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It's been some time since I offered up one of my by-election roundups - perhaps the election of those two berks in June [you know who I mean!] brassed me off. But here's my return - prompted by interesting developments as the summer has progressed, and particularly the pattern which seems to be developing.
The fact is that over the past few weeks the BNP's participation rate has been falling, and their performance has not so much stalled as fallen backwards. And the events of September 10th underline that trend. There were eight byelections; the BNP fielded candidates in four. [Tories and Lib Dems fought all eight; Labour 6; BNP 4; Greens 3; UKIP 2; Others 6]
Two were being fought for the first time - in Market Harborough they polled 11.1% against Tory and Lib Dem (there was no Labour candidate, despite their having taken around 25% last time). In Westoe (South Tyneside) they polled around 12%, finishing 4th out of 6.
In York (Heworth) they polled 6.7%, about six points down on last time (2007). It's difficult to be precise, because the 2007 election was for all three councillors and there will have been varied vote splitting. Suffice to say that in an area where they gained 507 votes two years ago they managed just 172 this time.
The key contest, however, was in the Drayton ward of Daventry Borough Council. In 2008 the result here had been:
With 33% of the vote last time, and with three new candidates to split the anti-BNP vote (Lib Dem, Independent and Socialist Alliance), and the prospect of a much reduced turnout they must have had hopes of taking the seat. Well, at least the reduced turnout happened! The result though will have been a huge disappointment to the BNP:
Lib Dem 138
Socialist Alliance 55
They fell from second to fourth, and their share of the vote collapsed to 14.3%. Dismal, dismal, dismal.
Back in March I reviewed BNP performance at that period. In 'new' seats they were averaging 21%, and in seats previously contested they averaged 17.2% (up 0.8 percentage points on the preceding elections). On September 10th they averaged around 11.6% in 'new seats', and in previously contested seats 10.5% (down from 22.9% - fall of over 12 points).
No room for complacency; the threat remains. But if I were in the echelons of the BNP's election strategy I'd be getting very, very worried!