By Mark Catterall
By May this year the BNP had eight councillors in Burnley, and for a short period were the official opposition on the borough council. In recent months however they have faced setbacks. In June in the Hapton ward by-election, a ward in which they had taken one of the three seats from Labour in the May local elections, they were narrowly beaten by the Liberal-Democrats. Soon after, Simon Bennett deputy organiser of the Burnley BNP resigned.
Later in the summer one of their councillors, 21 year old Luke Smith, was exposed as a convicted "football hooligan", banned from Burnley FC ground for violence. At the Red White and Blue BNP summer festival Luke Smith decided to smash a bottle into Leeds BNP organiser Martin Reynold's face. Smith refused to apologise claiming self defence but subsequently resigned as a councillor and member of the BNP, triggering a by-election in Lanehead ward (held on 17 October and the BNP came a poor third). His uncle Stephen Smith, seen as a key figure in the BNP's electoral success in Burnley, also resigned as BNP local organiser reportedly over the treatment of Luke. According to Searchlight magazine Stephen Smith is also in dispute with the national BNP.
The relationship between Burnley BNP and the national BNP leadership have been riven by disagreements and hatred.
Just prior to the Lanehead by-election, events down the M65 in Blackburn took a turn for the worse, for the BNP, when the BNP's sole councillor in Blackburn resigned from the party.
While the BNP have faced a tough summer, anti-fascists can not afford to be complacent. Most of the fascists' defeats have been self-inflicted. Even in their defeat in Lanehead they obtained 17% of the vote. Next year there are full council elections in Blackburn and local and European elections across the country. With a small recovery the BNP could win significant electoral support. Until the labour movement can prove there is a viable alternative to the BNP, they remain a major threat.