Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

Blears sounds warning about BNP

Politicians must focus on 'bread and butter' politics, Ms Blears said

White working-class voters turn to the British National Party because they feel ignored by mainstream parties, the communities secretary has said.

Hazel Blears accused the BNP of playing on people's apprehensions and peddling "pernicious but plausible lies".

She says other parties had to work to win back voters on "ignored" estates by using more "normal language".

A BNP spokesman said the comments made by Ms Blears "showed Labour are very worried about our advances".

The minister made similar comments in 2006 after the anti-immigration party made gains in the local elections.

Her comments followed the publication of a BNP members' list on the internet.

She told the BBC politicians from all parties must work hard to win back the trust and confidence of disaffected voters by proving that mainstream politics has the answers they seek.

'Filling a vacuum'

"Sometimes people feel the political world is very far-removed from their everyday existence," she said.

"There's something about the language we use... it's sometimes like a very closed world. If mainstream political parties leave a vacuum, people like the BNP will fill that vacuum.

"The BNP is a very divisive force. They aren't really interested in bringing people from different backgrounds together."

However, she said that the leaked list published earlier this week, containing the names, home addresses, phone numbers and professions of some 10,000 BNP members, showed support for the party was relatively small.

The BNP currently has 56 councillors across Britain and won a seat on the London Assembly in May when mayoral candidate Richard Barnbrook polled 69,000 votes - 5.3% of the total.

Ms Blears has called for a revival of local political culture, a significant shift of power from the centre to the community and politicians who look and sound like the people they represent.

She said politicians must focus on the electorate's "bread and butter issues" such as whether people had jobs and a roof over their heads.

She says BNP support is "focused on a small number of specific areas such as Leicester and east London".

"And unlike during the 30s, modern British fascism does not enjoy any sympathy in the civil service, chattering classes or the media."

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