May 14, 2007

Red Card for BNP as party fails to make gains

Fears that Heckmondwike could become the first all-BNP ward in Yorkshire were quashed at last week's elections. The far-right party failed to make any gains at the Kirklees elections – despite standing 23 candidates.

Had BNP candidate Steve Cass been elected in Heckmondwike he would have served with BNP councillors David Exley and Roger Roberts – a situation the party’s leader Nick Griffin anticipated.

Mr Griffin visited Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton last month. At the time he said: “I’m hoping we’ll get the third seat in Heckmondwike. If we can get a few more seats then we can start to make a difference in council chambers as well as in the wards. I think you’ll see a difference in the council landscape after the elections.”

But despite a strong campaign the party lost out to David Sheard, who has been a Labour councillor for more than 20 years. Coun Sheard said it would have been bad news for Heckmondwike had the BNP taken his seat. He added: “I thought I would beat the BNP, but I knew it would be close and I didn’t think it would be by so much. Now I can get cracking and carry on with the work I’ve started.”

But Kirklees BNP leader Coun Exley said he was surprised by the result.

“I thought we’d done enough, but David Sheard is a very strong candidate and he hasn’t been a councillor for 23 years for nothing. We’ve had a wake-up call, but we’ll carry on with the work we’ve been doing in our wards.”

Coun Exley acknowledged Heckmondwike’s large Asian community could have stopped the party winning the seat, but said any worries about the BNP were unfounded.

“Asian people have nothing to fear from the BNP. I’ve been in for three-and-a-half years now and Roger Roberts for one. People from the Asian community come to me for help and I help them as I would anyone else. If there was any reason for them to fear us, then that would have been an issue by now.”

In Cleckheaton Liberal Democrat Andrew Pinnock was pleased to keep his seat of 12 years.

Lib Dem leader Coun Kath Pinnock (Cleck) said the 2006 result was the closest in Cleckheaton for many years and this time the party was keen that “people in Cleckheaton would show the BNP the red card”. She added: “People in Cleckheaton have seen through the BNP’s promises. We want to put into effect what we’ve said will be done now.”

The Lib Dems hope to make safe and develop the derelict Westgate site, improve the empty Co-op in Scholes and get a route confirmed for the Hopper service bus which has been granted funding.

Coun Derrick Yates (Con, Liversedge and Gomersal) said of his re-election: “It’s a great result for the Spen Valley, not just in Liversedge but especially in Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton where the councillors have increased their vote majority. We’ve sent a clear message that north Kirklees do not want the views of the BNP. It’s a fantastic result. I will build on my work of the last three years, I’ve made a good start and am very happy to be able to continue to work for the people of Liversedge and Gomersal.”

Although Tory leader Coun Robert Light (Birstall and Birkenshaw) was also re-elected, his position as council leader could be in doubt as Labour now has 22 seats to the Tories’ 20. Coun Light said: “I’m delighted to keep the seat. It’s a great honour to represent and help my home villages and to be part of Kirklees Council.”

He added that an administration change for the council would be a disaster as the Tories only took over from the Lib Dems last June. “I think everyone agrees that three administrations in three years is not in the interest of the council.”

Coun Light said the Tories would be looking for support from other parties but ruled out any form of shared administration with the minor parties.

Spenborough Guardian

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