looks as though the BNP has only won two seats overall. Hardly the great breakthrough that many expected.
EU elections: BNP’s Nick Griffin wins seat in European parliament
Furious scenes at Manchester town hall when Tory MEP describes BNP as ‘aberration’ and condemns Griffin’s success as sad day for British politicsp>
guardian.co.uk, Monday 8 June 2009 02.42 BST
Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was today elected to the European parliament.
The far-right leader won a seat in the North West region. Earlier Andrew Brons, another British National party politician won in the Yorkshire and Humber area. It is the first time the party has had an MEP elected.
Griffin’s victory was only confirmed shortly before 2am after a two-hour cliffhanger over the last of the North West’s eight seats saw the Greens fall narrowly behind the BNP and Ukip just failed to pull ahead enough to win a third seat.
There were furious scenes at the declaration when the highest polling candidate, Sir Robert Atkins, described the BNP as “an aberration” and condemned Griffin’s success as sad day for British politics. He was followed by Labour’s Arlene McCarthy, who came second in votes cast and told the crowd at Manchester town hall that the BNP was “a party whose members include convicted rapists”.
Both won loud applause—but also jeers from BNP supporters in the Banqueting Hall who shouted “Get back to the trough!” and “It’s democracy—you’re already insulting the voters again.”
When Griffin’s turn came to speak, all the other candidates took the unprecedented step of walking off the platform in protest. The BNP leader laid into a “liberal elite which has built a dam, a wall of lies which has grown ever taller and ever thicker over the years to stop ordinary people protesting about the removal of their freedom.”
He added: “Well tonight that wall has been broken down in the North West and Yorkshire by hundreds of thousands of voters.”
Brons’s victory in Yorkshire saw the highest BNP poll, 9.8%, with Griffin getting 8%. The party polled 8.9% in the North East and 8.6% in both the West and East Midlands, but the share was not enough to win a place in those regions.
They polled 6.1% in the Eastern region, 5.5% in London, 5.4% in Wales, 4.4% in the South East and 3.9% in the South West.
Brons took a seat that was previously Labour’s second in Yorkshire, as the expenses debacle and internecine warfare in Labour turned traditional supporters away in droves. The Labour vote crashed from 45% to 25% in Barnsley, where the BNP share climbed from 8% to 17%.
Griffin welcomed the victory as a vindication of the party’s claim that “we’re here to look after our people because no one else is”. He said that feelings were particularly strong in Yorkshire, where former pit communities felt “at the bottom of the heap”.
Pointing to other big rises in the BNP vote to 15% in Rotherham and nearly 12% in Doncaster, Griffin said: “This is ordinary decent people in Yorkshire kicking back against racism, because racism in this country is now directed overwhelmingly against people who look like me.”
Griffin, who had to reach Manchester town hall for his own count in a police van after anti-fascist demonstrators blocked his convoy and hurled eggs, said immigration had become harmful to Britain, particularly with the spread of radical Islam. “Take Bradford—it isn’t immigration that’s happening there, it’s colonialism,” he said.
His own evening was one long lurch between advances and retreats for the BNP as declarations came in from the North West’s 39 counting areas. In a reverse effect to Yorkshire’s, support fell in areas where the party had done well in the past. In Burnley, where they won one of their first English county council seats on Thursday, it dropped from 17% to 15%.
But the slump in Labour’s vote was common to the North West and Yorkshire, leaving the battle for the last of the region’s eight seats open until the very end. After the Conservatives had won two, and Labour, Ukip and the Liberal Democrats one each, the BNP and the Greens were at level pegging for the final two hours of counting.
Brons said after the Yorkshire count in Leeds: “The onslaught against us has been more than against any other party in recent times, but somehow we’ve overcome it. Despite the lies, despite the money, despite the misrepresentation, we’ve been able to win through.”
A dapper, besuited figure who adopts the low-key approach encouraged by Griffin, Brons retired last year as a politics and government teacher at Harrogate College. He then re-entered active politics for the first time since standing five times for the National Front in the 1970s after a brief spell as its leader, which ended in internal quarrels. He joined the British National Socialist party as a teenager.