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Le Pen's victory prompts 'wake-up call' alert in UK

Le Pen's victory prompts 'wake-up call' alert in UK

Author: Rashmee Z Ahmed
Publication: The Times of India
Date:  April 26, 2002

Some days after the election successes of French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, Britain is fearful that the far-right British National Party (BNP) might make gains in next month's local authority elections.

With local elections just a town days away, leading British politicians and race relations activists are warning that the French presidential poll was a "wake-up call" for Britain.

On Tuesday, an alarmed Gurbux Singh, head of the Commission for Racial Equality, warned in an open letter to Prime Minister Blair that the BNP could capitalise on Le Pens success in the May 2 UK local elections.

Leading members of Blair's party, including former foreign secretary Robin Cook and party chairman Charles Clarke have admitted there is a "localised" threat from the British far right.

The BNP, however, is generally considered a potential threat across the English regions. Its Oxford-educated leader Nick Griffin, admitted to this paper in an earlier interview that his party had to build an image as had the French far-right.

After September 11, Griffin began to build bridges and extend his party's appeal even to minority, non-Christian communities such as Sikhs and Hindus by publicly proclaiming that he was opposed only to Muslims.

Griffin, in concert with a few angry young Sikh in the Punjabi dominant Southall area  of London started to issue posters and cassettes asking Sikhs and Hindus to boycott Muslims.

Immigration, asylum, multi-faith schools and integration have long been urgent issues in a Britain that officially calls itself multi-cultural even though ethnic minorities account for just 6.5 per cent of its total population.

The BNP vote percentage in those constituencies at the last general election was an unprecedented over-10 per cent.

Blair's Labour Party may do badly in the local polls.

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