April 9, 2007: Tory Candidate Accused Of Echoing The BNP Message
Tory candidate accused of echoing the BNP message
Sam Coates, Political Correspondent
From The Times
April 9, 2007
The future of a Conservative candidate was hanging in the balance last night after he became embroiled in a race row over his campaign literature, The Times can reveal.
Luke Mackenzie, a Tory candidate in a British National Party (BNP) target ward in Basildon, was accused of peddling scare stories by suggesting that people who wanted to stop asylum-seekers being given council houses should vote Conservative.
David Cameron faced calls to disown the candidate last night, but the Conservative Party avoided immediate action, saying that it would examine the election leaflet this week. This contrasted with the swift action last month to dismiss Patrick Mercer from the Tory front-bench after he referred to black bastards in the Army.
A Tory spokesman said: We encourage all councillors to confront the BNP and not to pander to them.
Mr Mackenzie, who is standing against the local councils only ethnic minority councillor, told The Times that he did not believe that his remarks would inflame racial tensions because people were aware of this anyway.
The leaflet, headed Conservatives: Were on your side, refers to being on the front line in a battle, talking about local people getting organised and fighting back.
It says: I support Conservative policy of giving council housing to Basildon residents and not [of it] being used to house asylum seekers. There is a shortage of homes, but at the same time the Labour Government is encouraging record levels of immigration.
Opposition politicians said that the remarks were highly inflammatory and echoed the message used by the BNP in other parts of the country.
Mr Mackenzie, a 21-year-old politics student at Westminster University, is standing in the local elections against Labours Swatantra Nandanwar in a ward where the BNP took 22.7 per cent of the vote in 2004. The partys record for the area is 25.3 per cent in the Fryerns ward last year.
This year the BNP is contesting 11 of the 14 seats up for election in Basildon, part of a remarkable surge of activity across the country. It is to field 655 candidates, double the number who stood last time. It currently has 49 council seats.
Mr Mackenzie denied accusations he was stoking up racism. At the end of the day its [the main parties] not saying things like this that is encouraging racism tension because the only place people can turn to is the British National Party.
He said that there was strong feeling among residents that people from outside the area were causing a housing shortage.
They blame the influx of immigration [as one reason for this], because there isnt enough housing in the UK and youve got thousands of people coming from abroad.
Asked what he thought Basildon residents felt about immigration, he said: They think its entirely out of control. He said that it was a view that he shared, adding: The cause of this is that there is no real control over who is here. It is already virtually impossible for asylum seekers to get housing in Basildon after the council changed the system to give preference to people who have been in the area a long time.
Jon Cruddas, a Labour MP and deputy leadership contender who campaigns against the BNP, said: This dangerous exploitation of peoples fears is a gift to extremist organisations such as the BNP. Peddling myths about immigrants pouring into a town or about asylum seekers supposedly being given council housing ahead of other residents is incredibly unhelpful. If David Cameron is serious about fighting racism he should disown this candidate straight away.
Educated at Mayflower school sixth form, Billericay
Currently studying for a degree in politics and economics at Westminster University
Joined the Conservative Party in 2005 and worked on the general election campaign
Standing in Vange ward of Basildon
Source: Luke Mackenzie