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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
BNP becomes Burnley's second party
Luke Smith celebrates winning a seat for the BNP in Burnley
Luke Smith is among the victorious new BNP councillors
The far right British National Party is now the official opposition in Burnley after making gains in the local elections.

It won seven new seats, including that of the deputy council leader, Labour's Andrew Tatchell, to take its tally to eight.

Labour retained control of the council with 23 seats while the Liberal Democrats were forced into third place with seven.

BNP leader Nick Griffin hailed his party's gains as "absolutely fantastic".

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said that special circumstances in the town allowed the BNP to "creep in".

The result signals more success for the party, which won its first seats on the council in 2002.

It means the town, which suffered three days of race riots in 2001, will have eight far right councillors for the next year.

Anti-Nazi League protestors at the election count in Burnley
One BNP councillor in this country is one too many
Shahid Malik, Labour campaigner

There were stand offs between BNP and Anti-Nazi League supporters outside the count at Burnley FC's Turf Moor ground.

Mr Griffin, 44, was celebrating the success of his party on Friday in Burnley, despite failing himself to win a seat in Oldham.

He said: "Last night was an absolutely fantastic result in Burnley and across the country.

"It was better than our expectations.

"We are starting to think about who will be controlling Burnley Council next year."

Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said the BNP's success should not be overstated, but said that questions must be asked.

"The people of Burnley are not any more racist than in any other community in Britain.

"In their town the particular conditions of especial disillusionment with the local council and the collapse of the Conservative vote gave the BNP a unique chance to creep in."

Labour campaigner and former member of the Commission for Racial Equality, Shahid Malik, said it was "shameful" that the BNP fielded more candidates than the Tories and Liberal Democrats.

He said: "That speaks volumes about their commitment to Burnley.

"We've got to get this into perspective. There are some 22,000 councillors in this country, the BNP will have got 15 or so of that 20,000 tonight.

I was horrified last night, and very near to tears as the results came in, I was just devastated
The Right Rev John Goddard
Bishop of Burnley
"It is important to put it in that context but it is also important not to be complacent.

"One BNP councillor in this country is one too many."

The Bishop of Burnley later said he had been "close to tears" as he heard the results of the elections in his town come in.

"I was horrified last night, and very near to tears as the results came in, I was just devastated," said the Right Reverend John Goddard.

"Much good work has gone in to trying to build bridges, some sponsored by the council, some by faith communities, and you have got to recognise that it is not enough."

The BBC's Peter Lane
"For some BNP supporters it's allocation of resources, for others the asylum issue"

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