THE NAZI BNP won a council by-election in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, on Thursday of last week. They disguised their most racist policies and concentrated on other issues, picking up 1,607 votes.
Heckmondwike is a former mill town that has traditionally had a Labour councillor on Kirklees council. Although there are a few run-down estates, it is a reasonably affluent area. About 10 percent of the population are second or third generation Pakistanis whose families were brought to the area as textile workers in the 1950s.
Local residents were shocked by the result. Sharon, who has lived in Heckmondwike for most of her life, said, 'This is a multiracial town. I live in a very mixed area. When I heard the result I was extremely disappointed. I thought the anti-racist leaflets were working. My daughter just put her head in her hands and said, 'Oh no.' She is only ten.'
A number of factors helped the BNP. The by-election was called when local councillor Tim Crowther resigned from the Labour Party and stood as an independent. The traditional Labour Party vote was split between Crowther and the official Labour candidate.
The combined vote of the official Labour candidate and Tim Crowther was higher than the total Labour vote in May and higher than the BNP got this time.
The BNP played on fears about immigration, even though there are only 49 refugees in the whole of North Kirklees, where Heckmondwike is located. But their campaign really focused on law and order. They worked hard to get supporters into the area, having few local supporters.
Sharon said, 'I got five leaflets from the BNP. They talked about 'perverts using public toilets', abolishing charges to pick up waste, and keeping the police station open 24 hours a day.'
The Tory vote has fallen by 801 since the May local elections. While the BNP posed as respectable politicians during the campaign, they showed their true colours on polling day. Sharon explains: 'I drove to the polling station. A car covered with BNP stickers pulled up behind me and a man got out and tapped my shoulder. He asked if I was voting BNP. I think that there was a level of intimidation. A lot of people, especially Asians, would have been frightened off. There were lots of skinheads hanging around on Thursday.'
Imran, a shop steward with the Unison union who has lived in Heckmondwike all his life, was also shocked by the result. 'People here don't share their views on race,' he said. 'They talked about putting money into white areas, but the quality of life won't be improved by having fascists in power. There has been a massive political failure in the area. Nationally people are looking for an alternative to Labour and the Tories because of the war. People can't relate to Blair's policies-there's no trust left.'
Local residents have launched Kirklees United Against Racism and Fascism to campaign against the BNP. It is backed by North Kirklees trades council and local branches of the TGWU, Unison and CWU unions. They plan a picket of the next council meeting on 17 September.
Nazi festival protest
Campaigners outside Red, White and Blue event
THERE WERE protests in Lancashire last Saturday against the Red, White and Blue festival organised by the Nazi BNP. Ribble Valley Against Racism, Blackburn Anti Nazi League and other local groups protested.
The BNP want to use events like the festival to legitimise their racist policies. The festival was larger than in previous years. It took place in the week that they won their 17th council seat, in Heckmondwike, Yorkshire. They are trying to build support for the three other council elections they plan to contest in Bradford, Stoke and Calderdale.
Shamefully the police placed a banning order on anti-Nazi protesters, which meant that only 17 were allowed to picket the festival at any one time. However, campaigners were able to hold a press conference with local anti-racists at the site of the festival and organise a stall in the nearby town of Clitheroe.
Many local residents were angry that the council had allowed the festival to go ahead.
Boris must stay
OVER 60 people came to a public meeting in Cambridge last week to support local postal worker Boris Lidovski, who is threatened with deportation. Boris has lived and worked legally in Britain for six years and is settled with a partner whose son calls Boris 'Dad'.
Boris's asylum application has recently been rejected and the government is moving to deport him to Russia, where his life will be at risk. The meeting was addressed by Billy Hayes, general secretary of Boris's CWU union, and the leader of the Labour group on the local council among others. All the speakers pledged their support for Boris and criticised New Labour's whole asylum system.
DANIEL ANSELL, Boris Lidovski Must Stay Campaign, Cambridge
THE SCOTTISH TUC is urging support for a demonstration on 6 September against the Dungavel removal centre. The children of the Ay family were held at the centre for over a year before their recent deportation. Anne Owers, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, released a report on the centre last week.
She said children should not be detained for longer than seven days. On Dungavel she said, 'We are concerned about the welfare and development of children within a locked-in custodial setting.'
Tham must stay
A PICNIC and football competition in Lewisham, south east London, last Sunday organised by the Tham Sarki campaign was a tremendous success. The actress Maureen Lipman made the draw for the event. Tham fled Nepal in 2001 and since then more than 800 letters have been delivered to David Blunkett supporting his case.
The next step in the campaign is the lobby of Joan Ruddock MP's surgery on Friday of this week. The tournament was won by a group of students who had organised school strikes against the war. It brought together local anti-racists and campaigners.
The event raised around £150 for Tham's campaign. For more details phone Pat on 07906 080 291 or email [email protected]