Posted on May 6, 2011

BNP Suffers Election Meltdown

Matthew Taylor, Guardian (London), May 6, 2011

The British National party appears to be heading for meltdown at the polls after being wiped out in its key target city of Stoke-on-Trent and securing only one seat on councils to have declared so far.

The extreme rightwing party has been hit by internecine strife over the last year, with a string of senior figures defecting amid growing concern over the state of its finances.

It only managed to field around 250 candidates in Thursday’s local elections–compared with approximately 700 in the equivalent polls in 2007–and its only victory so far has come in Queensbury, West Yorkshire.

The BNP has so far lost seven of the 11 council seats it was defending, with three still to declare.

In Stoke-on-Trent, it lost all five of its sitting councillors. It also appeared to have failed in Wales, where it had predicted a breakthrough in the runup to the vote.

The BNP spokesman, Simon Darby, refused to comment on the results, saying “there was no point”. Anti-racist campaigners said the results were disastrous for the party.

“[BNP leader] Nick Griffin is now in a really parlous position,” said Nick Lowles from Hope not Hate, which has mobilised thousands of anti-racist campaigners in the past few weeks.

“The British National party as a political force now appears to be finished . . . it has such huge debts that even the rebels who are openly opposed to Griffin have realised it is not worth taking over.”

The BNP reached a high water mark in 2009 when Griffin and Andrew Brons were elected to the European parliament but, in the past 18 months, its support has imploded.

Dozens of prominent figures have either been suspended or have resigned, and in recent weeks it emerged that around 15 former members had defected and were planning to stand for the rival English Democrats.

Insiders say they predict further walkouts and defections in the coming days.

The British National Party looks set to lose many of the seats it holds on local councils in England.

After 251 council election results, the anti-immigration party won two seats but with a net loss of 11 councillors.

The BNP lost all five of its seats in Stoke-on-Trent, where it launched its election campaign in England, and one of its two councillors in Burnley.

BNP candidates finished ahead of Liberal Democrats in four seats in the Welsh Assembly, but failed to win any.

Before the vote, party leader Nick Griffin said he was confident a candidate would reach the 7% needed to gain a seat, but none reached the threshold.

In Stoke-on-Trent the wards previously held by the BNP were all subject to boundary changes, and due to those changes there were 16 fewer seats available.

The party, which had two MEPs elected in 2009, lost almost half its council seats in last year’s local elections, losing all 12 of its seats on east London’s Barking and Dagenham Council.

Campaign spending

As well as elections in England, the BNP also fielded 32 candidates for the Scottish parliament and candidates for the assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, the party had to rein back on its campaign spending with debts of more than £500,000, which it has said it expects to pay off by the end of the year.

The BNP has been hit by internal divisions and was facing doubts over its future after costly court cases brought against it including one by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The party has said it will not be incurring any more debts as a result of Thursday’s elections.

The BNP contested 338 seats in the 2010 general election and lost its deposit in 266 of them.