Nick Griffin failed dramatically in his bid to gain a Westminster seat this morning when he suffered a resounding defeat in the British National Party’s east London stronghold
Margaret Hodge, the Labour incumbent, won by a majority of more than 16,000 to deflect the BNP leader’s challenge in what she labelled the most important and moral fight of her life. In a humiliating defeat, Mr Griffin was relegated to third place in Barking, trailing behind Conservative candidate Simon Marcus. The BNP’s share of the vote dropped by two per cent, the result of an extensive campaign to mobilise voters against the threat of the far right.
Ms Hodge, the Culture Minister, achieved a seven per cent swing, winning more than 24,000 votes and 55 per cent of the vote. She said: “The message of Barking to the BNP is clear: get out and stay out. You are not wanted here and your vile politics have no place in British democracy. Pack your bags and go.”
She said voters had chosen democratic politics built on fairness over “a fascist politics built on division, prejudice and hatred. We have not just beaten but we have smashed the attempts of extremists.”
The BNP had considered Barking a stronghold after exploiting local concerns about immigration and housing to win twelve seats in the local council in 2006. However, following a disastrous election campaign, Mr Griffin received 6,620 votes – one third as many as Ms Hodge.
There were indications of a national collapse in the BNP vote after it failed to make headway in its other target seat, Stoke Central. It also looked likely to lose seats on the Barking and Dagenham Council, despite beginning the campaign with hopes of gaining a majority. Mr Griffin blamed high voter turnout for his defeat and said that it was the “last chance for Barking”.
His voice drowned out by booing, he said: “This was the last of London. Within the next five years the indigenous people of London will be a minority in our own capital city. This is a wake up call, not just for London. This is a wake up call for the whole of Britain.”
Mr Griffin said he would not resign, despite the crushing defeat, however elements in his party are certain to demand answers about the disastrous performance.
There was a heavy police presence at the count in Goresbrook Leisure Centre, in Dagenham, as large numbers of BNP supporters turned out to support their leader. The BNP’s campaign has been was plagued with trouble and infighting. In the first week, Mr Griffin faced an alleged plot by BNP officials to overthrow him. He also told police that a colleague had threatened to kill him after an investigation into the political “conspiracy”.
On Tuesday, the head of the party’s online operation resigned and took the website down with him. Simon Bennett, 41, directed BNP traffic to his personal site, which contained a lengthy diatribe against Mr Griffin and other senior figures. The next day Robert Bailey, the party’s London organiser and Romford candidate, was videoed assaulting an Asian youth who had spat on him.
UKIP candidate Frank Maloney said he would make a complaint about Ms Hodge to the Electoral Commission, claiming she had spoken to voters inside polling booths.
At the same venue, incumbent Labour MP Jon Cruddas faced an anxious wait with a close run poll with his Tory opponent. However Mr Cruddas, widely tipped as a leadership contender, won his seat in Dagenham with a majority of 2,000 votes.