Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 15:09 UK

Immigration tops the agenda for Barking constituency

Immigration leads Barking debate

The controversial issue of immigration may help to decide who wins the seat of Barking in east London.

In the traditionally working-class constituency, Labour's Margaret Hodge is up against British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin.

Mrs Hodge held on to her seat in 2001 and 2005, but her vote in 2005 was more than 13% down on the previous election.

In the last general election the BNP took 16.9% of the vote to come third behind the Conservatives.

The BNP was just 27 votes behind the Tories - one of the largest votes for the BNP outside of Burnley and Oldham.

'Feel resentment'

Mrs Hodge said Barking was a community "disproportionately affected by immigration", and that a perceived unfairness associated with how "we allocate scarce public resources head on" needed to be tackled.

"If people feel they are not getting a fair deal, they feel resentment which can be exploited by those who wish to expel all immigrants," she said.

The BNP is putting a huge effort into getting a result in Barking. Mr Griffin said there was a serious danger that "the public might be fooled" about other party messages on immigration.

Nick Griffin and Margaret Hodge
Labour's Margaret Hodge is up against BNP leader Nick Griffin

He said: "I don't think the [public] will [be fooled] because they have had years of this with all the main politicians, particularly the Conservatives, promising to deal with something on immigration during election times - they don't do anything."

Conservative candidate Simon Marcus said: "We certainly believe... that Labour has had a very irresponsible immigration policy that has put huge pressure on public services and has caused disunity and lack of cohesion in communities."

Liberal Democrat candidate Dominic Carman said: "I think all democratic parties are in one mind in terms of the BNP but of course their policies and perspectives are different and, if you look at the European election, 69% of the electorate here last year didn't vote for Labour."

Candidates announced for Barking so far include: Conservative: Simon Marcus; Labour: Margaret Hodge; Lib Dem: Dominic Carman; BNP: Nick Griffin; Green: Jayne Forbes; UK Independence Party: Frank Maloney; Christian Party: George Hargreaves.



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