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EDITIONS
Saturday, 4 May, 2002, 02:14 GMT 03:14 UK
Papers dismiss BNP's 'limited' win
Covers of Saturday's papers
The papers said the poll results were generally healthy
Saturday's papers, digesting the English local election results, have on the whole dismissed the far-right BNP's success as "limited" in importance for the UK political scene.

The far stronger message, they concluded, was that voters would reject mainstream political parties whenever they failed to tackle issues that mattered to them.

And the improved turnout, particularly in areas where experimental voting methods were tried, gave general cause for cautious satisfaction.


Until our main parties [tackle] crime, racism and immigration we can only expect the threat of fascism to haunt our democracy

The Daily Express
The Independent said the BNP's gain of three seats in Burnley represented "minor victories in a small, moderately poor town" rather than a "political insurrection".

However, its leader column warned against complacency.

"The limited success of the BNP is symbolic of a serious problem in several... neglected areas whose inhabitants feel their non-white neighbours in even poorer urban districts have been favoured," it said.

"The established political parties have failed to engage with this sense of grievance.

"That the BNP will fade back into the shadows is likely, but not inevitable. It requires honesty and a united front against racism: This is a battle worth fighting, which can be won."

The Guardian said there was "something for everyone" in the overall results, with "grounds for both comfort and concern" for all parties.

It believes the BNP's victory "darkens the scene", but does not suggest "a political system in serious trouble".

'Disenchantment'

Overall, higher turnout and that fact that 94% of voters backed one of the three mainstream parties was a "gentle endorsement" of the current political system, it said.

The Times came to a similar conclusion that the "rather mixed" results meant the parties should not "alter the essence of their strategies".

It believed the results were "healthy", showing in particular a good turnout in areas of postal voting, and an indication that people were voting on local and not national issues.

The Sun said voter "disenchantment" was a stronger message than the success of "three racist BNP councillors", and asked Labour ministers to "please note".

"Just look at the monkey, Robocop and the Kidderminster hospital campaigners," it said.


Big local issues... are what matter to voters most - not spin

The Sun
"Big local issues that affect people's lives - especially crime and health - are what matter to voters most.

"Not politics. Not promises. Not dogma. Not waffle. Not spin."

The Daily Express splashed with BNP "thugs" threatening its journalists after the newspaper "was praised for blowing their election campaign out of the water".

It believed British voters gave the far-right party an "enormous thumbs-down", with the BNP winning just three of 6,000 seats nationwide, and 68 that it contested.

But it also warned against "complacency".

"Until our main parties can offer solutions to the issues of crime, racism and immigration we can only expect the threat of fascism to haunt our democracy," it said.

'Ordinary people'

The Mirror had a similarly robust message, saying the results were a "serious lesson" for Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

"Voters are not sick of politics when they feel it is relevant to their lives.


Democracy is not necessarily dying - there are sparks of life and they need to be fanned

The Mirror

"What they are sick of is politicians who fail to take no notice of the concerns of ordinary people," it said.

"Democracy is not necessarily dying. There are sparks of life and they need to be fanned... if politics does what it is supposed to do - serve the people - it will once again thrive."

The Daily Telegraph was more concerned with the fate of the Tory party than the BNP.

It said the Conservatives, who gained 220 seats, could not have expected to do much better.

Tory 'surgery'

But it said that the results would nevertheless "steel them for the ordeal of radical, not cosmetic, surgery", with a "better regional, ethnic and sex balance."

On the BNP, it agreed with the tabloids: "The real answer to the BNP is not for the government to smear the opposition, but for it to address the discontents."


There is very little liking or trust or respect for any of the mainstream parties

Daily Mail
The Daily Mail was more interested in the apathy and mistrust displayed by voters - or the lack of them - than in the BNP's success.

"One message emerges loud and clear... there is very little liking or trust or respect for any of the mainstream parties," it says.

The column added that overall the Tories were the biggest losers of the "contradictory" night.

"However brave a face Iain Duncan Smith may put on it - and it is true the Tories did make some gains - these elections were a disappointment," it said.

See also:

03 May 02 | UK Politics
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