UK Politics

BNP 'not opposed to legal immigration', mayoral candidate says

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Media captionMayoral candidate Carlos Cortiglia said the BNP "has to change"

Immigrants "who are legally entitled to be in this country" are "not the issue" for the British National Party, its candidate for London mayor has said.

Carlos Cortiglia, who is originally from Uruguay, also told the BBC's Daily Politics the BNP "has to change" and "stop talking about 1930s ideas".

The 2010 BNP general election manifesto said it was campaigning against "the immigration invasion of our country".

But Mr Cortiglia said its concern was only with illegal immigration.

He moved to the UK from Uruguay in 1989 and has lived and worked in London ever since - most recently as the BNP's press officer.

'Bone of contention'

According to the BNP website, its immigration policies include a plan to "stop all new immigration except for exceptional cases".

But when asked on the Daily Politics whether the BNP did indeed want to stop all new immigration, Mr Cortiglia replied: "That is not true at all."

The BNP website also states that it wants to "reject all asylum seekers who passed safe countries on their way to Britain", but Mr Cortiglia said the party's complaint was with "bogus asylum seekers".

He went on: "We talk about illegal immigration, that is the one bone of contention, illegal immigration is the issue.

"People who are legally entitled to be in this country, like me, are not the issue.

"There's no argument that people who are legally entitled to be here have the right to be represented, have the right to participate."

He added: "It's not the issue of stopping people coming here because that will never happen - because it's not part of any modern country."

Mr Cortiglia said: "The BNP has to change. If the BNP wants to be a British national party it has to stop talking about 1930s ideas.

"I love this country, I want to represent it and I want to put an end to this sort of 1930s chauvinism that is not the solution for Britain's problems."

'Supported Britain'

During the electoral campaign, Mr Cortiglia has been forced to deny fighting for Argentina in the 1982 Falklands War.

The allegation stems from an interview he apparently gave to La Nacion newspaper in 2003, in which he was quoted as saying he had "volunteered to go to the Malvinas Islands".

But he told the BBC: "I supported Britain... I was a teacher of mathematics throughout the whole year... and I had absolutely nothing to do with it."

Mr Cortiglia has pledged to introduce free weekend travel on the Underground and a minimum five-year prison sentence for knife crime if elected mayor on 3 May.

And he said: "One of our policies is to stop automation of the Underground and to maintain the principle that we need to protect public services. That is not a far right cry, that is a socialist principle."

Complaining that the BNP had not been able to take part in mayoral debates and hustings, he added: "The issue of percentages is not an issue. The issue in British politics is participation."

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