May 09, 2008

Town split as Labour enjoy victory over BNP

When David Exley became Kirklees's first BNP councillor in 2003 his appointment was shrouded in controversy. Five years later and he has been ousted from Heckmondwike by 194 votes and, for some, the surprise is almost as great.

Only last year, before the 2007 local elections, BNP leader Nick Griffin visited the town and spoke of his hopes for it to be the first all BNP ward in the county.

Now only one BNP councillor, Roger Roberts, represents Heckmondwike with two Labour men David Sheard and Steve Hall.

As a councillor Mr Exley was a regular attendee of the Heckmondwike Chamber of Trade and Commerce meetings. The group's chairman, Tony Rider, said they hoped he could still attend in an advisory capacity.

Mr Rider said: "I was very surprised he didn't keep his seat. I thought he'd have got a lot more support after all the effort he put into the town. I'd like to express my disappointment that he's got voted out in this election. He's probably been more involved in Heckmondwike issues than any other councillor we've got, or have had. It's a great loss to both the chamber and the town."

Mr Rider said the chamber would invite Coun Hall to its meetings, but added:"He's going to have something on to match what David has done for the town."

However some are welcoming Heckmondwike's council result. Carl Morphett from Kirklees Unity – an anti far-right pressure group – said: "This is great news for the people of Heckmondwike and Kirklees. Heckmondwike has seen the BNP for what they really are and David Exley has been given the boot for it. The BNP were complacent and didn't put in the graft they needed, but Labour put a lot of hard work in and it paid off."

Mr Morphett also commented on the large Asian community in Heckmondwike.

He said: "A BNP councillor can't represent the Asian community. They have no interest in doing that and the Asian population has no desire to be represented by a BNP councillor."

But Mr Exley denied his party did not represent the whole community. He said: "I have helped Asian people as well as a lot of other people. Whoever has come to me and asked for help, no matter who they are, I have done my best to help them."

He added that the party had done three leaflet drops and spoken to locals prior to the election and that his dedication to the election campaign had meant he had hardly worked during the past four weeks.

Mr Morphett said this year's election in Heckmondwike had been a straight race as opposed to previous years where the vote had been split.

He said: "When David Exley first got in, it was because Tim Crowther stood down from Labour and stood as an independent. Last time the Lib Dems stood an Asian candidate, and that understandably split the Asian vote. But this time there was no split vote. The Asian community was only going to vote one way, and it wasn't for the BNP. It's the beginning of the end for the BNP in Kirklees."

Mr Exley agreed his party had lost a large percentage of the vote. He said: "There is no doubt that Labour got the Asian vote. They spent a lot of time working on the mosques and getting the Asians to vote against the BNP."

Spenborough Guardian

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