BNP accused of stirring up racial hatred
| Wednesday, 3 March 2004 Source: Crewe Chronicle
ANGRY residents of Crewe's most racially mixed neighbourhood have accused the far-right British National Party of stirring up racial hatred in a leafleting campaign.
The BNP has been canvassing for support along Walthall Street, home to much of the town's Asian and Afro-Caribbean community.
The street, which houses Crewe's only mosque, has been targeted by party workers knocking on doors and posting right-wing literature through letterboxes.
The canvassing comes after the BNP announced it will be fighting for a seat in a county council by-election on April 1.
Its candidate, Michael Beardshaw, 69, revealed yesterday he would be standing for the Crewe South seat.
But Walthall Street residents claim the party is trying to spark tension between white and Asian residents in a bid to gain votes.
A British Pakistani student, 23, who lives in Walthall Street and asked not to be named, said she had seen similar tactics employed by party work-ers in her hometown of Oldham.
She said: 'In Oldham there wasn't a problem until the BNP started canvassing. They caused all the trouble and they're trying to do the same thing here.'
A white research scientist, 41, also living in Walthall Street, claimed the BNP stirred up racial hatred in Leicester where he was a student.
He said: 'The first thing they have done is push papers through the letterboxes in one of the only Asian areas in Crewe, just a few doors down from a mosque.
'I've seen it before. They cause all the trouble and come in afterwards to say 'vote for us and we will solve all the racial problems.' It's a disgrace.'
But BNP candidate Mr Beardshaw, a retired civil engineer of Ashworth Park, Knutsford, claimed: 'Everybody has the wrong idea and thinks the BNP is full of thugs, but I'm not a thug. I just feel somebody has to stand up and be counted.
'There shouldn't be areas of ethnic minorities where we are not allowed to go.
'We should be able to go everywhere and canvass for votes.'
Campaign leader Ralph Ellis said canvassing was going 'very well' and claimed out of 426 residents questioned 29% said they would vote BNP.
He believes the party has a 'good chance' of taking the seat which came up for grabs following the October death of long-serving Labour councillor Jeff Minshall.
Mr Ellis said: 'This by-election was a surprise but too good an opportunity to pass up. It's a good area for us, it's generally rundown and there's relatively high unemployment.
'I was out in Walthall Street on Sunday and received a round of applause from a group of people. Others have stopped us in the street to shake our hands.'
Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council leader Peter Kent said: 'The fact the BNP can't get a candidate who lives anywhere near proves they don't have a foothold.'