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Stoke: Racist BNP Pose A Warning To Workers
ON 17 October ex-Labour Party member Mike Woolfe was elected as 'independent' mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, pushing Stoke South's Labour MP George Stevenson into second place after second preference votes were counted.
More worryingly, the racist far right BNP won 8,213 votes (19% of the total) and only 1,143 behind Mike Woolfe in the first round.
For a few hours the spectre of a BNP mayor hung over the city - some talked of packing up and leaving the city: others were adamant we need to fight racism.
The BNP's vote should serve as a serious warning to working people; the BNP will use the vote as a springboard for next May's local elections. On this showing they could win one or more council seats.
The election campaign was very apolitical. None of the candidates put forward a serious strategy to deal with such problems as unemployment, job insecurity, low wages, bad housing, poverty etc.
The BNP have no answers but, by concentrating particularly on the "threat" posed by asylum seekers, they tapped into the anger which many working-class people feel at their betrayal by New Labour.
Many saw voting BNP as the best way to protest against the constant attacks which they suffer. Many BNP voters also voted for the openly gay Mike Woolfe as their second preference which shows the protest character of much of the BNP vote but also some confusion.
Many people were so alienated at the choices on offer, that they correctly felt that nothing would change fundamentally.
Despite having a postal ballot and extensive daily coverage by the local media only 24% bothered to vote. In reality, no candidate offered anything serious to vote for and the BNP provided a vehicle to protest.
New Labour now openly rules for big business and no longer represents working-class people. In effect working people in Britain have no mass political representation.
This result shows how, unfortunately, workers' anger can find an expression through populist slogans of far right racist/fascist parties like the BNP.
This again raises the need to build a new mass party of working-class people based on socialist principles. The potential growth of the BNP, given the political vacuum which currently exists, makes this an even more urgent task.
In The Socialist 25 October 2002: