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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Leaders urge big poll turnout

CHURCH leaders are calling for a big turnout in next month’s county council elections after the BNP announced it will contest all 12 Copeland wards and five in Allerdale on June 4.

Accusing the BNP of concealing its real politics of “hatred and division”, the Rector of Whitehaven, the Rev John Bannister, said it was a wake-up call for the country.

The Kells/Sandwith by-election in December saw a BNP candidate come within just 16 votes of taking a Labour stronghold, although only 1,042 people turned out to vote.

Labour’s Wendy Skillicorn, who won the seat, will again face the BNP’s Simon Nicholson for the seat.

The vicar of Kells, the Rev Judy Evans, told The Whitehaven News: “I dislike the BNP, their policies are racist, it goes against all Christian teaching and I would ask the people of my parish to remember their Christian values when they go out to vote.”

Wendy Skillicorn, an aide to Copeland’s former Labour MP Jack Cunningham for 10 years, will also be up against Conservative Brigid Whiteside and UK Independence Party candidate Edward Caley-Knowles.

She urged people to get out and vote otherwise she felt there was “a great danger” of BNP doing well again in the event of another low poll.

Mr Bannister said: “The BNP is not the answer to the challenges that face us as a country. Let this threat of the destructiveness of the BNP be a wake-up call to all the main political parties, locally and nationally, to put the needs of those they serve first. Their failure to heed this warning will be to their own peril.”

He urged voters: “Please use your vote – it is the only way to make a difference. The state of politics in this country is currently at an all-time low. The electorate are rightly disillusioned by the revelations concerning the selfish and greedy attitude of many elected MPs in relation to their expenses.

“The context for such behaviour is one of the worst economic recessions in many years with many families and older people finding life very hard.

“Alongside this is the British National Party exploiting, for all they are worth, the dissatisfaction and lack of confidence with mainstream political parties, felt by many at this time. They are clearly appearing to give the impression of being a party who understand the problems and frustration of the average hard-working person while concealing their real politics of hatred and division.”

The Rev Lyndsay Gray, team leader for Egremont, Bigrigg and Haile, who is also chaplain for the Sellafield site, also spoke of her concerns.

With three BNP candidates contesting Egremont area wards, she said she associated BNP with “racial, religious and political hatred”.

For the Copeland Tory party, deputy association chairman Alistair Norwood said: “It is incredibly important people get out and vote so we can stop the BNP from getting seats.

“They are an obnoxious party. They say they are putting local people first and calling for British jobs for Britons but what they say and what they would do if they got into any position of power would be two different things.”

BNP spokesman Clive Jefferson, who is contesting Cleator Moor North/Frizington, said: “We are very optimistic about winning some seats. We proved we could win at Kells and we nearly did, in one of the strongest Labour seats in the whole region. We have learned quickly and feel we are competent to represent local people.”

He said it was “absolute nonsense” that BNP preaches racial and religious hatred. “This is false. If we were in any shape or form racist I for one would not be standing for election or have anything to do with it.”

Fighting to retain the same seat is Labour Cabinet member Tim Knowles. He said: “We are confident that Labour’s position is the best for the people of Copeland. I won’t be treating the BNP candidate any differently to anybody else – let’s just say I will have rather more respect for the other parties.”

The Liberal Democrats are fighting in Distington/Moresby, Cleator Moor South & Egremont.

“We are offering a fresh approach to the problems facing Cumbria,” said Lib Dems county leader Ian Stewart.

Edward Caley-Knowles is the only UK Independent Party candidate standing in Copeland.

He said: “I don’t want to slag anybody off or make empty promises but I think my chances are very good.

“They can only have improved since the MPs’ expenses scandal broke.”

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