Scuffles with demonstrators marked the official launch of BNP leader Nick Griffin's national election campaign
About a dozen protesters broke through a police line and ran at Mr Griffin as he was being bundled into his waiting car by minders. One activist was dragged to the floor by police, while another reached the BNP leader's vehicle before being hit by a bodyguard. There were no arrests, but 16 uniformed and plain-clothes officers had to form a protective cordon as Mr Griffin sped from the scene.
The far-right party chairman travelled to Stoke-on-Trent yesterday to unveil his General Election strategy. Demonstrators waving anti-fascist placards chanted "Nazi scum" as Mr Griffin arrived at the Meir Community Education Centre, 90 minutes behind schedule, surrounded by his security staff.
The protesters, led by Staffordshire University's Students' Union president Assed Baig, pictured below far right, were clearly audible from inside the tiny classroom throughout the 15-minute press conference.
Mr Griffin told supporters that his party has its best ever chance of winning a Parliamentary seat in the Stoke Central constituency. He said: "For the first time I can honestly say that the party is in with a serious chance of winning seats, including here in Stoke, without a shadow of a doubt. I want us to make the Parliamentary breakthrough here, and I think it's possible."
But he tried to play down the revelation in yesterday's Sentinel that former city BNP group leader councillor Alby Walker is standing against deputy party leader Simon Darby for the Stoke Central seat.
Mr Griffith said: "I think it's highly likely that Alby Walker will be standing in Abbey Hulton as an independent councillor, but it's highly unlikely that he will be standing against Simon in Stoke Central. I have spoken to Alby and I know that he has got a few family issues to sort out, and he has been under a huge amount of pressure.
"He is torn because of the support he has received from residents, but if he feels that standing as an independent councillor is the only way he can carry on in politics then he should do so. My advice to the local BNP is that they should not stand against him and that they should back him as an independent councillor."
But he also said: "It will be unfair if he does stand against Simon, as he had said he didn't want to do it. Obviously it will be a blow to us if he does stand, but I hope that he won't."
Mr Darby also initially said there was no chance of Mr Walker standing against him, saying: "I spoke to him last night and he is not going to be standing in that constituency."
However, The Sentinel has learned that Mr Griffin called Mr Walker straight after the launch event to try to persuade him not to stand. Mr Walker said: "Nick rang me afterwards and said how disappointed he was to read in the paper about my decision to stand against Simon. He was hinting that I should retract what I had said, but I wasn't willing to. I told him I was disillusioned with the BNP and the state of the city, and that I just need to find at least £500 to fund my campaign."
Stoke Central Labour MP Mark Fisher, has dismissed Mr Griffin's claims that his seat is vulnerable. He said: "It looks as though the wheels are coming off their election campaign already, as it seems to be falling apart before it has even begun. I don't think it says much for the BNP's chances if they can't even hold on to the former leader of their party in the city."