Respect candidate urges public to back rival at European elections
An anti-racism campaigner has emerged as the candidate who could stop the British National Party chairman Nick Griffin winning a seat in the European Parliament next month.
Peter Cranie has been chosen by the Green Party to stand in the North-west, where the BNP's hopes of winning its first seats in a nationwide election are highest. Respect, the left-wing party headed by the Bethnal Green and Bow MP George Galloway, has stood aside in the region and is urging its supporters to vote Green to stop the BNP.
The Greens, who already have two MEPs, are making a major push in the North-west. They are convinced that that the proportional representation (PR) system used in the 4 June elections makes voting Green the best way of denying the BNP victory and the significant boost in funds from the Strasbourg parliament that would follow.
Under the PR formula, all votes received in a region are added up and the first seat is given to the party with the highest number. The votes for that party are then divided by the number of seats it has already won in the region plus one (for example, if a party has won one seat, its remaining votes would be divided by two). The party which then has the highest number of votes gets the next seat. This process continues until all the seats are allocated.
At the last European elections five years ago, Labour and the Tories each won three of the North-west's nine seats, the Liberal Democrats two and the UK Independence Party (Ukip) one.
Ukip's fortunes have declined since and election experts believe the crucial battle affecting the BNP's chances will be the one for fourth place behind the three main parties. The region will elect eight MEPs this time.
Mr Cranie, a 36-year-old father of one, has been preparing for next month's fight with the BNP for three years. A leading member of the Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism, he stood down from his job as a lecturer so he could devote more time to the European elections. He now works for the parenting support charity Parentline Plus.
The three main parties insist that the voting system is such a "lottery" that supporting them is the best way to beat the BNP. But the Greens are appealing over the heads of the three parties in the hope of encouraging tactical anti-BNP voting. They are also working hard to mobilise the ethnic minority vote.
Mr Cranie told The Independent yesterday that he could not "guarantee" that a vote for the Greens would prevent the BNP from winning a seat, but insisted that it offered the best hope of achieving that. In the 2004 European elections, the BNP won 6.38 per cent of the votes in the North-west and the Greens 5.55 per cent, so the Greens claim they are the most likely party to overtake the extreme-right group.
Mr Cranie, the Green Party's national spokesman on children, schools and families, has jobs as his main campaign theme. "A Green vote is a vote for jobs," he said. Accusing the BNP of "dog whistle politics", Mr Cranie added: "In an environment of economic fear and insecurity, the seeds are being sown – racism and intolerance – by a party that in its constitution bars any person because of the colour of their skin and the home of their ancestors."