Lib Dems trounce BNP in Yoxford

THE British National Party's attempt to win its first seat in rural England was crushed by the Liberal Democrats last night – but the far right group polled nearly twice as many votes as Labour.

By Graham Dines

THE British National Party's attempt to win its first seat in rural England was crushed by the Liberal Democrats last night – but the far right group polled nearly twice as many votes as Labour.

As the Lib Dems pulled off the shock victory in the Yoxford by-election – snatching the seat from the Conservatives – the BNP voiced its intention to stand again in future elections.

More than 58% of the voters in the ward, which includes Westleton and Middleton, turned out for the Suffolk Coastal District Council contest, in which the Conservatives who were defending the seat were pushed into second place by Liberal Democrat John Slater, who won with a majority of 136.

However, a defiant BNP candidate Paul Goodchild declared: "This result is just the start for our party in rural areas. We fought on local issues and I am pleased with the result.

"I did not expect to win and was aiming to achieve 10% of the vote and ended up with 15%.

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"The BNP will continue to stand in elections and I think their increasing prominence reflects a mood amongst the British people."

However, Mr Goodchild, from Yoxford, branded the intervention of a group of showbusiness celebrities who had urged voters not to back the BNP as "a disgraceful interference with the democratic process".

Winning Lib Dem John Slater refused to shake hands with Mr Goodchild after the result was declared.

He told him: "It's nothing personal, it's political."

Mr Slater said: "Although this is a decisive victory for the Lib Dems, it is an even better result that the BNP has been seen off. There is no place for political parties who preach extremism."

Tory Warwick Faville said while he was disappointed not to hold a seat for his party, he was delighted the BNP had been defeated.

Labour's candidate Tim Williams, a university tutor who lives in Yoxford, said: "Residents didn't want to ruin the reputation of their community. They voted for the most likely candidate to keep the BNP out.

"I am proud to have played my part in such an effective, anti-extremist campaign. Every vote for Labour was a vote less for the BNP."

Suffolk Coastal Tory MP John Gummer, whose constituency covers Yoxford, said: "I am very sorry that 153 people felt able to vote for such an unpleasant and disgraceful party as the BNP."

Euro MP Bashir Khanbhai, the Conservative party's leading minority ethnic politician in East Anglia said the result demonstrated the BNP had no place in rural England where "people uphold traditional family values and want to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours".

Full result: John Slater (Liberal Democrat) 455; Warwick Faville (Conservative) 319; Paul Goodchild (British National Party) 153; Timothy Williams (Labour) 80. Turnout was 58%.

Result in May 1 2003: Peter Wragg (Conservative) 412, John Barrett (Green) 258

n Voting also took place yesterday in the Felixstowe Ferry division of Suffolk county council, caused by the resignation of Tory member Margaret Harris.

The result was: Harriet Bennett (Labour) 281; Cherrie MacGregor (Liberal Democrat) 456; and Ann Rodwell (Conservative), 1,401. Conservative hold. Turnout 34.3%.

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