On Thursday May 1, local elections took place in various parts of the country. While the far-right British National party (BNP) did not do as well as they had hoped, they were able to win one seat on the London Assembly, meaning that a fascist is now one of the twenty-five people running London.
While they made no gains in Nottinghamshire (where there were elections in Bassetlaw, in which the BNP fielded only one candidate), in Derbyshire they got their first two seats on Amber Valley Borough Council with Chris Roper taking Heanor East and Lewis Allestree winning Heanor West. In Heanor & Loscoe Paul Snell polled 512 votes, to the victorious Labour candidates 513. These results, while worrying in themselves, are of particular interest because it is within the Amber Valley area that the BNP are planning on holding their annual Red, White and Blue festival.
The BNP have applied to the council for a premises licence for the event to allow the sale of alcohol and the performance of music. The public consultation on this application ended on May 6. A number of concerned organisations objected to this application, only to find their objections rejected, ostensibly because they were not based within the affected area. Even where groups have been able to point to members living within the Amber Valley area, there objections have been rejected on the same basis. Several groups, including Notts Stop the BNP, are currently looking into appealing this decision. Regardless of the outcome of any appeal, a protest is planned when the application is considered by the council.
The BNP fielded seven candidates in the Amber Valley area and stood a further two in Derby. The lowest share of the BNP vote in Derbyshire was 11% in Allestree (Derby). In Chaddesden (Derby) the BNP polled 18% and beat the Liberal Democrats into fourth place. The lowest share of the BNP vote in Amber Valley was 12%, in Kilburn, Denby and Holbrook. Generally, the vote was much higher with 36 - 40% in the three Heanor wards and around one fifth or more in most of the other Amber Valley wards. The one exception to this being Codnor and Waingroves where Alan Warner, the owner of the land to be used for the Red White and Blue festival, stood (despite having recently resigned from Heanor Town Council and Denby Parish Council in a huff because nobody listened to him). The former-Tory received 17% of the vote in a three-way contest, perhaps reflecting opposition to the festival amongst those most affected. The general trends in Amber Valley together with the Allestree result, suggest that the BNP is attracting more votes in the most deprived wards.
Their successes demonstrate that the BNP has rebounded from the messy split they underwent at the end of last year after Broxtowe Borough Councillor Sadie Graham was expelled from the party. They certainly have not suffered the long term damage that some observers had anticipated. It has been suggested that the party's obvious success in building a base in Heanor specifically can be attributed, at least in part, to the presence of the festival in the area last year.
While last year's festival was very controversial amongst people living in the immediate vicinity, there was little opposition by the anti-fascist movement. This year local campaigners have been organising against the event since late last year. In January, a conference held in The Meadows to act as a springboard to launch the campaign attracted more than 100 participants and was supported by an array of union branches and anti-racist organisations. In their latest newsletter Antifa have announced that they will also be mobilising against the event.