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BNP a whisker away from by-election win

PUBLISHED: 16:02 28 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:06 25 August 2010

THE British National Party came within EIGHT votes of sweeping up a council seat once neighbouring the party's borough headquarters.

THE British National Party came within EIGHT votes of sweeping up a council seat once neighbouring the party's borough headquarters.

The East Wickham by-election saw a neck and neck result where Conservative candidate Steven Hall won with 798 votes, over BNP's 790 and Labour's 700, last Thursday.

The anti-immigration party hailed the close call a victory on the heels of by-election success in Boston, Lincolnshire and Cumbria, last November.

But anti-BNP campaigners said the result did not reflect a rise in the party's popularity in the area. Searchlight publisher Gerry Gable said: "They have always had a strong base in the Bexley area, so this is no great shock.

"They brought about 40 people from across the country to help campaign last Saturday."

At last May's London Mayoral election, BNP candidate Richard Barnbrook received 28,961 first and second choice votes in Bexley and Bromley, compared to 14,042 in Greenwich and Lewisham.

East Wickham election winner Mr Hall, 44, claimed the right-wing party ran an "intense and manipulative" campaign.

He added: "It tapped into the public anger of the failure of the Labour government to address immigration, the recession and crime.

These national issues are

outside the remit of local councillors."

BNP members are banned from joining the police for their views on multiculturalism. However, Bexley Council for Racial Equality (BCRE) Director Lux Anandarajah said BNP candidates and literature did not express any views to jeopardise race relations. Michael Barnbrook, the BNP East Wickham candidate and former policeman, refused to comment on the election. But BNP spokesman Simon Derby said: "Michael had a late night and is probably a little disappointed.

"There are plenty of people who voted for the other parties who support us as well."

l A memorial service

held for the late East Wickham councillor and former Mayor Alf Catterall raised £1,600 for The Youth Awareness Programme.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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