IN a dramatic turn of fortune the British National Party will be fielding no candidates in the forthcoming local elections.
Only four years ago the BNP had seven members on Epping District Council, more than at any other time in their recent history.
But this year none of the 18 seats that are up for re-election on May 5 will be contested by the far-right organisation.
Many of the seats are in Epping and Waltham Abbey, and the Liberal Democrats are looking to use the opportunity strengthen their position and oust Loughton Residents Association as opposition to the dominant Conservatives.
District Councillor Stephen Murray, who is an independent, said: “I was pleasantly surprised to see that the BNP are putting forward no candidates this year. It can only be a sign of weakness. Only four years ago there was talk of them being a majority, now their membership on the council is down to one.
He said that internal divisions and campaigning by ant-fascist organisations were the root of the the collapse.
“Eddie Butler, who is married to a former BNP councillor from the area, stood against Nick Griffin a recent leadership contest which has caused fratricidal disputes", said Councillor Murray.
“I also think that Searchlight have done valuable work in the area in waking people up to the true nature of the BNP as a racist organisation.
“However it is very important for people not to become complacent and for us to keep an eye on them.”
Councillor Murray was sceptical about the Lib Dem's chances of becoming district's second most powerful party, saying that their centre-left support could collapse having formed a coalition government with the Conservatives.
The BNP's one remaining District Councillor, Pat Richardson, said: “Sometimes it is hard to find candidates. Most parties are going through difficult times.
“None of the seats in Debden and Alderton where we have most of our support are up for re-election so that is another factor.
“I think at the minute people are more interested in their home lives than in politics.
“It is swings and roundabouts, the game of politics. Recently Labour had strong support now they only have one district councillor.”
Epping Forest News