BOTH England First councillors for Blackburn with Darwen are leaving the far-right party.

Coun Michael Johnson, who represents Fernhurst, will tonight quit to join the new party For Darwen, created last week.

And Coun Mark Cotterill, who represents Meadowhead, will stand down as a councillor and leader of party at the local elections on May 3.

It comes less than a year after the England First Party gained the seats on the council.

Coun Johnson said he had told Coun Cotterill three weeks ago of his plan to quit because he did not like the direction the party was taking, and had felt out of the loop.

Coun Cotterill said his own resignation was down to moving to Preston where he had a job outside politics.

His spokesman said the timing of the pair's resignations were "just a coincidence".

He denied that Coun Cotterill was leaving because he did not see a future for the party on the council without Coun Johnson.

The pair fell out publicly in December after Coun Cotterill posted a link from the party's website to a YouTube video that depicted Jesus making an offensive hand gesture and hurtful remarks about Islam.

Coun Johnson said he found the material offensive but Coun Cotterill said the video was amusing.

Coun Johnson said: "I feel that with For Darwen I am going back to my roots.

"Fernhurst might be in Lower Darwen but to say Lower Darwen is in Blackburn is like calling a pheasant a peacock.

"I think we will be able to achieve more than England First could have."

Both Coun Johnson and Coun Cotterill were elected in May 2006 and the party was immediately labelled racist after details of its manifesto, which had included banning non-white footabllers from the England squad, were revealed.