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Far right posting gains in England

Fueled by the recession, the groups have won members and seats in recent elections.

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England's changing population: Residents shop in a market in the London borough of Brixton. Nelson Mandela visited the diverse borough in 1996.

Mary Knox Merrill/Staff/FILE

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For decades, the tiny city of Stoke-on-Trent in central England has been a stronghold for the country's left-leaning Labour Party, but disillusionment among poorer white residents and tensions with their Muslim neighbors is pushing the city to the far right.

The whites-only, anti-immigration British National Party (BNP), has gone from being a fringe group to gaining a 15 percent stake in Stoke-on-Trent's governing council. Many observers now believe the group could win enough votes to control the council by 2011.

Some mainstream politicians are now voicing concerns that BNP is poised to make nationwide gains. While white Britons have lived in relative harmony with immigrants for years, the nation's deepening recession is raising concerns of heightened anti-immigrant sentiment, and is sparking support for the far right, says Jon Cruddas, a parliamentarian who represents the London borough of Barking and Dagenham.

"History suggests that the far right tends to do well in times of economic trouble," says Mr. Cruddas, who was appointed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to spearhead a campaign against the far right.

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