Labour hold off BNP - Charlestown/ Manchester ward
LABOUR has fought off a challenge by the British National Party - despite their vigorous campaign to win a council by-election.But the BNP did finish second in Charlestown, which was left vacant by the death of councillor Eric Hobin, with more than twice the votes of the Liberal Democrats.
Labour's Veronica Kirkpatrick took the seat with a majority of 745 and said she was 'always confident' the BNP would fail to win what would have been their first seat on Manchester council.
She pledged to continue the work of Mr Hobin and 'make Charlestown a safer and better place'.The result, declared early today, saw Coun Kirkpatrick poll 1,373 votes, with the BNP's Joe Finnon on 628 and the Lib Dems' Carol Connell with 239.Kim Glasspole, of the Conservatives, was fourth on 188 and the Greens' Jackie Smith fifth with 81. The turnout was just over 26 per cent.
Politicians of all mainstream parties had been put on alert after Mr Finnon finished second in the neighbouring Higher Blackley ward last month, with more than 700 votes.Sir Richard Leese, Labour leader of the council, said: "We have maintained our share of the vote and have got more than twice the vote of the BNP."They got significantly less than one month ago and once again the electorate has shown that it doesn't want fascists in Manchester."
Lib Dem leader Simon Ashley blamed his party's third place on what he called an 'unhelpful intervention' by local Labour MP Graham Stringer earlier this week.Mr Stringer had used a debate in the House of Commons to slam a government immigration policy adopted briefly in 2000, which saw large numbers of asylum seekers settled in north Manchester.Mr Stringer said the fact it had been done without more care had given rise to 'damaging myths' which had been exploited by the BNP - despite being completely untrue.
Coun Ashley said: "This was a considerable win for Labour, as you would expect so soon after the local elections."We think Graham Stringer's intervention was unhelpful. The BNP have registered a protest vote but it will not stick."
However, Mr Finnon said the other parties had taken the ward `for granted' and added: "To get one quarter of the vote is a very big breakthrough."