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Keep the BNP out!
far-right BNP shows weakness in North West
In a series of recent reverses, the BNP have shown their weakness in cities like Manchester and Salford, while in opinion polls the BNP remain below the percentage needed to win a seat. With one day until the Euro-elections and some local elections, it is still possible to prevent the racist right winning seats.
Hazel Blears was prominent in a Manchester Evening News report of the Salford Irwell Riverside ward by-election on 21st May. Blears, the Salford MP and New Labour Communities Secretary before her resignation from the cabinet on 3 June (less than 24 hours before polling day in the European elections), has been exposed as "flipping" the place she designated her second home for Parliamentary expenses – changing three times in one year – and was recently pressured into paying the £13,332 capital gains tax she had avoided when she sold her South London flat at a profit of £45,000.
In this widely hated MP’s constituency the BNP had continual local press coverage and ran what for them is a major campaign. They were confident of winning Irwell Riverside from Labour. Their leaflets even said it was a fight between them and Labour. In the event, they gained only 43 votes to poll 276 (17%) in third place. New Labour lost a quarter of its vote, unsurprising when the candidate gave Blears "my 110% support"! The Lib-Dems and Tories also lost votes – which the polling figures suggest either remained at home or mostly went to the Greens and the right wing UK Independence Party.
Undoubtedly, the thousands of anti-BNP leaflets distributed by local, mainly young, activists helped persuade voters not to back the BNP in their justifiable rage at "Blears in Arrears".
Chased out of Salford the weekend before, the BNP then had their planned event at a Manchester club cancelled by the venue after protests. Two days later the news broke that Salford BNP organiser Eddy O’Sullivan has been posting racist remarks on his Facebook site. Despite his denials, the posts undoubtedly were racist, to the point where even the (racist) BNP have suspended him!
National opinion polls are putting the BNP on 3-5%. Pollsters estimate that up to a further 2% of voters will vote BNP but not admit it. Possibly this is what the Daily Telegraph was referring to on 18th May when it reported a YouGov poll gave the BNP 7%, a claim repeated by the Telegraph when contacted for clarification and also by the Unite Against Fascism group. The publicly-available data on the YouGov site gives the BNP only 5% for the Euro-elections and 4% for a general election.
Depending on how badly the main parties fare and how the rest of the vote is divided among the other smaller parties, 7% can be sufficient to win a seat. Reflecting millions of people looking for a credible alternative or a way to punish the main parties, the percentages going to the smaller parties widely vary from poll to poll. This reinforces the importance of raising the voter turnout and lowering the percentage going to the far right. Candidates from trade unions and the left opposing privatisation, job losses and corruption in the "no2eu – yes to democracy" campaign are already peeling away some of the working-class protest vote which the BNP hoped to attract.
Bob Crow, rail workers' union leader, Keith Gibson, leader of the Lindsey Oil Refinery strike and many other trade unionists and socialists are standing on the"no2eu – yes to democracy" list to stop the BNP and establish a political voice for working people in the Euro elections. The campaign faces an uphill battle, with a good response on the streets but a tiny fraction of the huge media publicity given to the far right, racist BNP and UKIP. It is likely the far right will score some high votes. But the best hope of keeping out the racist right is a working-class based alternative.