“No-one can afford to be complacent about the BNP,” says Paul, a Unite Against Fascism (UAF) activist based in Barrow, Cumbria.
“North West England is the BNP’s target seat and its leader Nick Griffin is hoping to get elected here.”
Paul is right to be worried. The BNP needs around 8.5 percent of the vote to grab an MEP for the North West on
4 June. In the last European elections in 2004 it polled 6.4 percent in this area.
“The North West European constituency stretches from the top of Cumbria, down through Lancashire, Merseyside and Manchester as far as Chester,” he said. “So it’s a big job – and one of the key tasks for us has to be finding networks of people who can help spread the message.
“We have to keep exposing the BNP as Nazis – every time we do that it hurts their prospects.”
Paul explains that every vote can make a difference.
“There was a council by-election in Whitehaven in Cumbria just before Christmas. The BNP came second – losing by just 16 votes,” he said.
“A new UAF group was set up, which leafleted the ward. We have come across at least nine people who said that they only voted because of the campaign we ran against the BNP – it shows that what we do really counts.”
The BNP’s strongest vote in the north west is concentrated in the Lancashire boroughs of Burnley and neighbouring Pendle. It is also trying to break through into other parts of the region. Alarmingly, the BNP came second in a by-election in Moston, north Manchester, last week – getting 23 percent of the vote.
Ameen, an activist from Greater Manchester UAF, says that anti-fascists have to combat the rise of the BNP in these areas.
But another key task is persuading people in areas where the BNP is weaker to realise the threat and to vote.
Ameen told Socialist Worker, “We are working with lots of different groups to get this message across. Ten mosques across Manchester agreed to make announcements at Friday prayers last week about why people should register to vote and to use that vote against the BNP.”
Steve Ratcliffe is a youth project worker for the CWU union. He is based in Preston, although he works with young CWU members across Britain.
“The CWU has had a long involvement with UAF in this region,” he told Socialist Worker. “We’ve also been involved in supporting Love Music Hate Racism events such as the upcoming Stoke Festival.
“We need to let people know that the BNP is anti-democratic and misleading the public. It offers no real solutions to the problems we face – it’s just looking for people to blame.”
Nick from Manchester Metropolitan University is campaigning among students. “There are more than 30,000 students across this city,” he told Socialist Worker, “They could make a big difference. Many courses will have finished for summer by the time the election happens so we’re trying to get students to apply for postal votes. We also have a big rally against the BNP planned on campus at the end of the month.”
UAF is working with other union campaigns. Lavinia O’Connor is the north west organiser for the PCS civil service workers’ union Make Your Vote Count campaign.
She is based in Liverpool and was involved in a recent campaign that forced the BNP to cancel a planned rally in the town.
Lavinia told Socialist Worker, “It’s important for trade unions to be involved in anti-fascist work. The BNP is opposed to trade unions, and to the equality and diversity that we stand for.
“The Make Your Vote Count campaign is taking up issues such as public services and social cohesion, and making MEPs and candidates accountable on these issues. It’s also about creating an awareness of the dangers of the BNP.”