The BNP's share of the vote in the local election was 10,924 out of a total of 83,369 votes cast, or 12%, just a shade more than the 11.9% they won in the general election in Burnley.
But as Burnley's ward boundaries have been redrawn, all three seats in each were up for election at once. There was only one BNP candidate in each of the 13 wards, so the same person could not vote twice for the BNP.
LGC elections expert Professor Michael Thrasher said elections like Burnley were exceptionally complicated: 'Twelve per cent is too low. We use a special algorithm to calculate total vote and complete share. It would tell us they are polling about 26%.'
Burnley leader Stuart Caddy (Lab) said the 26% was a protest vote: 'It is not a racist town.' Instead of non-co-operation, the majority Labour group will treat the BNP like ordinary opposition, Mr Caddy claimed. 'Rather than make them martyrs we will wait for them to come forward with policies,' he said.
He added: 'None of the leaders got elected. The three that were are going to be really out of their element and won't know what hit them in the council chamber. I see them doing a lot of non-attendance.'
Yet, the three councillors have agreed to sign Burnley's code of conduct, which requires them to 'promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person'. Failure to sign up will result in disqualification.
The council has also drawn up guidance which advises against inciting hatred between racial groups. Breaching this may constitute a breach of the code.