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EDITIONS
Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Duncan Smith squares up to BNP
Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith is hoping to make gains on 2 May
Iain Duncan Smith has promised a "head-on" fight with right wing extremists such as the BNP at next week's local elections.


The best way for politicians to deal with this is not abandoning issues to the BNP, who will enter that vacuum very gladly

Iain Duncan Smith

The Tory leader said electoral success by French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was a warning to mainstream politicians everywhere.

Ignoring the issues the far right campaigns on created a "political vacuum" for extremists to fill, Mr Duncan Smith said.

He was speaking on a visit to the north west of England - where towns such as Oldham and Burnley were hit by race riots last summer.

Seat-by-seat fight

Labour has also invoked the far right in an effort to mobilise its activists and boost turnout at the 2 May poll.

The mainstream parties fear a low turnout in towns such Burnley and Oldham will play into the hands of the BNP, which has been blamed for stoking racial tension in the area.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair was in Birmingham
Mr Duncan Smith said he was ready for a seat-by-seat fight.

"Wherever we can we are putting up candidates in seats against the BNP, even in seats where normally it would be more difficult for us to take them on."

He added: "The best way for politicians to deal with this is not abandoning issues to the BNP, who will enter that vacuum very gladly.

"The solutions to the problems people face are not met by people who divide society and put one set of people against another."

Mr Duncan Smith is hoping that the local elections will provide the springboard to recovery the Tories need after two disastrous general election results.

Uphill struggle?

The leaders of the three main parties all hit campaign trail on Thursday, in an effort to drum up interest in next week's poll.

Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy hopes to score seats of both his main rivals
Labour leader Tony Blair was in Birmingham where he visited a community centre before going on to a series of other engagements.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy kicked off his day's campaigning in Milton Keynes before going on to Oxford.

About 6,000 seats in more than 150 local authorities are up for grabs - many of them in the UK's biggest cities.

Labour hopes

Labour has the most to lose in the elections - a fact acknowledged by chairman Charles Clarke at the launch of Labour's campaign earlier this month.

He said the poll could be an uphill struggle as the party is defending the "high base line" of a successful result in 1998.

"These are less and less a verdict on government in power and more and more focused on local issues and we believe that will continue to be the case," Mr Clarke said.

At the Lib Dems' campaign launch a week ago, Mr Kennedy said his party hoped to make gains off both the Conservatives and Labour.

Money

They believe that local councils should be set free to provide quality public services that meet the needs of local people.

The Lib Dems' local government spokesman, Don Foster, has said he wants local councils to be able to raise a greater proportion of their own revenue and be able to decide how to spend that money.

 VOTE RESULTS
Will you vote in the local elections?

Yes
 69.20% 

No
 30.80% 

5178 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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24 Aug 01 | Wales
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