The victory of the neo-British National Party in winning three seats on Burnley Council has sent shock waves through Britain.
For years the BNP have been whipping up racial tension in Burnley and other parts of Lancashire. They continued this during the election, demanding funding for "white" areas and attacking money going to the largely Asian Stoneyholme district.
However the main reason for their gains was disillusionment with the record of New Labour and all the main parties. Burnley has faced job losses and a long-term decline in services. Recently the Council decided to close 35 care homes for pensioners.
The BNP use populist propaganda, tapping into local anger, and trying to direct it against Asians and other non-whites, scapegoating them for the problems.
Comments made by leading politicians from the main parties have helped them, notably the statement by Home Secretary, David Blunkett that schools are being "swamped" by refugee children. In Burnley the Council has also made it harder to combat the racist ideas and attacks by banning anti BNP activities organised by anti fascist groupings.
When the BNP attempted to raise its head in the mid-1990s it was halted by a movement of then of thousands. Socialist Party members from Ireland were among the 50.000 who took part in the 50.000 march that closed their headquarters in Welling, south London.
Similar action will be needed again - and possibly not just in England.
Similar action will be needed again - and possibly not just in England. Ominously the BNP have announced that they intend to fight the South Belfast seat in next year's Assembly election.
This announcement coincides with an increase in racist attacks on the Chinese community, on Asians and other racial minorities. We have enough problems in Northern Ireland with sectarianism without adding the poison of racism. It is time to mobilise to stop these people getting even a foothold here.
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