March 31, 2008

A tale of two campaigns

Although the London Mayoral and Assembly elections are attracting the most political attention, contests are taking place across the country that will give a further indication of the potential strength of the British National Party for next year’s European elections.

The BNP’s own focus on London could adversely affect the party’s efforts in these council elections. Conversely, there is a danger that anti-fascists could devote so much of their resources and energy to London that the BNP is left to make substantial gains elsewhere.

There are 70 council wards which the BNP could win on a 10% swing or less. In addition, there are 10-15 wards where either the BNP did not field a candidate last year or no elections were held, where the BNP must fancy its chances.

But if pre-election activity (or inactivity as is more often the case) is anything to go by, many BNP branches are squandering yet another opportunity to make an electoral breakthrough in the party’s key areas.

Over the past few months Searchlight has reported on the BNP’s internal wranglings. Although the rebellion has petered out in most places its impact seems to have reduced the BNP’s readiness to contest its key target wards. This is certainly the situation in West Yorkshire, one of the BNP’s strongest areas nationally. Most branches sided with the rebels and while some, such as in Leeds, have returned to the fold, other groups, such as York, Hull and elements of Bradford, appear to be outside the BNP altogether and may well stand as independents against the party.

Most of the key personnel in Kirklees still sympathise with the expelled rebel leaders but have decided to stay within the party, at least until the May elections.

Although the rebellion has lost momentum across Yorkshire, the political infighting has left most local branches inactive in recent months and few have done anything like the amount of preparation that would be expected of an election winning operation.

The West Midlands has also enjoyed mixed fortunes. The BNP threat in Stoke-on-Trent remains very strong, and is growing in some areas, with the BNP putting out a localised version of the Londoner, but other areas are on the slide. This is certainly the case in Sandwell, once the party’s strongest area outside Barking and Dagenham. The resignation of Simon Smith, the local organiser, coupled with the humiliating exposé of councillor James Lloyd has led to morale collapsing and activity ceasing.

It is in the North West where the after effects of the rebellion have had greatest impact. Former BNP activists in Oldham, Tameside and Stockport appear to be about to stand as independents. Oldham is particularly interesting. The BNP appears to be struggling to find any local candidates after its former organiser, Martin Brierley, defected to the England First Party and his predecessor, Anita Corbett, decided to contest her Royton seat as an independent.

Other branches have also been severely affected by the party’s internal divisions. Blackburn and Manchester branches have all but collapsed and Wigan, though fielding candidates under the BNP banner, remains loyal to the rebellion.

Even in Burnley the BNP is not going into these elections in a positive manner. After recently losing a High Court case over a disputed election result last year, the BNP enters the campaign in a weaker position than for some years.

In Thurrock, Essex, where the BNP stood in every ward last year and averaged 24%, there has been little if any serious work done in recent months.

One of the few key areas, apart from Stoke-on-Trent, where the BNP has been active is Epping Forest. Here the BNP is vigorously defending three seats and hoping to get several people elected to Loughton Town Council.

Newly emerging risk authorities are Barnsley, Nuneaton & Bedworth and Wrexham, all of which have seen considerable BNP activity in recent months.
No complacency

The BNP appears not to have learnt the lessons of its electoral failure last year, when it did too little campaigning too late. While this is good news for anti-fascists it would be wrong to be complacent. Few of the conditions that have helped the BNP gain support have disappeared. Most of the BNP’s key target wards are held by Labour, which is losing support, if the opinion polls are to be believed.

The work by anti-fascists and the best placed political parties in the key wards has been mixed. Last year’s results followed a poorly targeted BNP campaign combined with increased effort by the main parties. This has continued in some areas but not in others.

The readiness of the main parties in key areas such as Dudley, Barnsley and Epping to take on the BNP is questionable. In some other areas complacency over last year’s results could endanger the gains made.

Over the next few weeks there will be a frenzy of activity across the country. Although the BNP will be directing activists to London, with two key weekends of action planned in the capital, it will also carry out considerably more work in its key target wards. Searchlight will be working with anti-fascists in all the key areas to hold activities, conduct telephone canvassing and election day turnout campaigns. It is vital that as many people as possible get involved.

The BNP’s fixation with London gives us an opportunity to reinforce the gains we made across the country last year. Conversely, if we focus too much on London then we risk squandering last year’s results and giving the BNP a perfect platform to launch its European election campaign.

Searchlight has produced a new range of anti-BNP material for use in the 2008 election campaign. See the magazine for details.

Stop the BNP


Anonymous said...

Oldham is particularly interesting. The BNP appears to be struggling to find any local candidates after its former organiser, Martin Brierley, defected to the England First Party and his predecessor, Anita Corbett, decided to contest her Royton seat as an independent.

It looks like Martin Bierley has turned his back on Britain and Britishness. Here’s the England First Party’s (EFP) press release declaring Bierley’s preference for Englishness over Britishness:

"Martin said of his decision to join the England First Party from the British National Party: 'Deep down I always felt I would prefer to belong to a pro-English party as opposed to a pro-British party so the move to the English First Party was completely natural. I will be standing for the England First Party in the forthcoming local elections and feel a pro-English message will be well received by the Oldham electorate'".


It’s interesting that Martin Brierley has followed Anita Corbett by switching to the EFP from the BNP. Only last year Brierley had wrestled control of Oldham BNP from Anita Corbett and Mick Treacy. Both Corbett and Treacy left the BNP and then re-joined. Now it seems that Corbett has left again to join the EFP.

Both Anita Corbett and Mick Treacy were slagged off by other BNP members in an anti-Jewish rant about 10 days ago on the odious fascist BNP blog, Northwest Nationalist. One BNP poster described Antia Corbett as Treacy’s “side-kick” and “useless , in and out of the BNP like yo yo's. I hear the only reason Griffin tolerates her is she supplies him with fleets of cars for free”. Treacy himself was slated in the same post for not turning at a Rochdale BNP meeting where he was listed as the guest speaker!

Anonymous said...

Many top English BNP members loathe the Scots, but Griffin bans them from expressing such sentiments....

the truth

Anonymous said...

Wander how many of these "refuse-Nicks" are helping Bumbrook in the London elections, or will some of them be helping the London national front candidate.