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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 05:37 GMT 06:37 UK
BNP wins another seat
BNP leader Nick Griffin
BNP leader Nick Griffin has tried to make the party more electable
The far-right British National Party have picked up another council seat after a by-election in Essex.

The party now has 18 local councillors, after the election of building maintenance manager Nicholas Geri, 47, himself the grandson of an Italian immigrant.

Mr Geri said he was "pleasantly surprised" at winning a seat in the Grays Riverside ward.

His party has tried to moderate its policies and rhetoric in an effort to shake off its racist image and become more electable.

The by-election was triggered by the death of a Labour incumbent.

Mr Geri's victory - with a 22% turnout - left Labour with an overall majority of 21 on the council.

Nasty, extremist and racist, the BNP got in narrowly on the back of empty promises, low turnout and bogus respectability
Alan Olive
Labour activist
He said: "We bring common sense. Things have gone the wrong way and the way that people don't want them to go, that is why they voted for us.

"Asylum problems, NHS problems, crime and the causes of crime."

Labour and the Liberal Democrats said the victory of a far-right candidate would be a rallying call for those opposed to racism.

Alan Olive, regional director of the Eastern Region Labour Party, said; "We will now redouble our efforts in this community and work on behalf of local people to prove the value of a hard-working Labour team and we will work hard to expose the BNP for what they really are."

He added: "Nasty, extremist and racist, the BNP got in narrowly on the back of empty promises, low turnout and bogus respectability.

"The truth is they have absolutely nothing to offer and will let local people down."

Earnshaw Palmer, the only Liberal Democrat councillor in Thurrock and one of three black councillors on the local authority, added: "This is a sad day for democracy and a sad day for the people of Thurrock.

"It is a wake-up call to the voters and the major political parties."

But he added: "It is not a national mood swing it is an aberration. It is what happens when the silent majority stay at home.

"There is no racial problem in this area and the BNP have nothing to offer the people of Thurrock."

Eric Pickles MP, Tory local government spokesman, said: "As a former councillor and council leader myself I am saddened and angry that they have won a seat in Essex.

"The BNP contribute nothing to society nor do they attempt to bring answers to the issues facing our local communities.

"The reality is, they are the problem and not the solution."

In the May local elections the BNP won 11 new council seats in England, with its biggest success five more seats in Burnley, Lancashire.




SEE ALSO:
BNP councillor resigns over fight
22 Aug 03  |  Lancashire
Suspended BNP councillor fights back
19 Aug 03  |  Lancashire
BNP councillor suspended
18 Aug 03  |  Lancashire
Poverty 'fuels BNP support'
07 Aug 03  |  Lancashire
BNP 'denied' cabinet seats
15 May 03  |  Lancashire


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