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TROUBLED TOWNS ARE BNP TARGETS FOR MAY

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The British National Party is fielding 66 candidates in the May elections, including 18 in Burnley BC and Oldham MB...
The British National Party is fielding 66 candidates in the May elections, including 18 in Burnley BC and Oldham MBC, and a mayoral candidate in Newham LBC.

The party is planning to capitalise on the high vote it got in Burnley and Oldham - the scenes of last summer's race riots -in the 2001 general election by fielding 13 candidates in Burnley and five in Oldham.

Michael Davidson is the BNP's one mayoral candidate, and a party spokesman said it would not put up any more because of a lack of resources.

BNP chair Nick Griffin has written to electors saying if the party wins seats 'the leftist media will go berserk and millions of decent people who have almost given up hope will see the British are waking up'.

BNP policies include diverting all grants to ethnic minority groups to 'projects for improving the life of local British people or cutting council tax' and the 'birching', or caning, of petty criminals.

Institute of Race Relations researcher Arun Kundnani said the BNP was not a

serious party: 'They don't offer anything to the white working class they claim to

represent because they are opportunistic. They are not interested in developing a

base in these communities in the long term.'

But he added: 'We should still be concerned because of the way they can create tension.'

Burnley-based Shahid Malik, a member of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, said recent council by-elections had given the BNP a vote share of between 19% and 24%.

Mr Malik, who is campaigning locally against the BNP, added: 'I can't see them getting any seats, but if we don't campaign on that basis you're likely to see that they do steal one.

'There are a number of wards where they seem to have a strong core vote. They must think they have got a very good chance or they wouldn't be putting all their energy into Burnley.'

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