HIS fringe English Democrats party is perceived by the political mainstream to be far-right, even fascist, but Leigh and Atherton candidate Craig Buckley is at pains to argue: “I’m no racist neo-Nazi.”

The 38-year-old factory worker is bidding to upset the political applecart in a constituency that turned blue for the first time in more than 100 years in 2019.

He’s up against the Labour candidate Jo Platt, who, according to the polls, is odds-on to reclaim the seat she lost to James Grundy five years ago in the July 4 General Election.

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The English Democrats are fielding candidates in 15 constituencies across the country, including four in the Greater Manchester – Bolton West (Patrick McGrath), Makerfield (Thomas Bryer), Bury South (Stephen Morris), and Mr Buckley in Leigh and Atherton.

“I was going to stand as an Independent,” said Mr Buckley. “It was only very recently when the General Election was announced that a friend suggested I look at the English Democrats.

“They offered to sponsor me, I had a look at them, and thought there was nothing there that I disagree with, so rather than spending my hard-earned savings, I thought why not?”

Their main policy, he explains, is campaigning for a parliament for the English.

He went on: “We have devolved powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but an English assembly has never been considered. It wasn’t until this was pointed out that I checked this out and I agreed.

“We share a UK parliament with everyone else, the other assemblies can go back to their own parliaments, but we don’t have one.

“We would have the same advantages that the other assemblies have – self-determination.”

However, perhaps less palatable to the political mainstream are the English Democrats’ links to the far-right organisation Patriotic Alternative and its jailed activist Sam Melia.

In particular, there are the views of the party on immigration, ‘remigration’ – offering immigrants the opportunity to return to their home country (Mr Buckley denies that this includes forcibly deporting people) – and protecting what Mr Buckley refers to as ‘English ethnicity’.

He went on: “There’s an Oxford professor who has predicted that by 2066, the indigenous English would become a minority, because immigration has sky-rocketed.

“Migration is the movement of people from one place to another voluntarily. Remigration means voluntarily going back.”

Meanwhile, Mr Buckley is unashamed of the English Democrats’ links to Patriotic Alternative.

“I’m a member myself,” he said. When asked whether he is concerned about being associated with a far-right organisation, he said: “Can you define far right?

“These words ‘far right, extreme, neo-nazi, white supremacy’ these are slanderous terms.

“I don’t agree with them. Some of the things I’ve done with PA include going out helping to feed and clothe the homeless. I’ve helped members fill in a leaflet to stand in the local elections.

“They do keep applying for political status, but they’ve been knocked back by the Electoral Commission. I believe it’s been three times now.

“The suspicion is that the ‘establishment’ doesn’t want us to be a political party, because they are afraid of the appeal.

“Phrases like ‘far-right extremism’ and ‘white supremacy’ get bandied about, but I don’t accept them. To me ‘white supremacy’ would imply the revival of the British Empire, that would be a white supremacist attitude, wouldn’t it? Let’s go and conquer foreign nations.

“I don’t think any members of PA would go along with that.

“The English Democrats describe themselves as ‘centrist’. We are a nationalist party, not specifically right or left wing.”

In March this year, communities secretary Michael Gove named Patriotic Alternative as one of a number of organisations that could be labelled as extremist under new legislation.