AN anti-British National Party alliance has been launched to stamp out a bid by the right wing group to join Swindon Council.

Swindon Against Fascism plans two days of action this month as well as mass leaflet drops throughout the Gorse Hill and Pinehurst ward where BNP candidate Reg Bates is standing.

Mr Bates is the first BNP member to stand for Swindon Council and the only candidate for the controversial right-wing party in the South West.

A meeting to establish Swindon Against Fascism last week attracted support from trade unions, community groups, the Labour Party and independent socialists.

Swindon Against Fascism co-ordinator Hugh Kirkbride, who is also the Transport and General Workers Union's South West organiser, said the alliance wanted the BNP out of the town.

Mr Kirkbride said the BNP had targeted Swindon and was committed to stirring up race hatred, fascism and violence in the town.

"The only effective way of preventing this is for all democrats in the town to unite in their opposition to the BNP," Mr Kirkbride said.

He called on all political parties to commit to a pledge "to keep Swindon a tolerant and friendly town" and oppose "any attempt to promote disharmony on grounds of race, colour, nationality or religion".

"For that reason, the people of Swindon are united in their opposition to the BNP," the pledge says.

Wiltshire BNP chairman Mike Howsman said the party was not fascist or racist and had never supported or condoned violence and said any violence had come from the party's opponents.

"This is the usual bunch of crackpots trying to destroy the democratic process," Mr Howsman said.

"We believe everybody should have a platform and the right to say it. They are basically rent-a-mob. We have always renounced violence.

"I just hope there aren't threats or violence against our people or their families in Swindon. If there was any trouble in Swindon, the BNP would not start it."

He said the party would hold a public meeting in the town towards the end of the month or early May ahead of the poll on May 4.

He also said BNP members from outside Swindon would enter the campaign.

"We will have people from across the South West dropping leaflets for us," Mr Howsman said. "We will also have vehicles with posters coming through Swindon."

On Thursday, Labour councillor Derique Montaut is expected to put a motion to Swindon Council's meeting aimed at all parties showing their opposition to the BNP.

The motion calls for the council to affirm "its commitment to respect the rights and freedoms of all residents of Swindon without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, sexuality, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status".

"This council will seek to promote communities based on respect and unite communities targeted by prejudice.'' "The purpose of this resolution is to urge all parties to put up a united front against the BNP," Coun Montaut (Lab, Moredon) said.

"I would be urging residents to vote for anybody instead of the BNP."

Coun Montaut said Swindon's success was based on its acceptance of all people and cultures.

The anti-BNP action days are planned for Saturday, April 22 and Saturday, April 29.

Voters tempted by policies

UP to a quarter of voters may support the British National Party, according to a report for a social policy research group.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust said anger with the main political parties had led to increasing numbers indicating that they might vote for the BNP.

It attributed the support to feelings of "powerlessness and frustration".

The report followed a warning by Employment Minister Margaret Hodge that disillusioned white, working class voters were deserting Labour for the BNP.

She said that as many as eight out of 10 white families in her Barking constituency in east London admitted that they were tempted to vote BNP in forthcoming council elections.

On Good Friday, the BNP launched its local election manifesto and said it was "standing for local freedom, security, identity, democracy'' and putting "Britain first".

The party, which has 24 local councillors, said 356 candidates would stand for election next month.

Leader Nick Griffin, pictured, launched a 12-point plan for Britain, saying the BNP's policies included low taxes, action against corruption, equal treatment, asylum clampdown, zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour, and the ending of "trendy failure'' in schools.