BNP fails to secure seats in Barking and Stoke Central

Nick Griffin is not elected to parliament, as Labour vote in Barking goes up.

It seems that the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, has failed to win a seat in Barking, east London. Simon Darby, standing for the party in Stoke-on-Trent Central, also appears to have lost out. They are among a host of failures for the far-right party tonight (it fielded a record number of candidates), but these two seats were the setting for high-profile campaigns that the party believed it could win.

The candidates conceded defeat before the final results were in. The leader of the party, who is already a Member of the European Parliament, said at 2am: "I'm being realistic. Margaret Hodge is clearly going to hold the seat." In an interview on BBC Radio Stoke, Darby was negative about his prospects and complained that the leaders' debates had disadvantaged smaller parties.

To put it lightly, this is a relief. The BNP's campaign has been beset by violence -- perhaps not at every turn (before BNP supporters flock to this blog to refute the claims), but it can certainly claim more bust-ups and physical fights than any other political party.

Yet, to a large extent, the BNP's extremist politics have dictated the perameters of the mainstream debate on immigration,. It is vital to reclaim the discussion from this malignant influence.

Update

5.30am: The final results are through for Stoke Central.

The BNP came third (behind the three main parties), with 7.7 per cent of the vote. This is way behind the Conservatives, who came third with 21 per cent. A total 2,502 people voted for Darby -- 0.1 per cent more than voted for the BNP last year. It's a very slight increase, but not one that we need to worry about.

6.01am: Provisional results for Barking have just been announced.

It's a huge majority for Labour's Margaret Hodge, who won with 54.3 per cent of the vote (roughly 6,000 more people voted for her than in 2005). The Conservatives were in second place, and Griffin secured 14.6 per cent of the vote. This suggests that a significant number of people voted for him (6,620), but nowhere near enough for him to be close to a seat. The surge in Labour support may suggest that the people of Barking are, for the most part, saying a resounding "No" to the BNP.

Final results for Barking have yet to be announced.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Photo: Martin Whitfield
Show Hide image

Labour MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield: "I started an argument and ended up winning an election"

The former primary school teacher still misses home. 

Two months ago, Martin Whitfield was a primary school teacher in Prestonpans, a small town along the coast from Edinburgh. Then he got into an argument. It was a Saturday morning shortly after the snap election had been called, and he and other members of the local Labour party began discussing a rumour that the candidate would be an outsider.

“I started an argument that this was ridiculous, we couldn’t have a candidate helicoptered in,” he recalls. He pointed out that one of the main issues with the Scottish National Party incumbent, the economist and journalist George Kerevan, was that he was seen as an outsider.

“I kept arguing for an hour and a half and people started gently moving away,” he jokes. “About two days later I was still going on, and I thought enough’s enough.” 

He called Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour veteran, who interrupted him. “He said, 'Right Martin, are you going to put up or shut up?’ So I filled in the forms.

"Then I had to have a very interesting conversation with my wife.”

One successful election campaign later, he is sitting in the airy, glass-roofed atrium of Westminster’s Portcullis House. Whitfield has silver hair, glasses, and wears a Labour-red tie with his shirt. He looks every bit the approachable primary school teacher, and sometimes he forgets he isn’t anymore. 

I ask how the school reacted to his election bid, and he begins “I have”, and then corrects himself: “There is a primary four class I had the pleasure to teach.” The children wanted to know everything from where parliament was, to his views on education and independence. He took unpaid leave to campaign. 

“Actually not teaching the children was the hardest thing,” he recalls. “During the campaign I kept bumping into them when I was door-knocking.”

Whitfield was born in Newcastle, in 1965, to Labour-supporting parents. “My entire youth was spent with people who were socialists.”

His father was involved in the Theatre Workshop, founded by the left-wing director Joan Littlewood. “We were part of a community which supported each other and found value in that support in art and in theatre,” he says. “That is hugely important to me.” 

He trained as a lawyer, but grew disillusioned with the profession and retrained as a teacher instead. He and his wife eventually settled in Prestonpans, where they started a family and he “fought like mad” to work at the local school. She works as the marketing manager for the local theatre.

He believes he won his seat – one of the first to be touted as a possible Labour win – thanks to a combination of his local profile, the party’s position on independence and its manifesto, which “played brilliantly everywhere we discussed it”. 

It offered hope, he says: “As far as my doorstep discussion in East Lothian went, some people were for and against Jeremy Corbyn, some people were for and against Kezia Dugdale, but I didn’t find anyone who was against the manifesto.”

Whitfield’s new job will mean long commutes on the East Coast line, but he considers representing the constituency a “massive, massive honour”. When I ask him about East Lothian, he can’t stop talking.

“MPs do tend to say ‘my constituency’s a microcosm’, but it really is Scotland in miniature. We have a fishing industry, crabs and lobsters, the agricultural areas – the agricultural soil is second to none.” The area was also historically home to heavy industry. 

After his first week in Westminster, Whitfield caught the train back to Scotland. “That bit when I got back into East Lothian was lovely moment,” he says. “I was home.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

0800 7318496