Monday, 8 June 2009

Oldham tells them

BY a quirke of fate, at half past two this morning we were sitting around a table at Manchester's City Hall waiting for the result from Oldham.

The result system had broken down around an hour earlier and it was only by manual calculations that we had any idea of where we stood and whether we were still in with chance of winning that final North West seat.

We knew that the Tories had more than three times our vote, so they would take one of the final two seats. The Greens and us were neck and neck and UKIP were ready to pounce and pip us both on the line.

Everything depended on the Oldham vote, which although declared hours earlier, the figures had not been sent through to Manchester.

It was back in Oldham at the 2001 General Election that the British National Party, and Nick Griffin in particular, hit the headlines when we polled 16% in one of the town's two parliamentary constituencies. For the next few years Oldham was a flagship town for the BNP with a string of excellent local council elections and a growing local BNP branch.

But in recent years our activity in the town had dwindled to next to nothing and at the moment there isn't even a BNP organisation in Oldham and no campaigning had been done there. Yet it was in the hands of Oldhammers whether Nick Griffin would be elected to the European Parliament.

It was a tense wait while this final result sheet was delivered. We were 6,000 odd votes short of our 132,900 target and were desperate for at least an 8% vote. The mood around the BNP table was not optimistic.

O us of little faith.

Oldham did us proud with over 11% - a 5,435 vote, nearly 3,000 votes more than the Greens, and close enough to the UKIP vote to ensure that Nick took his seat in Brussels.

It's ironic that it should be the votes from the people of Oldham that should take the BNP up another rung of the political ladder. Our opponents have always showcased Oldham as "the town where the British National Party were defeated."

The reality is something quite different. Oldhammers are still very much supporters of the BNP as they proved last night.

Back with more reflections on last night later.

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