Maybe the recession is causing people to become racist?Originally Posted by reutersMANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - The far-right British National Party, which campaigns for a halt to immigration and British withdrawal from the European Union, won its first seats in the European Parliament on Monday.
BNP leader Nick Griffin, one of the two party members elected, hailed the achievement as an "astounding earthquake in British politics."
Mainstream parties lamented the breakthrough made by a party they regard as racist.
"It's a sad moment for British politics," Health Secretary Andy Burnham said.
Anti-fascist protesters threw eggs at Griffin's car when he arrived at Manchester town hall for the vote count and he said a car window was smashed. Candidates from the major parties walked out when Griffin gave his victory speech.
Griffin was elected in the northwest region while BNP member Andrew Brons won another seat in the northern region of Yorkshire and Humber, where the party took 10 percent of the vote.
The seats were gained at the expense of the Labour Party, which was abandoned by many voters angry at a scandal over politicians' expenses.
The BNP, which advocates voluntary repatriation of immigrants, has gathered support in urban areas among a working class suffering through the worst recession in decades and competing for jobs and services with immigrants.
The party won a seat on London's elected assembly last year but had previously had no voice in the British or European parliaments. Sunday's result will allow it to get more publicity for its views and increased resources.
"I think that, for years, the British public have watched in growing concern as our country has been transformed in all sorts of ways by an out-of-touch political elite and finally enough of them have summoned up the courage to do something effective about it at the ballot box," Griffin told Sky News.
He said his priority in Brussels would be "to do as much as we can to delay the process of further European unification because it is taking away Britain's sovereignty and our freedom and our identity."
The party would oppose Turkey's entry into the EU "because if people thought that the impact of cheap Polish labour was bad wait until you see what happens if Turkey is allowed in," he said.
Griffin said the BNP's membership policy had "nothing to do with race."
"We are just as opposed to mass immigration from all-white Poland as we are to immigration from Nigeria," he said.
With some results still to be announced, the BNP has already chalked up more than 900,000 votes in the European elections in Britain.
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