Published on Sunday, 02 December 2012 13:59 Written by Sonia Gable
The British National Party’s third place in the Rotherham by-election on 29 November shows that the party is not yet a spent force, though neither is it “back to winning”: the theme of its annual conference four weeks ago.
It was the first time the party had come third in a parliamentary by-election, as Clive Jefferson, the BNP treasurer, was quick to point out in a plea for donations yesterday under the heading “What an achievement”. Its candidate Marlene Guest beat Yvonne Ridley, the Respect candidate who had been expected to do well, into fourth place in an election notable for the fact that all of the first four places went to women.
The BNP’s 8.4% vote was 2.0% down from its 2010 general election result, which some have said is a failure. But the 2010 result had been a particularly good one for the party, and the BNP suffered this time from the strong showing for the UK Independence Party, which came second with 21.7%, up 15.8% compared to 2010. The UKIP’s Jane Collins certainly benefited from the row over the removal of three eastern European children from UKIP-supporting foster parents, but also appears to be a significant repository of former Conservative voters disillusioned with the Coalition Government generally and David Cameron’s indecision over Britain’s relationship with Europe in particular. That such voters, many of whom will support greater controls on immigration, are turning to the UKIP rather than the BNP is a positive development, though the UKIP does have some disturbing elements.
As expected the English Democrats (EDP) failed to repeat their performance in the police and crime commissioner election in South Yorkshire, where they came second with 15.6%, though David Wildgoose’s 3.3% did place them sixth in an 11-strong field, ahead of the Liberal Democrats in eighth place. The EDP may have taken some votes from the BNP, though British nationalist votes do not readily translate into support for an English nationalist party.
Clint Bristow, an English Defence League organiser on the ballot paper with no description, managed an ignominious 0.14%, just 29 votes. The only question is why he bothered.
In Middlesbrough the BNP’s Peter Foreman came sixth out of eight candidates with 1.9%, a fall of 3.9% compared to 2010. Again the party’s vote must have been hit by the strong UKIP campaign, which put Richard Elvin in second place with 11.8%, up 8.1% from 2010.
The BNP did not contest Croydon North, leaving the far-right field open for Richard Edmonds, the veteran fascist standing for the National Front. His 0.7% (eighth of 12) showed how the NF will never do any better than bump along the bottom of the pond and may hasten his departure for the new British Democratic Party, in the formation of which he has played a major role.
The UKIP came third in Croydon North with 5.7% despite fielding the controversial Winston McKenzie as its candidate. McKenzie has in the past joined all three main parties and several smaller ones, and stood as an election candidate for most of them.
Labour easily held all three seats. The big winner was those who felt that none of the candidates on offer were worth a trip to the polling station. Turnout was 33.9% in Rotherham, 25.9% in Middlesbrough and 26.5% in Croydon North.