Church leaders have issued a joint statement telling people not to vote for the BNP in next week’s crucial Newton by-election. They fear that if a BNP councillor is elected it will ‘threaten the heart of the community’.
A letter signed by half-a-dozen clergy in Hyde has been sent to voters urging them not to vote for the far-right party.
The by-election on Thursday follows the death of Labour councillor Margaret Oldham last month. In last May’s elections the BNP took second place. And with the recession biting, worries are mounting voters may turn their backs on the mainstream parties.
The Rev Richard Lamey, of St Mary’s Church, Newton said: "We are intending to deliver this letter to as many people as possible in the ward to urge people to go out and vote on 5 February — and to vote for parties which do not foster fear and hatred. We are concerned at the possibility of a BNP councillor in Newton, hence our taking this unusual step."
In the letter, the church leaders condemn the ‘racist history and policies’ of the BNP. It states: ‘We believe that the election of a BNP councillor would threaten the heart of a community which is essentially open and welcoming, kind and hopeful. Whoever we elect in Newton next week will have a major impact on our daily lives. And when you do vote, think about the type of society you want Newton to be, and then vote for a party which does not rely on racial hatred and the fostering of division. Newton is better than that.’
The letter is signed by: Fr Philip Bennison (St Stephen’s Church, Flowery Field); The Rev Nic Bentley (Rosemount Methodist Church); The Rev Alan Bolton (Rosemount Methodist Church); The Rev Eric Breeze (Flowery Field Church); The Rev Richard Lamey (St Mary’s Church of England Church, Newton); Fr Denis Maher (St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, Hyde).
Anthony Jones, local BNP spokesman, said: "These men speak only for themselves from an unelected position. They are cossetted against the current economic climate. They don’t have any real fears over losing their jobs. The council and the clergy are clearly worried the BNP will win that seat."