Far-right party set to make gains in UK local elections

British Jews call on ex-pats to rally to the ballot.

anti semitism UK 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
anti semitism UK 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The British National Party (BNP) is set to field its largest-ever list of candidates in local elections across the UK next month. In response, the Board of Deputies of British Jews has asked expatriates living in Israel to vote. The organization sent an "urgent call" to register to vote by April 18 to help prevent the BNP from increasing its influence. "In light of the BNP's current push to field a record number of candidates in upcoming local elections in England, as well as those being held for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, it is imperative that we urge our constituents to register in time to vote," the board said in an e-mail sent to organizations and individuals in Israel. Jewish community leaders and politicians have expressed concern over the far-right party's plans to field 821 candidates. The BNP hopes to increase its representation from 49 councillors to 90. According to Henry Grunwald, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, "Any gains in the party's popularity damage society as a whole by stirring up communities and undermining the values of tolerance that have allowed the Jewish community and other minorities to flourish in Britain." "Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracy theories remain core elements of the BNP's ideology," he said. The BNP is targeting several key councils that have a sizable Jewish population. It is contesting 32 seats in the Scottish Parliament, seven in the Scottish local councils and 20 in the Welsh Assembly. "This shows that, where the BNP is concerned, there can never be any room for complacency," said Labor MP John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism. "The BNP represents a very real threat to all of Britain's communities, and it is vital that voters give them a message at the coming elections that the politics of race hate will not be tolerated in Britain." A spokesman for the Community Security Trust said: "This continues the worrying trend of increasing BNP activity in recent years. They are still very much an extremist party and a divisive influence on local communities, despite their attempts to hide their anti-Semitism and racism." A BNP spokesman predicted that "vast areas of the country will see a BNP candidate for the very first time." "This is a tremendous testimony to the spectacular growth the BNP has witnessed over the last year," he said. Phill Edwards, media spokesman for the BNP, told The Jerusalem Post: "The BNP is a party that campaigns for British values, which include freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom to discriminate if you want to - a fundamental human right - and to preserve the traditional culture and identity of Britain." "I admire the Jews for having this social cohesive society and applaud them for that," he said. "I wish our white folk were the same. We are trying to do to our people is what the Jews do for their people." Asked if his party posed a threat to the Jewish community, Edwards said: "Find out what the true message of the BNP is. Look through all the propaganda from the people who like to tell lies about us being fascists, which we are not. The problem in this country is the debate has been dishonest. People never debate our policies. People, Jews and gentiles, have all been brainwashed by the media - the BBC, the Guardian and the left-wing press in particular - that we are something we are not, and it will take a long time to change this and for people to overcome this. "Have a look at our manifesto. There are no threats to anyone on it. We have nothing to do with fascism or Nazism" Edwards said the BNP wanted restrictions on immigration. "We are threatened by mass immigration, even by places like Poland," he said. "They are of the same race as the British but are a foreign culture, and it's destroying our native culture. This is why we want the numbers restricting. The problem lies when the numbers are becoming so great that our culture and identity is being changed." "If you're a white person, or Jewish of white European ancestry, then I'd support the BNP, as no other party is going to preserve this British culture and identity," Edwards said. He called Muslims a "big threat" and denounced the Respect Party of George Galloway, who, he said, was "encouraging Islam in this country." "I would worry about the establishment parties who are doing nothing to prevent the Islamification of Britain," Edwards said. "If I was a Jew I would be worried. The Muslims are the ones going on about Holocaust denial. The rise in anti-Semitism isn't with the British, it's with the Muslims." Asked about the accusation that the BNP has Holocaust deniers, Edwards said: "The Holocaust is a thing that happened 70 or so years ago in Eastern Europe. It's not our thing. It's nothing to do with the BNP and we have no comment on it. "It's a terrible thing and we're sorry about what happened, but we didn't do it. It is being used by Jewish pressure groups to stop people criticizing multiracial Britain, and I think it's an abuse. I'm not denying it; we have no view on it." "I don't know what the details are," he added. "I know something bad happened; I have no knowledge on it. When I was a kid in school in the 1950s there was nothing said about the Holocaust. It's only in the last 20 years it's got more and more in the media. I know something bad happened, and we don't want to make political capital out of it." Details on how to register to vote can be found at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.