BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 14:37 GMT
BNP tension remains in Burnley
David Edwards and Carol Hughes
David Edwards and Carol Hughes won seats in May

As it wins a fifth council seat, the BNP rejects claims from opponents in Burnley - where it already has three councillors - that it exploits local issues to push an extremist agenda.
In Burnley, where three seats fell to the BNP last May, their councillors remain the focus of concern for local opponents despite dropping off the national media agenda.

The party says Dave Edwards, Carol Hughes and Terry Grogan are working hard for the people who supported them.

But the town's Labour MP, Peter Pike, told BBC News Online their presence on the council continues to cause tension in the Asian community.

And he fears that the BNP is likely to field more candidates when new elections are held in May - a challenge which the far-right party said it hopes to meet.

Burnley was one of three areas in the north of England hit by race riots in the summer of 2001.

'Calmer'

Mr Pike believes the mainstream political parties still have a lot of work to do to persuade people to vote for them and not the far right, as they did in Halifax on Thursday night.

The Labour MP says that the tensions surrounding the election of the BNP three have eased a little.

I am not necessarily convinced that we have got the way we fight them completely right yet

Peter Pike MP
"Things are calmer, people are rationalising their positions," he says.

But Mr Pike warns that while the realities of local politics have left the BNP "very quiet on the council", fears remain that they will enjoy further successes.

"They did not win all their votes on racist grounds," he says. "They do capitalise on local issues and some people are voting on a protest vote."

It is a problem which their opponents are still to address, the MP believes, adding: "I am not necessarily convinced that we have got the way we fight them completely right yet."

His view is echoed by the leader of the council, Stuart Caddy, who says: "The election of the three from the BNP was a kick up the backside for the rest of the council."

The Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Reverend John Goddard, warns that he "would not be very surprised if more gains were made" by the BNP if it was allowed to continue exploiting people's fears on issues like housing and jobs.

"Tension still exists between the petty racism that the BNP seek to exploit and the desire of many in the town to work for better harmony," he adds.

'Racial crime dropped'

But the BNP denies its councillors have done little work in Burnley.

"There are lots of people that just want to knock us," says a spokesman.

"The councillors have done a lot since they were elected - the amount of racial crime has dropped down and they have also been doing local work for their local constituents."

He could not say how many individual cases had been taken up, but he cites among other efforts opposition to the development of "cherished" open space for industrial units.

The councillors say they have also opposed positive discrimination on the council and won a decision to have no more asylum seekers sent to Burnley.

Voting decision

The BNP's policies were also highlighted when the councillors did not back a motion commending the town's football club for banning racist supporters.

Ms Hughes abstained while her two colleagues did not attend the full council meeting.

But the party spokesman says Ms Hughes felt the motion was an attempt to "catch her out", so she thought it better to abstain.

The problems of the town will not be easily solved by the separation of races and cultures, but only by races and cultures working together

Bishop of Burnley
"It does not mean she's against cracking down on football hooligans," the spokesman goes on.

And anyway, he adds, football hooligans are "not really racialist, they're unsportsmanlike, they will use any device to humiliate the other team".

But the Bishop of Burnley says the appeal to many BNP supporters in the town remained the promise of simplistic solutions to complex problems.

He urges those in the town and elsewhere considering a vote for the BNP to think again.

"The problems of the town will not be easily solved by the separation of races and cultures, but only by races and cultures working together."

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's John Thorne
"Adrian Marsden.... polled above expectations"
See also:

24 Jan 03 | Politics
23 Jan 03 | Politics
03 May 02 | Politics
03 May 02 | Politics
11 Dec 01 | England
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


 E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes