'ELECTIONS 2004. The year we break through.' That was the boast on the Nazi British National Party's (BNP) website throughout the election. Instead they suffered a big setback last week. The BNP's leader Nick Griffin had invited the French Nazi Le Pen over to Britain in April to plan how they could work together when Griffin became MEP for the north west of England.
But Griffin did not win. He did not even get the highest vote of all the BNP's European candidates. The BNP did not succeed in getting anyone elected to the European Parliament. In London the Nazis were beaten into sixth place in the mayoral election, and did not get enough votes to get a BNP member into the London Assembly.
The BNP declared Yorkshire would be their 'jewel in the crown'. The BNP managed to gain four new councillors in Bradford. However, this was out of the record 101 candidates they stood across Yorkshire.
No one should be complacent about the BNP's results. In some areas of Britain they conned large numbers of people into voting for them. But last week's results show that the BNP are not an unstoppable force. It's important to understand why they did not make the breakthrough they wanted. Undoubtedly, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) did take some votes nationally from people who would have voted BNP. These include disaffected voters who wanted to protest against the main parties and fell for the hysteria over refugees.
But UKIP is not the main problem for the BNP. In the local elections the BNP were confident they would extend their support in Burnley and get a swathe of councillors in new, urban areas. In Burnley, which the press have dubbed as the BNP's 'base', the BNP lost a substantial number of votes in the council elections.
In 2003 they had 13 candidates with 8,563 votes. Their votes dropped by half in last week's elections, where they got 4,545 votes with eight candidates. UKIP did not stand against the BNP in those elections.
The BNP have lost three councillors in the last year in Burnley. One councillor lost his seat in a by-election last October, and Maureen Stowe publicly broke from the BNP, condemning them as Nazis. The only BNP councillor who had to defend his seat in last week's election lost.
The BNP are still a threat there. They managed to win one new councillor last week by just 28 votes, which means they still have six councillors in Burnley. Crucially the campaign against the BNP has stepped up in the last year. This culminated with the launch of Unite Against Fascism, the national organisation that has brought together the major trade unions, anti-racist groups and local people.
It has helped build and support campaigns against the BNP in local areas, including Burnley. The BNP's problems in Burnley show the success of campaigning against them.
Andrew Brammer, one of the Unite Against Fascism campaigners in Wakefield in Yorkshire, explained the lessons of the anti-BNP election campaign in the Yorkshire area. 'The press have talked about the BNP getting four new councillors in Bradford. That result bucked the trend,' he said. 'The BNP did not win in Wakefield or Leeds. At the count in Wakefield they were gutted. I had the pleasure of reading the headline at a newspaper stand which said 'BNP Election Misery'.
'We took our lead from what was happening in Leeds, where Unite Against Fascism ran a brilliant campaign. We also went into local areas with local people and built for mass mobilisations of people leafleting against the BNP. It meant we could do a whole area in one night. I estimate there were at least 150 people plus who took part in these activities in Wakefield. We handed out 45,000 to 50,000 leaflets. The role of the trade unions was very important. They came along to our 130-strong Unite Against Fascism rally in March. For instance Unison in the area handed directly mailed its 9,000 members. The whole nature of our campaigning, and calling them fascists, was what won. Our leafleting demoralised them and in some areas they didn't campaign. It created a culture of giving people confidence to take on the BNP and we met people who were going around taking down the BNP's election placards.'
Results show that campaigning can stop the fascists
THE VOTES the BNP got in the European elections and in some of the parts of the country show they are still a real danger. They got an average of 5 percent in the European elections. In the West Midlands that figure was 7.5 percent and in Yorkshire & Humber the figure was 8 percent.
They managed to con voters in four seats in Bradford and three in Epping Forest into electing their councillors. The mainstream media treated them as a legitimate party and the BNP have been desperate to hide their true face in the election.
They even issued a leaflet with their candidates pictured with their children and the slogan 'My dad's not a racist'. The BNP still pose a serious threat in Britain. It is likely the lack of breakthrough will reopen a debate inside the BNP as to whether they should show their more thuggish face to build the core of a Nazi organisation. Others may even want to liquidate into the UKIP.
All this means there is work to be done to stop them, with the general election likely to be only a year away. That is why Unite Against Fascism is urging people everywhere, particularly those where the BNP have councillors and got good votes, to build networks and get active against the BNP.
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of Unite, said, 'We are pleased that the BNP have not broken through. It shows campaigning works. There was leafleting, meetings, different unions and groups using their networks. We attracted wide support from bands and musicians who have played at anti-BNP gigs including the 8,000-strong carnival in Sunderland in May. We have to be vigilant. The BNP have 21 councillors and they are a danger wherever they are allowed to organise. We have to make sure we work to snuff out the BNP and win people to seeing their true Nazi face. We know the conditions for the Nazis to grow are still there and that means building Unite and driving it further into local areas.'
Failing to make a significant breakthrough
THE BNP had their 'biggest push for council seats in the history of the party', standing 313 candidates. They could only manage a net gain of four extra councillors. In areas where they have already got councillors elected it has triggered opposition to them.
This has helped arrest their growth. In some cases this has meant they have lost seats. The BNP's West Midlands organiser, Simon Darby, was booted out of his Dudley Castle and Priory seat.
The BNP were voted out of their Grays Riverside seat in Thurrock in Essex. They also lost their councillor in the Great Bridge ward, leaving them with just one councillor in Sandwell.
They were also voted out of their Norton and Bradeley seat in Stoke, so although they got a councillor elected in Stoke's Longton North they still only have two councillors in the area. In Calderdale in Yorkshire the BNP could only hang on to three councillors. This is the same number they had before last week's elections.
In the Heckmondwike seat in Kirklees and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire they could only hang on to the one councillor they had before the last week's election.