Dead Men Left

Monday, September 06, 2004

Burnley Lib Dems and the BNP

Burnley, near Manchester, has six BNP councillors. The Labour Party there had previously formed the majority on the council, but had been forced into running a minority administration after the June local elections. This arrangement collapsed when the Liberal Democrats on Burnely staged a "coup", passing a motion of no confidence in the Labour administration that relied on BNP support. The Labour group were understandably angry, charging the Lib Dems with forming a "deeply shady alliance", which provoked this peculiar response (as reported in The Guardian):

The Lib Dem leader, Gordon Birtwistle, angrily rejected all charges of deals.

"My involvement with the BNP was nil," he said. "I made one phone call to the leader of the BNP before the council meeting out of courtesy to tell him that we were putting a motion to the council.

"The BNP voted for a motion which defeated Labour. They are a totally independent party [whose councillors] vote whichever way they wish. I don't speak to any of them."

Presumably Gordon Birtwistle means "leader of the BNP" group on Burnley council, rather than Nick Griffin; no doubt Burnley's top fascist thanked Birtwistle for his "courtesy", before courteously voting with his Nazi colleagues for the Lib Dem motion. Birtwistle, presumably, would have been aware that the BNP group held the casting votes on the council; without their support, the motion would have fallen, 21 to 18 at least. His protests here are disingenuous, and it is more than a little strange that he considers it necessary to both "courteously" inform Burnley's BNP leader of his motion and to claim he does not speak to "any" BNP councillors.

It is unclear what advantage the Lib Dems could hope to gain from this manoeuvre. They hold 11 seats on the council, and so to form a majority administration would have to rely on all other non-Labour parties: including the BNP, with whom they have publicly claimed they will not work. It is either that, or work with Labour, rendering this little stunt particularly pointless. What are they playing at?