Win in Sevenoaks is far-right party's first victory in south east outside London
The British National party has gained its first council seat in south-east England outside London, taking a traditional Labour seat in Sevenoaks, Kent. The surprising win saw BNP candidate Paul Golding beat Labour's Mike Hogg in Swanley St Mary's, the first time the far-right party has campaigned in that ward.
Swanley St Mary's has been a traditional Labour seat in a Conservative-controlled district. The BNP gained 408 votes to Labour's 332, while the Tories earned 247.
Speaking to the BNP website, Golding said the win was "outstanding" and had "implications" for the rest of the south east and the upcoming European elections.
The BNP made advances in local government byelections across the UK yesterday. Although they failed to win in Thringstone, North West Leicestershire, the party polled more than 28% in third place. Labour successfully defended the seat.
They also failed to win at Bilton, Harrogate Borough, North Yorkshire, where Liberal Democrats held onto the seat, but did come third with 9% of the votes. Labour polled just 3% of votes, taking fourth place.
In Downham, Lewisham, south London, a double contest saw the Lib Dems hold both seats, while Labour came second with 24% of the votes. The BNP polled 11% in fourth place.
Last night's results follow a near miss for the far-right party in January. The BNP were just nine votes short of taking a Tory ward in a Bexley council byelection. However, Welling, where the byelection was held, is where the party used to have their headquarters.
Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who campaigns against the BNP in his London constituency, says the far-right party does pose a threat in the EU elections. Writing in the Guardian last month, he said: "The BNP poses a threat in six Euro regions, with as little as 7.5% required in the North West, where the party leader, Nick Griffin, is standing. With Ukip faltering, few local elections and the economy hurtling into recession, we will need everyone who opposes the BNP's message of hate to play a part. A BNP victory will change the political landscape in Britain."