The BNP's hopes of winning a maiden Parliamentary seat in Stoke-on-Trent are in disarray today following the defection of one of its most popular members
Alby Walker now intends to stand against the far-right party's deputy leader, Simon Darby, in the General Election. Mr Darby has set his sights firmly on snatching Labour MP Mark Fisher's Stoke-on-Trent Central seat. And he had confidently predicted that Councillor Walker was to manage his campaign.
Mr Darby sees the seat as winnable, due to public discontent with mainstream politicians, and is bullish about his chances. But The Sentinel can exclusively reveal that, far from masterminding Mr Darby's campaign, Councillor Walker actually intends to stand against him as an independent candidate.
The embarrassing blow comes as Mr Darby and BNP leader Nick Griffin are due to launch their national election strategy, and their challenge for the Stoke Central seat, in the city today. Councillor Walker's move is likely to split the right-wing vote, as he has a personal following in his own Abbey Green ward.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Darby seemed to have no idea that his former ally would be fighting him for the same seat. He said: "I don't think that's the case at all. I've not heard anything about that. I know that anything can happen in politics, but I wouldn't have thought that was true."
He added: "It was Alby that asked me to stand and offered to be my election agent, so I can't see him standing against me for the same seat."
But when confronted yesterday about rumours of his political defection from the BNP, Councillor Walker admitted he is planning to quit the party and stand against Mr Darby. He said: "I am not going to deny the rumours about standing as an independent candidate, although I would need to find a financial backer in order to make that happen. I was going to walk away from politics, but so many people in my ward have begged me to stand because they feel I have worked hard for them as a councillor. I am therefore considering standing for re-election as an independent councillor as well as standing for the Parliamentary seat."
Mr Walker, who stood down as the BNP's city council group leader without warning last month, said he had become increasingly disenchanted with politics and wanted to focus on helping residents. He said: "I'm fed up of party politics. I believe it is fragmenting the council and hurting the city because nothing is getting done. Being a councillor has really opened my eyes and I realise that the only important thing is the residents and the community."
He added: "I have been heartened by the approaches I have had from many people in my ward asking me to stand, but I am only willing to stand as an independent and work for local residents."