When the BNP called a by-election in Rotherham, due to the resignation of a Labour councillor, many in the town and beyond feared the worse. The BNP were confident of a good show after managing to grab two seats in May's elections and the apparent disharmony in the local Labour Party seemed to suggest that Wickersley ward was indeed vulnerable. In May, Labour had lost this seat to the Tories with UKIP receiving an astonishing 25% of the vote, if Labour were to lose again maybe it would be the local BNP that could take advantage.
Hope not hate Yorkshire has been pointing out the increasing vulnerability of certain areas of South Yorkshire. Indeed as the BNP become increasingly defeated, demoralised and marginalised in West Yorkshire the threat they pose has seemed to move south. The problem for Labour and for anti-fascists is that some of these areas do not have the same tradition of campaigning as some more marginal areas mainly due to the fact that historically they have not needed to. Why bother with sophisticated campaigns strategy when all you need do is 'weigh the vote'?
Of course the problem is that the electorate cannot be taken for granted and is more than willing to provide a kicking to those who are too complacent. If Wickersley was to be saved a better campaign would have to be run.
We were lucky that a joint Hope not hate Yorkshire/Labour party day of action had already been planned for neighbouring Brinsworth and so we were able to get off to a flyer by moving the event to Wickersley. That first day set the tone as anti-fascists, trade unionists and party activists poured onto the streets to canvass local opinion. This collection of Voter ID continued throughout the campaign and would prove invaluable come polling day.
As well as mobilising for these events, Hope not hate Yorkshire was also involved in liaising with our trade union colleagues to set up a number of regional phone banks in order to assist the GOTV operation on the day. We were also able to respond to the BNP propaganda with a well received hope not hate leaflet. This leaflet although put together hastily had a resonance because it was targeted locally.
Election day was a blur of activity with a solid operation running to get labour voters out. The threat of the BNP certainly served to galvanise many local people, many of whom were less than enthusiastic at Labour's overall recent record. That they stayed loyal and rejected the hate and lies of the BNP is testament to their decency.
It is telling that a by-election victory in Rotherham has become worthy of a write-up, but at least the headlines are for a defeat for the BNP whose vote was still alarmingly high.
Thanks and praise for this fantastic victory must be extended to all those comrades in Rotherham who worked so hard, the Regional Labour Party and the trade unions, in particular, Unison, Community, USDAW and Unite.
Hope not hate Yorkshire together with Searchlight will continue to build and support local campaigns throughout South Yorkshire so that the lessons of Keighley and elsewhere can be learned and implemented.
By Paul Meszaros, Hope not hate, Yorkshire
Stop the BNP