Alarm at Ottery BNP votes

CAMPAIGNERS against political extremsim are disturbed the British National Party (BNP) gained nearly four per cent of Ottery votes, more than double that of the Labour party, in last week s county council elections.

CAMPAIGNERS against political extremsim are "disturbed" the British National Party (BNP) gained nearly four per cent of Ottery votes, more than double that of the Labour party, in last week's county council elections.

BNP candidate William O'Hara bagged 181 votes while Labour representative Dorothy Anne Parker, whose campaign was hit by poor health, could only manage 69.

Unite Against Facism (UAF) member Robert Crick said he spent hours in Ottery on polling day campaigning against the BNP.

He said: "I spoke to first time voters who had no real education in politics, one even said she might have voted BNP as it was the shortest one so it looked easier."

"Although the BNP had no possibility of affecting the outcome of the vote, it established a toe-hold that was reflected across the South West region. It is a warning to all democrats."

A BNP spokesman yesterday hit back, branding the UAF as "trouble makers" who "take no part in the electoral process". He said: "When our members have been elected to represent their local communities, nothing has changed, the sky didn't turn black. What do people think will happen?"

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Election runner-up and Ottery district councillor David Cox said he the "modest" number of votes gained by the BNP isn't a cause for concern. He put the gulf between Labour and the BNP down to protest votes cast as a result of the MPs expenses row, which, he felt "overshadowed everything".

The Conservative Party stormed to victory in the rest of the county, but its standing in Ottery dropped from 27 per cent in 2005 to 22.5 per cent.

Mr Cox, who gained 1,062 votes, said: "I suffered a lot of antagonism on people's door steps because of the expenses issue.

"I don't think we have to worry about the BNP issue here, unlike in the North and South East where it is more acute.

"I would be more concerned if people were not allowed to exercise their democratic right. I don't support the BNP but respect its right to be heard.

"A couple of hundred votes makes no difference to anybody. If it was a thousand then I would be concerned."

Roger Giles secured his fifth consecutive term representing the town with a resounding landslide victory . Independent candidate Mr Giles retained the seat he has held since 1993 with 2,863 votes- 60.7 per cent of those cast.

He said the completion of Ottery's skate and BMX park, improved flood prevention measures, play areas for West Hill youngsters, road safety measures in Ottery, Tipton, Alfington and West Hill and the delivery of Ottery's long-awaited cycleway link were among the immediate priorities of his new tenure.

Third placed Liberal Democrat candidate William Laitinen boosted his party's share of the poll from 10.9 per cent in 2005 to 11.1 percent with 522 votes. He told the Herald this week he is now considering applying for a position on Ottery town council.

The Ottery rural ward had the highest turnout in East Devon with 51.86 per cent of its population going to the polls.