Bishop says don't vote BNP

THE Bishop of Chelmsford has issued a thinly-veiled attack on the British National Party as part of an appeal for voters to take part in forthcoming county and euro elections.

Roddy Ashworth

THE Bishop of Chelmsford has issued a thinly-veiled attack on the British National Party as part of an appeal for voters to take part in forthcoming county and euro elections.

As well as the county of Essex, the Chelmsford Diocese covers Dagenham and Thurrock - two target areas for the far right party. The recent expenses scandal in the House of Commons has led to some people seeking to elect alternatives from the three main parties, which have each been partly implicated in the crisis.

It is also thought that the expense row will lead to a lower than usual turnout at the ballot box, a factor that generally favours smaller parties.

In his appeal to electors yesterday, Rt Revd John Gladwin said: “Use your vote. There can be no room for complacency.

“Racist parties have put up candidates.

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“It will be no good complaining if the wrong people get elected if we do not exercise our democratic right and vote.”

The BNP has put up candidates for all 75 divisions at the Essex County Council elections and is also fielding candidates for the Euro elections.

Both polls are being held on June 4.

Commentators believe that because of the proportional representation system used for the Euro-elections, the party has a greater chance of gaining a seat than with the first-past-the-post system used in general elections.

The BNP has already been condemned by the group leaders of the three main parties at County Hall.

Conservative Essex County Council leader Lord Hanningfield, said he was concerned at the BNP “incursion” and warned that they stood for intolerance and hatred.

“I hope they do not expect to find Essex to be fertile BNP ground,” he said.

“The BNP trade on peoples' fears rather than facing up to the issues.”

The Liberal Democrat group leader at County Hall, Tom Smith-Hughes, said: “The BNP play on prejudice and fear. They offer simplistic solutions which are dishonest, dangerous, divisive and don't solve anything.

“I just hope and believe the electorate will give them short shrift. I think their brand of politics mitigates against a free, fair tolerant and united society.”

And Labour group leader Paul Kirkman said: “This is very regrettable. I think that people from across the mainstream political spectrum agree on that.

“Theirs is a message of hate and intolerance and blaming people, rather than trying to work things out.”