The Far Right in the Midlands
Last night, Labour held a seat which the Conservatives had expected to gain, at Ibstock and Heather, on North West Leicestershire District Council. The Conservatives had won two out of three seats in May 2007, in what had formerly been a very safe Labour ward. What seems to have prevented them winning the third seat was a very strong performance from the BNP, who contested the seat for the first time, and won second place. The full result was Labour 699 , BNP 637 ,Conservative 515 , Lib Dem 411. The Conservatives lost nearly 200 votes, compared to 2007, and plainly suffered more than Labour did at BNP hands.
In by-elections, since May 2007, the BNP has performed consistently well in the Midlands, outside the big urban centres. In two by elections in Nuneaton & Bedworth, in June and September last year, the party won 27.3%, and 21.5%. In a Leicester County Council by-election, in Shepshed in October, they won 20%, their second highest vote share in a County Council division, a result confirmed in a town council election, just before Christmas. Their best result came in the safe Labour ward of Church Gresley, in South Derbyshire, in October, when they won 35%, again taking second place.
While they plainly took more votes from the Conservatives last night, and in Juneâ€™s by-election in Nuneaton, this pattern isnâ€™t consistent. In Church Gresley, they took far more votes from Labour than from the Conservatives, and took them equally in Shepshed. Quite often, turnout rises very sharply when the BNP contest a by-election, as former abstainers are motivated to vote both for and against the party.
Plainly, there is quite a lot of latent support for the far Right, in a part of the country where they have never really been active until very recently. In the 1970â€™s, the National Front gathered little support outside of London, Leicester, Sandwell, and some Northern towns. Although the BNP draws its support from a wider range of districts, that too has been concentrated in large urban areas.
In all likelihood, some white voters, at least, whoâ€™ve moved out of increasingly multi-racial cities, like Birmingham, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham, are very receptive to the BNPâ€™s message. The BNP has recently suffered from an internal split, and many of Griffinâ€™s critics are based in the East Midlands. However much this may damage the partyâ€™s ability to organise effectively, it would appear from last nightâ€™s result that this split has not registered with local voters.
Sean Fear is the PBC “Poster of the Year”