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Griffin's failure in Barking, and the almost laughable performance by Simon Darby in Stoke-on-Trent (in reality the word actually is superfluous - it was a laughable performance, at several levels), have attracted significant media comment - and of course put big smiles on the faces of anti-fascists (and rational human beings!) everywhere.
But in the long term the local council elections may prove to be even more significant in pointing to the BNP's decline. Now once upon a time it was relatively easy to explain the structure of local government in England, but successive piecemeal reorganisations have led to different arrangements in different places so I shall review BNP performance (with passing reference to other parties of the right) by the different types of council. (And at this point I need to point out that what follows is based on the 148 local authorities whose final results are available as of today - the few remaining authorities are unlikely to affect the general picture.)
I have figures for 15 London Boroughs, all of which feature all-out elections (i.e. the whole council is up for election every four years). In 14 of these the BNP had no councillors, and still have no councillors! The fifteenth of course is Barking & Dagenham, which the BNP was claiming as a target for outright control. They went in holding 12 seats - and lost the lot!
Across the 15 boroughs 868 councillors were elected. The BNP scored...nil.
Metropolitan Boroughs (the 'Mets')
These are the authorities within what used to be the Metropolitan counties (before they were abolished by Thatcher). Areas like South & West Yorkshire, the West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and authorities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sunderland, Wolverhampton and so on. Their electoral arrangements are different, using election 'by thirds'. Generally they have three-member wards, with one councillor up for re-election at a time - 2010, 2011 & 2012 then starting again from 2014. The 'blank' year (2013, 2017 etc) used to be the Metropolitan County election year.
The BNP had representation on seven of these councils going into this election. In Calderdale and Rotherham they have a single councillor, but not up for re-election this year. In Kirklees, Leeds and Solihull they had single councillors, all due for re-election this year. All lost. In Sandwell they had two councillors. Both faced their electorate this time. Both lost. In Bradford they had two councillors, one of whom (Cromie) was up for re-election. He held on by 15 votes.
To summarise the BNP held nine seats in total. Three were safe, in that they were not up this year. Of the six who were up for re-election five lost.
There was also an English Democrat up for re-election in Calderdale. He lost. Across the Mets in total 824 councillors were elected. The BNP won...one.
These are single-tier local authorities, mostly in larger towns and cities away from the major metropolitan conurbations, ranging from Bristol through places like Hull and Plymouth to towns such as Hartlepool or Southend. There were 19 of them voting this week, and they elect by thirds.
Only two of them had BNP councillors (Stoke and Thurrock), and one (Blackburn) had a single English Democrat councillor - he lost. The sole BNPer in Thurrock was not up for re-election.
In Stoke the BNP was defending two seats - and lost both of them. The BNP group there has now gone from nine members a few weeks ago to five today - two resignations (Alby and Mrs Walker), and two rejections by the electorate. In the Abbey Green ward (won for the BNP by said Mr & Mrs Walker) the result was Labour 1,639; Conservative 1,170; BNP 835; Lib Dem 809; Walker - ex BNP 279; Ind 258.
Across the 19 unitaries 340 councillors were elected. The BNP amassed...no seats!
These are the district councils in areas which have two-tier structures i.e. district councils and a county council. An example would be Lancashire which has a County Council, but also a series of District Councils (e.g. Burnley, West Lancashire, Preston). Again, they hold elections by thirds.
No fewer than 78 of these councils went to the polls. The BNP had a presence in six of these. In two (Nuneaton and Three Rivers) they have a single councillor on a different electoral cycle, and therefore not up for re-election. In Redditch the sole BNP councillor was up for re-election - and lost. In Burnley two of the four BNP seats were up for re-election - they lost in both (but still have two councillors on a different electoral cycle). In Epping Forest three of their four councillors faced the electorate. They all lost.
In Pendle they had two councillors, one of whom was up for re-election. Sadly, he held on, so 'no change' there.
I may be an election anorak, but even I draw the line at totting up the total number of seats across 78 authorities, but it's around the 1200 mark. Of which the BNP won...one.
Approximately 3250 seats were up for election last Thursday. The BNP won two of them [is it Old Sailor or Irish Tony who likes percentages? I make it 0.06%!]. They were defending 30 seats - they held two, and lost 28. That's a 7% defence rate - most parties panic if they fall below 60%! They made no gains. By any known electoral standards it was an appalling, disastrous, dreadful performance. They went into the election with representation on 16 councils. On ten of these they also have councillors on different electoral cycles, so could not be wiped out (yet!).
On the six councils where all of their councillors were up for election they were wiped out in all six - Barking & Dagenham, Kirklees, Leeds, Sandwell, Solihull and Redditch. As a poster on the Forum might put it - byebyebnp !
Local elections held on the same day tend to differ from local elections held on their own. The larger parties tend to perform better as they benefit from their national coverage, and the higher turnout of their 'softer' support. With a lower turnout next year there is no guarantee that the BNP will perform as badly. There is some evidence from Stoke in particular that the BNP is still strong enough to elect councillors if turnout was significantly reduced (and if they could find candidates, which they are finding increasingly difficult). Let's enjoy Thursday's outcome, but there's still work to be done!