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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Anti-BNP campaign launched
David Edwards and Carol Hughes: Two of three BNP councillors
BNP councillors: Election success in Burnley

Politicians, trade unionists and community leaders in north-west England are launching a campaign to unseat Burnley's three British National Party councillors, saying more has to be done to turn voters away from the far-right group.


The election of the three from the BNP was a kick up the backside

Stuart Caddy, Burnley Council leader

The Labour leader of Burnley council said the election of the trio of councillors had been a "kick up the backside" for community leaders, but doing nothing about the three members was not an option.

The BNP said the election of their councillors, a year after inter-racial rioting in the town, demonstrated white people were being ignored by the three main parties.

The official report into the violence in June 2001 said organised white racists had exploited the clashes to exacerbate tensions and fears.

Six months on

Stuart Caddy, leader of Burnley council, said the campaign was being launched after watching how the three BNP councillors had conducted themselves since taking office.

Burnt out cars on the streets of Burnley following rioting
Riots: Blighted Burnley in June 2001
"It's almost six months since they were elected and, in our view, they have done nothing in the council," said Cllr Caddy.

"They sit on committees and in council but do not take part."

Cllr Caddy said it was time the other parties in the town began a grassroots campaign to turn voters away from the BNP.

"I think there was a real issue of perceptions and apathy," said Cllr Caddy.

Burnley BNP councillors:
David Edwards
Terence Grogan
Carol Hughes
"The election of the three from the BNP was a kick up the backside for the rest of the council."

"This campaign is our chance to work for the town and bring it together," he said.

Mohammed Azam, an Oldham councillor involved in the anti-BNP campaign, said politicians across the north-west had to pull together to defeat the far-right.

"We have to recognise what happens when people don't challenge the BNP," he said.

Cllr Azam said the campaign, launched at Burnley Football Club, would aim to counter the BNP whenever it made a claim alleging racial bias on the part of local authorities or the government.

It would also seek to build grassroots activity among different communities, including faith groups, to hinder the BNP's street campaigning.

"Look at what has happened with the rise of the National Front in France.

Simon Bennett of the Burnley BNP
Simon Bennett: "Outside interference"
"We want to learn from that and prevent it happening here."

The BNP's three councillors in Burnley are the party's only success on local councils since the short-lived election of Derek Beackon in Tower Hamlets, London, in 1993.

Simon Bennett, spokesman for the BNP in Burnley, said the campaign was being run by outside groups attempting to interfere with democracy in the town.

"This isn't a coalition against racism but a coalition against free speech and democracy. The campaign is being run by outsiders."

Mr Bennett rejected accusations that the councillors were not taking part in council business, saying they were fulfilling their obligations to attend committees.

"We are not here to please Stuart Caddy. He is left with nitpicking criticisms but the real problem is that he and his party won't work with the BNP," he said.

Summer violence

Burnley was one a string of northern towns hit by race-related violence during the summer of 2001.

A major report into the violence urged the government to tackle "shockingly" divided communities in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham.

The Cantle report (see Internet links) said communities were living parallel but polarised lives where people from different backgrounds did not mix, creating a sense of self-imposed segregation.

A separate report on Burnley urged the local authorities and government to tackle deprivation and related "disillusionment" of young people.

The Home Office and local authorities have since announced projects aimed at dealing with tensions in the towns affected.


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BNP: under the skin


ANALYSIS

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See also:

24 Oct 02 | Scotland
03 May 02 | Politics
03 May 02 | Politics
03 May 02 | Politics
11 Dec 01 | England
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