The British National Party (BNP) win in the Mill Hill ward council by-election in Blackburn has shocked and angered people.
A Blackburn Anti Nazi League (ANL) became active in the course of the election campaign, and a large and confident ANL rally on the Saturday after the election was the start of a sustained campaign to push back the BNP. The Fire Brigades Union acted quickly to produce a joint leaflet with the ANL.
Mill Hill is an extremely deprived area. The collapse of the Tory vote and their decision to put out a racist leaflet about asylum seekers contributed to the BNP's success. The BNP campaign consisted of attacking asylum seekers and opposed the building of a hostel in the area. The leaflets also stirred up Islamophobia with a photo of the local mosque alongside claims that the 11 September terrorist attacks had been celebrated there.
It is alarming that the BNP won 32 percent of the vote and has gained its fourth seat in Lancashire. But with 61 percent of the electorate not bothering to vote at all, the numbers that voted BNP remain a small minority and are outnumbered by anti-racists. This means there is the potential to rebuild the left in Blackburn and to stop the Nazis. In nearby Burnley it has been possible to build direct anti-Nazi and anti-racist actions, to build successful and large anti-war activity and to set up a support group for the firefighters. The same is possible in Blackburn.