Liberal Democrats halt BNP bandwagon

JENNIFER Pearson was today taking up the seat on Calderdale Council left vacant by the tragic death of her husband, Stephen, only eight weeks ago.

The new Liberal Democrat councillor stopped the BNP bandwagon in its tracks to win the Mixenden by-election with a majority of 409 votes.

The result was greeted with delight from mainsteam politicians on all sides who had been worried about the rise of the far right.

Councillor Pearson was overjoyed and said her late husband, who was elected in May, would have been "very pleased and proud."

"The BNP have obviously reached their limit but we need to be constantly vigil - they have to be kept at bay at all times."

She praised the "Evening Courier" for its forthright coverage of the election campaign and said she was looking forward to helping tackle some of the many issues affecting people in the ward.

Her agent, Mitchell Russell said the Mixenden voters had shown that they wanted someone to represent them who was sure to be hard working.

Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Michael Taylor (Calder Valley) said many voters were unhappy with the way the council appeared to have ignored them and a great deal needed to be done to clean up the area and combat anti-social behaviour.

"But equally important is the significant setback for the BNP which despite still having two seats on the council has completely failed to deliver," he said.

Halifax Labour MP Alice Mahon said Labour had a very good candidate in Danny Coll and believed the BNP was now a spent force.

"They put enormous effort into trying to win the election but I believe that they have peaked and there is no way they can come back in this ward," she said.

Mr Coll, who came third with 474 votes, said: "We've done extremely well. I'm very pleased for Jennifer Pearson, and even more so that the British National Party have been knocked sideways.

"The BNP scare people, especially the elderly, by focusing on certain issues like waiting lists and asylum seekers. In reality there is only a small number of asylum seekers in this ward."

Mr Coll criticised the Conservatives for not fielding a candidate. He said: "The Conservatives should hang their heads in shame and examine their consciences. They should be putting up a proper fight."

Labour's vote was significantly down on May and some Labour supporters may have swung behind Mrs Pearson in a tactical vote to deny the BNP.

BNP candidate Heath Clegg and his supporters left before the council's chief executive Paul Sheehan announced the result at Halifax Town Hall.

Council leader John Ford, who was the only Conservative politician at the count, said that with a 40 per cent turnout, the election had clearly been keenly fought.

"We have seen upsurges in support for the right wing parties in the past and it is up to the others to stick to their principles."

Councillor Ford (Skircoat) said he did not believe the absence of a Tory candidate in Mixenden had affected the result in any way.

"The all out elections next June will be the real test for all the parties, especially the BNP," he said.

Labour group leader Coun Helen Rivron (Ovenden) said: "The result shows that the people of Mixenden are beginning to turn their backs on the forces of hatered and division.

Police separated members of the British National Party from a small group of Anti-Nazi League supporters outside the Town Hall last night. Demonstrators gave a rally of jeers as British National Party party members filed out after the result was announced.


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