Our Vera v The BNP

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MR LUSTBATHER
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Apr 1 2005 11:22
Our Vera v The BNP

Corrie star Liz `defies intimidating BNP gang'

by David Knights

Coronation Street star Liz Dawn defied BNP extremists when they gatecrashed a charity event to raise cash for children with special needs.

The soap legend was "unfazed" at the presence of the "Men in Black" in the audience -- and even chatted to the son of one of the BNP members when he ran up to her.

Organisers said the actress, who plays Vera Duckworth, "didn't bat an eyelid" and continued to play bingo and sign autographs at the event, organised by the Labour Party, in the Keith Thompson Centre, on Keighley's Braithwaite estate.

Almost £300 was raised for Braithwaite Special School during the event, which also aimed to promote Labour's general election campaign.

Braithwaite community worker John Philip, the bingo caller, also a Keighley town councillor, said pensioners and parents were afraid of the "band of Hale and Pace look-alikes".

He said: "People expected something to kick-off because of the BNP's reputation and their formidable appearance. They were intimidating just by being there. I was disgusted by their attitude."

Labour officials said a group of 20 to 30 BNP supporters, wearing dark suits, from outside Keighley "crashed" the event in the hope a spoiling it for the children and residents of the Braithwaite and Guardhouse areas.

Ann Cryer, Keighley's Labour MP, who was also present, said: "Bad language, intimidation and graffiti on our posters are the hallmark of the low-level thuggery that typifies the fanatics who form the core of the BNP.

"They were simply there to try to disrupt what proved to be a very successful occasion for their own extremist needs."

About a dozen men accompanied BNP councillor Angela Clarke inside the building, paying £1 admission, while others stood near the entrance.

Eyewitnesses said several pensioners and parents with young children went home because they feared there might be trouble.

Labour activists were angry that their posters were defaced and one person claimed BNP members swore in front of children. BNP officials denied there had been swearing and responded that they had been threatened by one of the volunteers when they arrived.

They said the men went along as "moral support" for Cllr Clarke, who represents Braithwaite on Bradford Council, when she took her children to see Liz.

Labour official Mark Taylor responded that the majority of people at the event were "grannies and kids" who were frightened when the BNP turned up en masse.

Mr Taylor said he had warned Liz Dawn -- a long-time Labour campaigner -- that the BNP might be present when she arrived.

He said: "She didn't seem bothered at all, she didn't bat an eyelid. She wanted to be there and get the Labour message over."

Christopher Kirby, Keighley's other BNP councillor, claimed Labour staff had previously told him Cllr Clarke would not be welcome at what was a public event.

He added: "Maybe at the end of the day it was a political protest. There was no swearing whatsoever. It's pure nastiness from Ann Cryer."

Cllr Kirby's partner, Carol Booth, said she was shocked to hear the claims from Labour officials about the alleged damage and intimidation by BNP members.

She said: "They were sat down all the time and didn't do anything. They were well behaved. I really enjoyed myself."

A Coronation Street spokesman said it was unlikely to be the kind of issue they would comment on.