“The BNP will have its triumph in London” - UK Times
It is being said that the local elections on May 1 are a rather boring affair with the obvious exception of the battle between Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson to be the mayor of London. The BNP, however, will be more interested in the Greater London Assembly than whether Red Ken or the Blue Blond wins control of the capital city. For the complex electoral method - the additional member system - used for the assembly means that any political party has a decent chance of winning one of the 25 seats at stake if it can accumulate 6 per cent or so of the vote in the party list section of the ballot paper.
This is far from an impossible target for the BNP. The last local by-election conducted in London was on March 20 at Gooshays in the Borough of Havering. The BNP had narrowly won it in May 2006 in something close to a statistical fluke but now had to defend it after the departure of its councillor. It was assumed that this might be a challenge for the BNP. Far from it. Its share of the vote went up from 28 per cent to 38 per cent. The Liberal Democrats, for the record, managed the singularly strange feat of finishing sixth.
The second factor is that the BNP has improved its organisation. The in-house feuding has not prevented the BNP from honing a much more sophisticated approach to campaigning. The quality of its leaflets has improved, there have been instances of it engaging in telephone canvassing and reports of more “mystery shopping” where its activists blitz an area to market test the public reaction to the party and then determine whether it is worth fielding a candidate.
The final dimension is the most significant. The optimal conditions for the BNP are where there are substantial numbers of disillusioned ex-Labour supporters and a Conservative Party that is wary of concentrating on subjects such as asylum-seekers because it wants to appeal to mainstream metropolitan opinion. It is also a bonus for the BNP if the Liberal Democrats look more centrist and are not indulging in populism to chase the protest vote. These are precisely the political circumstances that will be at play in the local elections of 2008, especially in London.