The voters of South Oxhey have found themselves at the centre of a damning article about the British National Party, written by one of the UK’s most respected political journalists.

Fraser Nelson, political editor of the Spectator, joined BNP Three Rivers District Councillor Seamus Dunne on the campaign trail this month, after which he wrote an article called The Rise of British Racism may be Horribly Close.

Nelson, who also writes a weekly column in the News of the World, explored what he called a “troubling paradox”: how so many voters, who clearly are not racists (indeed, one ‘supporter’ mentioned was black), could support “a racist party.”

Councillor Dunne, elected to the Ashridge ward last year, allowed Mr Nelson to follow him around the doorsteps of the estate, where he distributed leaflets and discussed the hopes, aspirations and fears of the electorate.

His front page article, controversially illustrated with a large swastika, makes clear his shock and alarm about the level of popular support in the area; support that often stems from a sense of disillusion with the main parties – an attitude further inflamed by the ongoing expenses scandal.

Nelson explained: “The letters BNP are, to me, hatefully synonymous with racism and all its sickening implications. But the people who have BNP posters in their windows regard this primarily as a gesture of defiance, a protest, a means of throwing stones at the glass of the Palace of Westminster.”

This protest, he argued, was mixed with a belief that the party offered something positive to the wider community; a sense of togetherness and ‘can do’ practicality at a local level.

His decision, however, to liken the party’s current electoral strategy to that of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, has angered Councillor Dunne.

Nelson wrote: “Mosley’s [Oswald Mosley] Blackshirts used to pose as social avengers, making a great show of standing up for people being evicted. He campaigned against what he called the failed ‘old gangs’ of Westminster. The BNP is using the same decades-old techniques — only this time, depressingly, they seem to be working.”

Councillor Dunne told the Watford Observer: “I was very disappointed with that illustration and the tone of some of the article. He makes his views pretty clear but I think it was pretty imbalanced. I am not a racist – I just oppose mass immigration.”