The extreme right-wing National Front is to contest a Parliamentary seat in Stoke-on-Trent
The party has set its sights on Labour MP Mark Fisher's Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency. It will be the first time in more than 30 years that the whites-only organisation has fought a General Election in the city. The last time was in 1979 when it contested the Stoke-on-Trent North seat.
But this time the National Front (NF) faces direct competition from British National Party (BNP) deputy leader Simon Darby. Former Stoke-on-Trent BNP leader Councillor Alby Walker also plans to stand in the constituency as an independent candidate. Other candidates include Conservative Norsheen Bhatti, Liberal Democrat John Redfern and Independent Paul Breeze.
Mr Walker said the NF had asked him to represent them, but that he had rejected the offer. He said: "They contacted me and offered me £1,000 towards my election expenses if I stood for them in Stoke Central. But I'm not interested in party politics any more and I'm certainly not interested in the National Front. They say they are getting a lot of people defecting from the BNP since the party voted to relax its whites-only membership rules. But I'm not worried as I don't think they have the slightest chance of winning."
NF executive member Steve Reynolds confirmed that the party was contesting Stoke Central. He said: "We have got a local man who will be standing for us, but we are not in a position to release his name just yet. Our main platform will be anti-Muslim and anti-immigration.
"We have always had a number of members in the Stoke-on-Trent area and we always get a lot of enquiries and feedback from there, so it's a natural choice for us. We are also getting a lot of disillusioned BNP members and supporters joining us, because they are not happy about the party's new membership rules."
But Mr Darby said he believed fighting a NF candidate will help his and the BNP's campaign. He added: "We're always being accused of being the National Front in disguise, but now people will be able to see that we are two totally different parties with different policies."
Former deputy elected mayor and city councillor Mr Breeze said he was shocked to learn of the NF's bid. The Hanley One Residents' Association chairman said: "It may be a good thing in that I expect it will fragment the far-right vote and prevent either the BNP or the National Front getting in. But it is also drawing attention to Stoke-on-Trent for all the wrong reasons.
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