind 259 (33.37)
Ind-NF 49 (6.31)

Total 776

Which, no matter how you look at it, has the appearance of a disastrous night for Holmes. Labour still has it but there is clearly room for an Independent in the seat - though not, by the looks of it, if he or she is linked (officially or not) with the National Front.

Conclusion

Another bad night, though not unexpectedly, for the BNP, a very bad night for Tom Holmes and another warning from us that if we carry on ignoring the signals from parish-level politics, we could be in for a few nasty surprises in a couple of years when the BNP suddenly produce a (small) handful of councillors who have been gathering experience at the parish pump. Lower-level politics are all part of Griffin's long-term game plan for the BNP, as we stated here and here. To ignore the importance of that plan is to badly underestimate the enemy.

Posted by Denise G and Antifascist

Addendum

BNP full-scale campaign defeated in Waltham Abbey


A major by-election effort by the BNP failed to bring the party victory after an anti-fascist community group leafleted the whole ward. But a very close result left the BNP just 18 votes behind the winning Conservative candidate with the Liberal Democrats a further seven votes behind.

This was a seat on Waltham Abbey Town Council, despite the insistence of Martin Wingfield, editor of the BNP's magazine Identity, that if Peter Cooper (whom Wingfield called Peter Copper) won, he would join the BNP's six councillors on Epping Forest District Council. He would not have, but as it is he goes nowhere.

Although town councils have minimal powers and are only concerned with essentially non-political very local issues, the BNP pulled out all the stops and ran a campaign with several leaflets and a full canvass of the nearly 3,000 homes in the ward, which lies just to the north of London. The BNP's main campaign theme was, of course, immigration, as if a town councillor could have any influence on it.

The by-election on 25 October 2007 was the result of the resignation of a Conservative councillor just six months after he had been elected. This put the Conservatives at an immediate disadvantage.

Redbridge and Epping Forest Together, determined to stop the BNP gaining any foothold even on a town council, produced a leaflet explaining how the BNP is a party of hate and fails local people by blaming all problems on migrants instead of promoting real solutions. A dedicated band of activists distributed it throughout the ward in the final week of the campaign together with an updated version of Searchlight's popular national Hope not Hate leaflet.

It did the trick, alongside campaigning by the three main parties. The BNP had expected to win especially after a higher than usual turnout in the party's strongest polling district. At the count BNP activists stormed out in disgust before the official declaration of the result. A crowd of them were spotted in a pub looking depressed afterwards.

No doubt the BNP will crow about its near victory and 8% increase in its share of the vote. For us the result shows that the BNP can be defeated even where it pulls out all the stops in a campaign in what is mainly a "white flight" area with plenty of scope to stoke up fears about migrants and crime. But the BNP remains a clear danger and we need to keep working hard to show people what the BNP is really about.

The BNP also contested a by-election on the same day for Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council in Manor ward, which covers part of Crosby, north of Liverpool. The BNP had not stood there in May 2007 and should not have bothered this time. The party persuaded only 94 people to vote for it, giving it just 4.1% of the vote, though will probably try to take some comfort by going on ad nauseam about the UK Independence Party's even worse 3.1%.

Stop the BNP

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

On those results the BNP was 18 votes short of winning in Waltham Abbey not 19.

Anonymous said...

Bloody good report, well up to the usual standard. Goes without saying that Waltham Abbey is the one they're talking up even though it was just a parish election and nobody except the BNP bothered capaigning (well our road didn't get leaflets or have canvassers, only from the BNP)

Denise why is the Voice of Reason version of the report mangled up?

Antifascist said...

'On those results the BNP was 18 votes short of winning in Waltham Abbey not 19.'

18 would get them level, 19 would win.

Antifascist said...

'Denise why is the Voice of Reason version of the report mangled up?'

I've looked at it in Opera, Firefox and IE6 and it looks fine from here.

Anonymous said...

"A councillor's career frequently begins at town/parish level. We ignore them at our peril."
Absolutely true. We' ll have to worry about these people soon.

Jo said...

Great stuff as usual.

Epping feller said...

It's not mangled, but there's a paragraph "Manor ward, a
part of Crosby " that's broken. It's not like DG to leave things like that.

Good report as usual.

The real election was in Sefton for a real ward where the other parties fought real campaigns and on that basis the BNP bombed. But the parish council seat result's the only one they;re interedted in because they nearly won.

Not surprising if none of the other parties bother (they rarely do bother for parish elections) and the BNP went hell for leather.

So I agree we shouldn't underestimate this result but nor should we overestimate the BNP based on it. The BNp HAS to fight these parish seats like they were real wards to come anywhere. I mean the Tory hardly bothered to camapign, their vote dropped dramatically, but they still won.

Antifascist said...

'It's not like DG to leave things like that.'

Oops, my fault. Denise has been busy so I posted for her. The fault is fixed now. Thanks for the heads-up. :-)

Anonymous said...

"the parish council seat result's the only one they;re interedted in because they nearly won.

Not surprising if none of the other parties bother (they rarely do bother for parish elections) and the BNP went hell for leather."

As did stopthebnp judging by their site. But did the BNP go "hell for leather for it"? There was no mass London mobilisation.

Whereas StoTheBNP advertised its leafletting sessions nationwide via its site