First Jewish candidate opposes state 'hand-outs' for asylum-seekers. William Stewart reports
Teachers have called for the resignation of the deputy chair of governors at a London special school after she stood for the far-right British National party in yesterday's local elections.
Pat Richardson, a 59-year-old mother of two has been a parent governor at Little Heath, a multi-cultural special school in Redbridge, east London, for three years.
She stood for the BNP in Loughton, Essex, in yesterday's Epping Forest district council elections, courting controversy as she is the party's first Jewish candidate.
Mrs Richardson, whose 15-year-old son goes to Little Heath, said she had no intention of standing down as a governor at the school. "I was elected by the parents and not the teachers," she said.
Teachers at the school for children with moderate learning difficulties have written to Tom Howl, chairman of governors, to complain about her position.
But both Mr Howl and Redbridge council say that although they are aware of the concerns there is nothing they can do because the BNP is not an illegal organisation.
School staff have also contacted the National Union of Teachers, the biggest union at Little Heath.
Tim Harrison, London east NUT regional secretary, said: "I would share their concerns. This is a multi-cultural school with an inclusive ethos that is not compatible with that party's exclusive policies."
Mrs Richardson became involved with the BNP two years ago, citing concerns about the European Union and the way the Government was giving "hand-outs" to asylum seekers.
Her candidature has caused widespread controversy as both her parents are Jewish - her father was a Transylvanian immigrant and her mother of direct Lithuanian descent. Mrs Richardson attended a Jewish Sunday school, learned Hebrew and had both her sons circumcised. She denies that the BNP is anti-semitic.
The BNP says it wants more school governors to prevent children being brainwashed into accepting multi-culturalism.
Tony North, the BNP'sregional organiser in Devon and Cornwall and a candidate in yesterday's Euro elections, hopes to use his position as parent governor at Furzeham primary, in Brixham, to argue against multi-culturalism.
Asked if she agreed, Mrs Richardson said she had not encountered problems with the multi-cultural nature of Little Heath and that having a child with special needs was a "great leveller".
Geoffrey Wallace, a BNP councillor in Halifax, West Yorkshire, lost two school governorships last year because of non-attendance. The same tactic is unlikely to work against Mrs Richardson, however, who says she has never missed a governors' meeting.