By Dan Katz
The fascist British National Party is contesting 221 council wards in May 2003 and has announced its intention to stand in 400 in 2004. The BNP is aiming to emerge as a major political force by 2004.
They are concentrating on building bases in the North West, North East and Yorkshire. BNP leader, Nick Griffin, will stand in Oldham, where he took 16% of the vote in the general election. The BNP will also contest 13 of the 15 seats in Burnley where they won three council places last year.
The BNP is all things to all people. In the North East the party has claimed to be Britain's "non-Marxist socialist party" while in the South West it is attempting to attract disillusioned Conservative voters.
In the urban areas of northern England, the BNP has campaigned heavily on the supposed preferential funding given to predominantly Asian districts.
Anti-asylum hatred continues to be the central plank of BNP propaganda and the party has also been able to link this issue with the growing fear of Islamic fundamentalism. Recent BNP literature has attempted to portray al-Qaeda as the true face of Islam.
After years of contesting high profile national elections with very limited success, the BNP has now made local council elections its central focus, adopting a Liberal Democrat-style of grass roots "community politics" campaigning. BNP branches are encouraged to identify target wards where local resources can be concentrated, produce ward-level bulletins and repeatedly introduce their intended candidates to local voters.
The BNP currently has 3,400 members. This is double its 1999 level and reflects its growing support.
BNP branches operate around the country, but its strength lies in the North West, particularly Oldham, Burnley and Blackburn, the Black Country and West Yorkshire, especially Bradford, Keighley and Halifax. It has also begun making advances in Sunderland, Gateshead and Stoke.
- Information from the anti-fascist magazine, Searchlight. For more information contact the anti-BNP election hotline 020 7681 8660