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Thursday, 18 April, 2002, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Oldham MP: Vote anything but BNP
Racial tension rose before the General Election
A Labour MP is urging people in Oldham to vote for any party to stop the far-right British National Party (BNP) winning a seat in the local elections.

Phil Woolas wants to prevent the BNP winning any council seats at all in the forthcoming poll.

Phil Woolas, Labour MP
Woolas: Political parties will have failed if BNP win a seat
The MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he wanted people to vote "Conservative, Liberal Democrat or whoever" instead.

Oldham was ravaged by three nights of violence between white and Asian youths last May, after the BNP campaigned in the town ahead of the general election.

And in that election, BNP leader Nick Griffin polled 16% of votes - almost 12,000 - when he stood in Oldham West and Royton.

'Racist bigotry'

This year the BNP is fielding 68 candidates across the country in the local elections, targeting several areas such as Oldham and Bradford where there was racial unrest last summer.

Mr Woolas said that if the BNP won one seat, all the parties would have failed in their efforts to show it was playing on "racist bigotry", rather than being a mainstream party.

Home Secretary David Blunkett
Blunkett urged all parties to take on the BNP

But BNP spokesman Phil Edwards claimed the MP's protests were "a compliment" to his party.

"It shows that the man is losing his bottle," Dr Edwards told BBC News Online. "What he is doing is what all these leftists do, which is undermine democracy."

Asked whether the BNP stood a chance of winning a seat at the local elections, Dr Edwards replied: "Who knows?"

He insisted that "the forces of darkness" were preventing his party from campaigning on a level playing field, using tactics of "intimidation" of candidates and voters.

Blunkett warning

Anti-racism activists have also been campaigning to stop the BNP winning any votes in Oldham.

Last month soap actors, sports stars and politicians rallied in the centre of town as part of a "Unite to Stop the BNP" campaign.

And a coalition against racism has been set up by the TUC, the National Assembly Against Racism, and various Asian and ethnic minority organisations.

Earlier this month Home Secretary David Blunkett urged mainstream parties all over the country to take on the BNP at the local elections.

He said people could not marginalise the BNP by pretending it did not exist.

Mr Blunkett accused it of stoking the "fires of hate" which led to last summer's riots in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley.

Barney Choudhary reports
"There's been disquiet over Labour's selection of candidate"
See also:

16 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Kinnock warns of race 'poison'
01 Mar 02 | Education
Race classes for Oldham parents
25 Nov 01 | Panorama
Ex-Combat 18 man speaks out
15 Nov 01 | England
Campaigners rally against BNP
24 Aug 01 | UK
BNP: A party on the fringe
11 Nov 01 | Panorama
Under the Skin 25 November 2001
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