A grandmother with links to right-wing extremist organizations has been announced as the British National Party candidate in the Lewisham mayoral race.
Tess Culnane, who is in her seventies, has been described by her opponents as a ‘neo-Nazi granny’, and will represent the controversial far-right party in the upcoming election. Campaigning on a nationalist platform, she has said she plans to turn Lewisham into ‘a borough where British interests and people are put first’.
Ms Culnane, who said she intends to take a strong stance against crime, has previously insisted that she is ‘not a Nazi’ but ‘a true blue patriot’.
However, her history of association with more extreme right-wing organisations adds weight to opponents’ claims that BNP attempts at promoting a moderate image are deceptive.
Ms Culnane previously stood unsuccessfully as National Front candidate for Greenwich and Lewisham in 2008’s London Assembly elections, and has also run for that party in Yorkshire.
She has also been linked to the self-described ‘ultra nationalist’ British People’s Party, who describe her as a ‘veteran activist’ on their website, which features overtly Nazi imagery. An official blog of the BPP includes sections contesting the historical facts of the Holocaust, and describes immigration as a ‘vociferous cancer’.
Other local politicians have spoken out against the BNP’s campaign, including Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Chris Maines, who described the party as ‘vile’. Green Councilor Dean Walton, who is also running, said: “Racists aren’t welcome in a diverse and tolerant borough like Lewisham.”
Sir Steve Bullock, the incumbent Labour mayor, has expressed scepticism about the BNP’s electoral prospects. “The residents of Lewisham have too much sense to be taken in by the superficial makeover of the BNP,” he said. “It’s still a nasty, racist party with nothing to offer but division and hate.”