15 November 2008

BNP's shock victory in council election sparks fears of surge in votes across Britain

The British National Party has scored a surprise victory in a council by-election.

The far-Right party took a seat in the Lincolnshire market town of Boston, where migrants make up a quarter of the population. Anti-racism campaigners warned that the win would lead to scaremongering about foreigners and an increase in violence and threats.

It is the first district council seat in Lincolnshire, for the British National Party. BNP candidate David Owens polled 279 votes - a 138-majority over the ruling Boston Bypass Independent candidate. The Tories came third.

In his victory speech, Mr Owens said local media organisations had tried to "hoodwink" the public into thinking the "BNP was a racist party". He said: "We are not a racist party - we are passionate about our country. I think the people of Fenside and the people of Boston have said tonight that immigration is at capacity here."

But Tory MP Mark Simmonds, who represents Boston and Skegness, said: "The BNP are a threat to our country, who contribute nothing to society. This must be a wake up call to all parties to ensure that they campaign hard and represent people effectively and leave no room for people to feel disaffected and turn to the BNP."

Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who has campaigned furiously against the BNP in his own London constituency, said: "It is always a worry when the BNP wins because with it comes escalating tensions and scaremongering and fears in the community. People have got to realise that the consequences of them giving support to the BNP at the ballot box is an increase in threats and violence."

He said it was vital that political parties tackled the underlying reasons behind the rise of the BNP - concerns about housing, jobs and public services being taken by migrants.

The town has a huge numbers of migrants, especially from Portugal and Poland, who take low-paid work on farms picking flowers, fruit and vegetables and in food processing plants. Critics have accused the Government of failing to prepare cash-strapped councils for the influx of immigrants by giving them the resources to invest in public services.

This has left schools, health facilities and transport struggling to cope with greater numbers. Earlier this year, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears admitted that 25 per cent of people in Boston, which has a population of 70,000, were migrants.

She confessed the "scale and pace of change" had been so dramatic that there are now 65 languages spoken in the market town. In the 2001 census 96 per cent of Boston residents were white British while only 1.1 percent regarded themselves as "white other" which would include eastern Europeans.

In June, Ms Blears announced plans to send a specialist "tension-busting" team of Whitehall officials into Breckland, Norfolk, where the influx of migrants has caused "friction". The area saw racial problems when Portugal knocked England out of Euro 2004 and a mob in the local town of Thetford attacked the Red Lion pub, popular with Portuguese nationals, throwing rocks and bottles and setting fire to cars.

Last month, the head of the race relations watchdog warned that Britain risked a surge in far-right extremism unless it took urgent action to target training and skills at people stuck in a new white "underclass".

Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the Government urgently needed to takes active steps to help those hit hardest by the economic crisis - including the white working class.

Daily Mail

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