Bad news for Nick Griffin’s far right British National Party as it was trounced in its strongholds of Barking, Stoke and Burnley. This was despite the troubling news that the openly anti-Islam party has lifted its number of votes to more than 500,000 nationally, or about 2 per cent of the vote – up from just 192,000 in 2005.
The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that the BNP seems to be picking up most of its support in areas where it is not campaigning heavily and where its leaders do not put in an appearance. There are clearly big concerns about immigration in white working class neigbourhoods, which explains the jump in the national vote. However, as soon as Mr Griffin and his chums show up on the doorstep, support plummets. James Bethell of Nothing British about the BNP, which campaigns against the group, says this is because voters are distinctly unimpressed when they get to grill Mr Griffin and the others directly about their policies on the economy or other non-immigration issues.
There are also rumblings of discontent from the 15,000-odd core BNP members, who provide the party’s sole source of funding with contributions of about £50 a year. Many are distinctly unimpressed by the shambolic campaigns in Barking and Stoke, as a trawl through the far right Stormfront online message board reveals. All eyes will now be on the party’s performance in the council elections. It previously returned 56 councillors and anything less than 100 this time round will be deemed another failure.
In true far right style, the party’s high command has also been riven by a series of vicious feuds, including alleged death threats. What is clear is that the future of the BNP, and Mr Griffin’s position, looks increasingly shaky despite the bigger share of the vote.
James Boxell is the FT’s home affairs correspondent