Three of Portsmouth's leading politicians have agreed to unite against the BNP at the general election
While Mike Hancock, Sarah McCarthy-Fry and Flick Drummond may sit on opposing sides of the democratic divide, all have pledged to include anti-fascist messages on their election leaflets and communications. The pact was made last night at a meeting of Portsmouth Unite Against Fascism at which 130 people pledged their opposition to BNP candidate Geoff Crompton, who will stand in Portsmouth South at the next election.
It was estimated by organiser Simon Magorian as the biggest ever Portsmouth anti-fascist rally. He said: 'People of all ages and political opinions came. 'They know we can stop the fascists. I was at the Anti-Nazi League Portsmouth launch in 1977. This was bigger. It was the biggest ever.'
Mr Hancock and Ms McCarthy-Fry spoke, along with UAF national secretary Weyman Bennett and local group leaders. Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South Flick Drummond was in the audience, while Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, sent apologies.
Ms McCarthy-Fry, Labour MP for Portsmouth North, said: 'We have weeks to debate party politics, but we're all united against the BNP. They pretend not to be racists, but very quickly their concern about crime turns into blaming it on asylum seekers.'
Mr Hancock, the Lib Dem Portsmouth South MP agreed: 'Its manifesto is about dividing communities. We stand together against them. We love our city - it's all about its diverse community. We will stand up for that, and for each other in the face of these bullies. We will all include clear messages on our communication that we oppose these fascists.'
Weyman Bennett said: 'The BNP is a fascist party attempting to win respectability. But we've already won an important battle. Its policies are racist but they fear to admit it in public. That's because people don't want to be associated with racism. Together, we can build on that.'
Lizzie Hug, 18, an art student from Portsmouth, said: 'The rise of the BNP scares me. Racist graffitti is springing up. We have to stand up against it. The UAF can make a difference and it's important people stand up to be counted.'
Paul Smitherman, 58, of Esslemont Road, Southsea, said: 'People here in Portsmouth look at who you are, not what colour your skin is. The BNP isn't a democratic party because they want to take away rights of people on the basis of what they look like. We have to take them on and show them their ideas are rubbish.'