THE leader of the far-Right British National Party is to stand in one of region’s most racially sensitive constituencies at the General Election, the Yorkshire Post has learned.
Nick Griffin, who was arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred last month, is to stand for Keighley, in West Yorkshire, where he will be up against the outspoken sitting Labour MP Ann Cryer. Mrs Cryer last night said she had “grave concerns” about the move but was determined to meet the challenge head-on.
Mrs Cryer, who won the seat from the Tories in 2001 with a 4,005 majority, said: “We will overcome, we will triumph. We will demonstrate to people that they (the BNP) are not a legitimate party and that a vote for them is a vote for racism and fascism.”
Acknowledging what she described as “simmering tensions” between white and Asian communities in the area, she added: “I do have grave concerns and I’m sure many of my constituents will share those concerns and we will have to discuss how to tackle them. He will try to incite racism.”
Shadow Home Secretary and Yorkshire MP David Davis denounced the BNP’s “despicable views” and, though accepting Mr Griffin’s right to stand for election wherever he liked, said he was confident the people of Keighley would reject the BNP leader.
But Mr Griffin said he was confident of strong support at the ballot box and said he had deliberately targeted Keighley in the aftermath of a Channel 4 television documentary shown last year which highlighted the grooming of white girls for sex by some Asian adult males in Keighley—and in the light of his arrest, which was partly brought about by comments he made at a BNP meeting in the town.
Those comments were featured during a BBC undercover documentary, also shown last year, in which he was filmed condemning Islam as a “vicious wicked faith”. During footage recorded at a meeting in Keighley he said it was important to stand up and act for the BNP or “they (Muslims) will do for someone in your family”.
Last night, Mr Griffin said: “Keighley is clearly one of our best seats in the country. More importantly, despite the Channel 4 programme, it’s still the place where there are some of the worst things going on and we will be drawing attention to that.
“It certainly is (racially) sensitive and that is why it’s important there is the most credible possible outlet for people’s concerns and anxieties. If people can make an effective protest by voting they are less likely to do something stupid.”
Mr Griffin, who was released on police bail following his arrest, said he had been specifically questioned by police about comments he made in Keighley, and the election campaign would be used to “get the debate out in the open”.
The BNP secured about 5,000 votes in the Keighley area at the local elections last year and the town returned two councillors to Bradford Council as a result.
Mr Griffin had also lined up the Bradford North constituency of Labour MP Terry Rooney as a potential target but eventually settled on Keighley.
Mrs Cryer said the BNP leader’s presence was likely to have a damaging effect on debating issues she has raised regarding problems in the Asian community, including the rights of women.
“It makes it very difficult for me to have a lucid and intelligent debate with the Asian community on issues such as forced marriage if there is somebody sniping behind your back, knowing he’s going to make political capital out of everything you say. But I won’t stop debating these issues.
Mr Davis, MP for Haltemprice and Howden, said: “It could make for a very unpleasant election. I don’t want debate to be down-graded to a slanging match and it is very unfortunate they have chosen to use Keighley in this way. Mr Griffin represents a despicable party and a despicable set of views, but it is his right to stand wherever he wants.
“The parties that oppose his racist attitudes should use the opportunity to expose what he stands for and demonstrate that this country’s future lies in tolerance not in rabble-rousing.
“I’m totally confident that one of the traditional parties will easily defeat him and demonstrate how unappealing to the electorate his policies are.”
The BNP secured its strongest vote in the country at local and European level in Yorkshire last year. Support was particularly heavy in pockets of West Yorkshire, which returned eight BNP local councillors.
The BBC’s undercover documentary—shown in July—brought widespread condemnation of the party after racist attitudes were expressed by some activists, but support has appeared to remain at relatively stubborn levels. Two months after the Secret Agent film was shown, Angela Clarke, already a Bradford Councillor for the Keighley West ward, won a seat on Keighley Town Council for the BNP.
Further details of where the far-Right party plans to stand at the General Election in the region are likely to be revealed later this week.