Celebrities issue 'Stop the BNP' call

PROMINENT figures from the world of entertainment, business and the media are supporting a campaign to stop the far right British National Party gaining a foothold in rural Suffolk.

By Sarah Chambers

PROMINENT figures from the world of entertainment, business and the media are supporting a campaign to stop the far right British National Party gaining a foothold in rural Suffolk.

The BNP is fielding a candidate in tomorrow's by-election for the Suffolk Coastal District Council seat at Yoxford. It is the first time the party has targeted a rural seat.

A group of residents has formed a committee in the run-up to the election aimed at getting electors out to vote "to minimise any risk of the election of the BNP candidate to Suffolk Coastal District Council".

It has persuaded some high-profile names who either live in or have close connections with the Suffolk Coastal area to back them.

Those signing up to a statement rejecting the BNP and urging Yoxford electors to use their votes "wisely" include author and former Liberal MP Sir Clement Freud, his wife Jill who is organiser of the Southwold and Aldeburgh Summer Theatres, artist Maggi Hambling, writers and presenters Paul Heiney and Libby Purves, actors Clive Merrison, Bill Nighy and Diana Quick, former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves, presenter and broadcaster Emma Freud, film director Richard Curtis and Simon Loftus, chairman of Adnams.

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The other candidates, Warwick Faville (Conservative), John Slater (Liberal Democrat) and Timothy Williams (Labour) have added their names to the statement.

"Our understanding is that a high turnout gives the BNP less chance of getting a high vote," said Jackum Brown, of Yoxford, a member of the committee.

Her husband, David Brown, said: "We are not tied to any political party. All we are urging is that people look into what the BNP actually stands for."

Peter Purves, who lives near Peasenhall, explained his reasons for signing up.

"I don't like what they stand for and I don't really want that in close proximity to where I live," he said. "I don't want the BNP in rural Suffolk."

But Paul Goodchild, of Yoxford, who is standing for the British National Party in the election, hit back at the campaign, claiming it was "undemocratic".

"I think it's ridiculous," he said. "All the candidates have put forward their case and their policies and on the day the voters will decide who to vote for, and that's democracy."

He said it took it "outside this community".

"I think people can make up their own minds and don't need actors to do it for them," he said.

"The BNP consists of its members today, who are not extreme," he added. "There are farmers, there are doctors, there are nurses, there are solicitors. Those people are not extreme. They are concerned with what's happening to our country."

The seat includes the beauty spots of Westleton, Dunwich, Darsham and Middleton.

The by-election follows the death of Conservative councillor Peter Wragg. He won the May 2003 district council election after gaining 412 votes. His opponent was John Barrett of the Green Party, who won 258 votes, giving Mr Wragg a majority of 154. The turnout was 38.8%.

The candidates standing for election tomorrow are: Warwick Faville of Badingham (Conservative), John Slater of Middleton (Liberal Democrat), Paul Goodchild of Yoxford (British National Party) and Timothy Williams of Yoxford (Labour).

The five polling stations in the Yoxford ward will be open from 8am to 9pm.

n A by-election to fill the vacant Suffolk County Council seat at Felixstowe Ferry, previously held by Conservative Councillor Margaret Harris, is also being held tomorrow.

At the last election there is June 2001, Margaret Harris had a majority of 1,122 votes, after winning 2,270 votes. John Mullen (Labour) gained 1,148 and Lee Reeves (Liberal Democrat) 894. The turnout was 70.1%

The candidates are: Harriet Bennett of Felixstowe Ferry (Labour), Cherrie MacGregor of Felixstowe (Liberal Democrat) and Ann Rodwell of Felixstowe (Conservative).

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