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EDITIONS
Friday, 26 April, 2002, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Blair warns voters against extremists
Tony Blair campaigning in Blackburn
Tony Blair: Extremists are bad for house prices
Electors would be better served voting for the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats in next week's local elections than supporting right wing extremists, Prime Minister Tony Blair has claimed.

He outlined his plans in Blackburn, Lancashire, near to Burnley, where 13 British National Party candidates are standing for local elections.


I hope they vote Labour - but I hope also they vote for mainstream parties

Tony Blair
Prime Minister

He said he hoped people would vote Labour on 2 May, but he would rather they voted for any mainstream party rather than extremists.

"We all hope that people come out and support the Labour Party but what I'm saying is that it is important for people to vote but it is important that people don't vote for parties of extremism that make all the problems worse," he said.

"People have to think very carefully before they go out and vote."

Fighting crime

He added: "I hope they do go out and vote - I hope they vote Labour - but I hope also they vote for mainstream parties.

"The only impact of electing extremists in any area, quite apart from the impact on house prices and businesses, would be to heighten insecurity in that area."


It is dispiriting to see how much local election coverage has focused on a fringe political outfit

Charles Kennedy
Liberal Democrat leader

Mr Blair told the news conference on Friday that he would concentrate his efforts on crime and anti-social behaviour.

His trip to the north west comes close on the heels of Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith's visit to the region - where towns such as Oldham and Burnley were hit by race riots last summer.

Mr Blair said his party had a good record on dealing with bad behaviour among youngsters.

More police officers

Mr Blair added: "When you go shopping or have a night out the last thing you want is to be mugged or jostled by rowdy or drunken yobs on the way home.

"That is why we have been increasing the number of police officers to the largest level ever and that is why we have funded nearly 700 more CCTV schemes, which deter crime and help police catch offenders.

"We know that street crime is a real and serious problem for people."

Mr Blair told MPs on Wednesday that London's sharp rise in street robberies would be brought under control within five months.

In his campaign, Mr Duncan Smith has promised a "head-on" fight with right wing extremists such as the BNP during the election contest.

Mobilise activists

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

Iain Duncan Smith
Mr Duncan Smith is hoping to revive his party's fortunes

"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."

Trade unions

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

A Trade Union Anti-Racist rally was being held at Oldham Football Club on Friday and the Anti-Nazi League were holding a news conference to protest against the BNP.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy expressed concern that the BNP could benefit from publicity given to Le Pen.

"It is dispiriting to see how much local election coverage has focused on a fringe political outfit," he told The Daily Telegraph.

'Minuscule and malign'

"The mainstream parties will not do themselves or the participation of the public any favours by devoting too much energy and attention to the BNP."

Mr Kennedy claimed education, transport and council tax were being overshadowed by the BNP.

"There is an old iron law of politics: Don't waste too much time talking up your opponents. Particularly when they are minuscule and malign."

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

 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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See also:

25 Apr 02 | UK Politics
15 Apr 02 | UK Politics
11 Apr 02 | UK Politics
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