THE NAZI BNP suffered two setbacks in by-elections on Thursday of last week. They failed to hold a council seat in Burnley or to capture a seat in the Mixenden ward, Calderdale, where they already hold one of the two council seats. In the Great Horton ward, Bradford, they were disqualified due to irregularities in their nomination papers.
The Burnley by-election was called when Luke Smith left the BNP, following acrimonious splits in the organisation. There was an active unified campaign against the BNP involving the Anti Nazi League, the Coalition Against Racism and the Labour Party.
This campaign picked up momentum during the by-election with campaigners meeting up to put out joint leaflets. Paul Moore, a Labour councillor in Burnley, spoke to Socialist Worker about the campaign:
'About 18 months ago we started producing the Burnley and Padiham Gazette, which carried arguments about the criminal elements in the BNP and exposed their lies. It also highlighted their failures and broken promises. It is supported by the local trades council, Searchlight and other organisations. We put out three issues during the by-election. I think this had an effect, although it is also important to get out and speak to people face to face. The problem has not gone away-we are in for the long haul. I think the trade unions have a huge role to play. I spend most of my time at work arguing with people.'
The BNP were able to grab 357 votes, coming third. The Liberal Democrats were able to pose as the respectable alternative to New Labour and won the by-election. There was a similar story in Mixenden, where the Liberal Democrat candidate won, beating the BNP (with 801 votes) into second place.
Paul, an activist in the local campaign against the BNP, told Socialist Worker, 'There was a united campaign with a number of groups involved such as Communities Against Racism, the Anti Nazi League, churches and mosques. We started to get some support from trade unions. The BNP ran a campaign of lies. They said there was a special queue for asylum seekers at the post office and that they received special treatment from doctors. We highlighted the convictions of two local BNP members and put out several leaflets exposing their lies. The weekend before the election we had 30 out leafleting and 20 out the night before the vote. This had an impact-the turnout was up.'
Although the votes received by the BNP are worrying, the results also show that they are not unstoppable.
MANCHESTER Against Racism, a coalition of organisations and political parties, held its third meeting on Monday of this week. People agreed to book the Great Hall of Manchester's town hall to host an official launch event, which will include national and local speakers and celebrities as well as poets and DJs provided by Love Music Hate Racism.
Manchester Against Racism has already started campaigning against the rise of the BNP. The city will be leafleted with Don't Vote BNP literature in November. Some trade union branches are already pledging financial support, including the RMT branch at Piccadilly Station.
The rail worker who was able to secure this explained to the meeting that this was the first time that his branch had been able to donate money from their political fund to any organisation other than the Labour Party.
An Anti-racism group has been set up in Hyndburn, Lancashire, to oppose groups like the BNP. Hyndburn Against Racism has wide community support, and anyone interested in joining should e-mail Hyndburnfirstname.lastname@example.org