Huria Choudhari, Guardian (UK), Jun. 11
The British National Party (BNP) made a breakthrough in the south of England winning three seats in Epping Forest in the local elections and gained its first foothold in Bradford.
The Conservatives gained a majority on the Essex council with 26 seats, while Liberal Democrats made significant gains with 16 seats. Labour held onto a mere four seats. There was previously no overall control at the council.
The BNP also gained its first foothold in Bradford, taking four seats in four wards.
The BNP fielded 10 candidates in an election which saw Labour lose eight of its seats. Angela Clarke, BNP candidate for the Keighley West ward — where the party filmed a recent election broadcast — took the first seat from Labour.
In 1993, the BNP took a seat in Tower Hamlets, London, but only held it for a year.
In Burnley, the BNP gained one seat but the party lost the other seven in which its candidates were standing.
The far rightwing party was expected to challenge in Labour-held Sunderland, but it failed to make any gains. Labour lost two seats, but still managed to hold onto power. The Conservatives gained three seats, while the Liberal Democrats took two.
Yesterday, a BNP candidate was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a protester outside a polling station in Sunderland.
Ian Leadbitter, 40, who was standing in the Redhill ward of Sunderland, was questioned by police following a disturbance with anti-BNP protesters outside the Crowtree Leisure Centre.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “A 40-year-old man has been released on bail pending further inquiries in connection with this incident.”
Kevin Scott, regional organiser for the BNP, said: “He [Leadbitter] was spat at, punched and kicked and unfortunately he reacted and was arrested. These things happen. In fact, he got the highest vote [for the BNP] but he was not there to see it.”
He criticised the police saying they should have kept protesters further away from the entrance.
Superintendent Michael Hartnack, of Northumbria Police, who was in charge of the operation, said: “I am satisfied that my officers acted with the utmost professionalism and impartiality during a demonstration involving two opposing political groups, during which an isolated incident occurred resulting in a man being arrested for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.”