The BNP could hardly contain their excitement when a by-election was announced in Felling ward, Gateshead following the death of a Labour councillor. This had been one of their stronger wards in 2003, when they came second with 405 votes – nearly 14%. After standing again in 2004, their share dropped to 250 votes. This time round, in 2005, with no other elections to distract them, they had the assistance of new Tyneside Secretary Ken Booth (formerly of the National Front) and hoped to take second place again, using the opportunity as a springboard to the 2006 local elections.
The BNP ended up with a pitiful 96 votes, barely taking third place from the Conservatives by just 22 votes. This percentage was nearly half that polled in 2003, a far cry from their hopes of achieving 20%. Naturally, the BNP blamed their failure on ‘interference’ by the Gateshead Unites Against the BNP coalition, who circulated leaflets to voters to inform them of BNP members’ criminal records and other unsavoury activities.
This result represented an even more depressing landmark for the BNP than the previous weeks results from the Barnes by-election in Sunderland. Despite working relatively hard to win support in Felling, votes that they could count on less than two years ago have seeped away at a dramatic rate. The question must now be, how much longer can the party’s organisers keep convincing other activists – or indeed themselves – that the BNP are on the verge of a breakthrough, when the hard facts clearly show that they are not?
|David Lucas||Lib Dem||208||17%|