Burton Mail by Adrian Jenkins | Wednesday, 20 October 2010 | Click here for original article
MAINSTREAM politicians have blasted the British National Party (BNP) for announcing plans to hold its annual conference in South Derbyshire.
The district’s Tory MP and council leader joined forces with a former Labour Parliamentary hopeful to attack the controversial right-wingers after their leader, Nick Griffin, said his party intended to stage its gathering from December 10 to 12 ‘at a first-class venue’ in the area.
They expressed fears that the BNP’s ‘politics of hate’ may upset harmonious race relations in an area which had consistently rejected the party’s beliefs at the ballot box.
However, it was also suggested the conference may not go ahead because of the BNP’s allegedly parlous financial state, with one saying that debt collectors were more likely to attend than members.
Bob Wheeler, the leader of South Derbyshire District Council, described the BNP’s plans as ‘very disappointing news’.
“We’ve got a very proud record of good race relations in South Derbyshire and anything likely to disturb that is very bad news,” he said.
“I suppose it’s a free country, and we welcome that, but we hope everybody’s behaviour will be so as to maintain harmony – but given their track record we have our doubts.
“It’s not welcome, but I’m sure many political viewpoints that I don’t approve of are expounded; however, as long as they are done so within the law we should not ban them.”
Councillor Wheeler said he was certain the council would be briefed by the police on whatever action, if any, was required.
“Hopefully no action will be necessary and they have their conference in some cosy corner outside South Derbyshire,” he said.
His wife, Heather, the district’s MP, said she opposed the BNP’s policies but accepted it had the right to stage the conference wherever it liked as the party had not been banned.
“We all know that they’ve been going through difficult times and I doubt that this will help their cause at all,” she said.
“But at least one tourist venue in South Derbyshire will feel the benefit.”
Ruth Smeeth, who stood for Labour in Burton at the General Election, and is a long-standing opponent of the BNP, backed her Tory opponents’ comments.
“I’m totally disgusted that the BNP are bringing their politics of hate to South Derbyshire.
“We’ve seen from election results in the area that their politics are not welcome here.”
However, the former Parliamentary hopeful added: “Given the BNP’s current financial status it’s more likely that debt collectors will turn up than the public.”