I RECEIVED some very sad news yesterday afternoon from Mike Ashburner our hard-working organiser in Barrow-in-Furness.
He told me that Charlie Bickerstaffe had just passed away after a long illness. He was 69.
Now Charlie was the fourth and last of the Cumbrian Four. Along with yours truly and Paul Stafford from Wigton, and Kevin Clark from Penrith, he travelled with us two or three times a week down to Burnley in the Spring of 2002 to campaign in the local elections there which led to our electoral breakthrough in May of that year.
Charlie was a taxi driver in Barrow and often, after a long night shift, he would drive to Junction 36 of the M6 where we would pick him up on our way to Burnley. If he missed us there, he would drive to Burnley in his cab and meet up with us for our canvassing sessions in Brunshaw ward.
Charlie was a tireless worker and never wanted stop.
I would say, 'Well that's it for today," and Charlie would say, "Come on let's do another half an hour."
But there was something else special about Charlie. He blew the media's stereotype of the BNP being made up of racists right out of the water.
You see Charlie's daughter had married a West Indian and he had two grandchildren who he loved dearly.
Yet, that didn't shake his conviction that immigration had to be stopped completely and that illegal immigrants had to be returned to their country of origin.
Like so many in our ranks today, Charlie had been a Labour voter all his life but the rapid change in the priorities and policies of that Party under Tony Blair after 1997, led him to the British National Party.
Charlie's commitment to our cause lasted right up until the end. Despite being desperately ill he answered the call for 'paper' local election candidates to come forward and he stood in the District of Eden in Cumbria to help build our European election vote there.
On Thursday June 4th he received 105 votes in Penrith West which was a very useful 8.3% of the votes cast.
Charlie Bickerstaffe was a great ambassador of the British National Party right to the very end.
10.43 am UPDATE:"He will be sadly missed by those who knew him, but he left us with some fond and often humorous memories. Rest In Peace Charlie." From Kevin Clark, Penrith. (One of the Cumbrian Four).