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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Burnley takes stock of BNP victories
British National Party poster flies on a chimney in Burnley - the party has 13 candidates in this year's local elections.
A BNP banner flies on a chimney over Burnley
Mark Davies

Beryl O'Donnell felt ashamed of her village when she woke up on Friday morning.

Worsthorne is a pretty little place a few miles from Burnley. In the spring sunshine, it glimmers with the sort of prosperity virtually unseen down the road in the nearby town.

In the early hours of Friday, David Edwards, a candidate for the far-right British National Party was elected to represent the Burnley ward of Cliviger with Worsthorne, the first BNP electoral success since 1993.

A few miles away in the mainly Asian area of Daneshouse, one of the most deprived parts of the UK, there was a mixture of shock, anger and not a little disbelief at the BNP's success, which saw the party take three seats on Burnley council.

'Misguided fears'

Mrs O' Donnell is in a good position to comment on the results. A retired teacher, she used to work in Daneshouse.

"I feel ashamed to be part of this village," she said. "I can understand that a lot of people have misguided fears, but look around here.

"There is an old lady down the street who says she voted BNP - she seems to think they are right. A lot of other people put in a protest vote - silly protest votes."

Mrs O'Donnell talks fondly of working in Daneshouse and of the friendships she made.

"We never ever ever had any racial troubles," she says. "We worked very hard to keep all the groups together. There were some lovely Asian families. I should think they will be frightened now."

'Bewildered'

In Daneshouse itself, there seems to be a feeling of incomprehension that the BNP won three seats. There is anger, but sadness too.


But how can our next door neighbours turn against us like this

Noor Mohammed Mughal
Burnley resident
Noor Mohammed Mughal came to Burnley 37 years ago. He seems upset and bewildered by the events of Friday morning.

"Why do we need these sort of people?" he says. "It has created a gulf between us. We have lived in peace for all this time - why suddenly this?

"Certain people are stirring things up. I was really pleased people went out and voted against them and I think sometimes the media has given them a lot of publicity they do not deserve.

"But how can our next door neighbours turn against us like this?"

Fighting

Few others in Daneshouse want to talk about the result. They say they are shocked and are fearful for what may happen now.

"There is no reason for it," says one man. "The communities got along well and it was all blown up because of gangs fighting over drugs."

The men in one of the shops in Daneshouse just look at me and shake their heads when I ask about the result. There is disbelief.

"What can we say? Everyone was talking about this happening," says one man. "But I didn't really think it would."

In the town centre, there is less surprise, but there are fears for what the result will do for Burnley's image.

Anger

"I think it is a kick up the backside for people to start thinking," says one woman. "But we do not like extremism of any kind."


It is really a protest vote to give the council a kick up the backside

Roy Ball
Burnley resident
Others say the result reflects anger at perceived injustices at the way money is spent in the town.

"Money should be spread more evenly, too much is spent in the Asian areas," says one man. "I didn't vote BNP, but I half expected this. People are fed up."

Roy Ball says: "I do not think the majority of people in Burnley are racist but I think people are a bit disillusioned with Labour. It seems there is no information about what is going on.

"It is really a protest vote to give the council a kick up the backside. The people of Burnley are actually very tolerant."

'Past harming'

Another man says: "There has got to be something wrong when the BNP are getting in. There is a lot of frustration.


I voted Labour - but I can see why the BNP won seats

Anonymous Burnley resident
"The image of the town is past harming. I don't think it is going to be any worse off."

But others say they fear the impact on inward investment to Burnley. "It's can't do us any good can it?" says one young man who voted tactically, he says, to keep the BNP out in his ward.

'Need change'

Others are less measured in their language. "It's got to be the BNP," says one man. "It's one law for them and another for us."

A man standing outside Boots has a similar view. "I voted Labour," he says. "But I can see why the BNP won seats. I am afraid though that it will harm the image of the town."

Back in Worsthorne, one man says at first that he had voted Labour. Later he admits to casting what he says was a protest vote for the BNP.

Others are more up front. "It had to be done," says a woman in the village shop. "We need change."

BNP leader Nick Griffin denied that votes for his party were a protest against the Labour council.

Tension

"People voted for us because they want a change on their council."

"Our opponents have spent vast sums of money to discredit us, but people have voted for us and not as a protest."

He said the success of BNP candidates had reduced tension in the white community.

Maureen Craig, chair of the Burnley Community Alliance - a network of community groups - insisted that the town still has a positive future.

"People are working together to make Burnley a better place," she said.

Shahid Malik, a member of Labour's ruling national executive committee who was born and bred in Burnley, watched the votes being counted into the early hours at the Burnley Football Club leisure centre.

And as the result confirming a third BNP victory was declared on Friday morning, he admitted that some of the blame for the party's success lay with his party.

"One of the things that needs to happen is our communications strategy has to be improved. We have not crushed the myths spread by the BNP, we have failed to challenge them and rebut them enough.

"It is critically important that all the mainstream party leaders start to work together. This is no longer party political fight - it's a fight for our way of life."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Catherine Marston
"Even the leader of the BNP can't believe his success"

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See also:

03 May 02 | UK Politics
03 May 02 | UK Politics
01 May 02 | UK Politics
28 Apr 02 | UK Politics
03 Jul 01 | UK
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