A FORMER British National Party activist was invited to stand as a Conservative councillor in an ‘alarming blunder’.

But the Conservatives are now taking steps to expel Nick Holt from the party as officials launch an investigation into how he came to be on a shortlist for Darwen Town Council.

Mr Holt, who said he would never renounce the BNP’s principles, said he laughed out of surprise when he was asked.

He stood for the BNP at the last general election, ran the party’s Blackburn office until 2006 and last year stood for another far-right party, England First.

Despite his past, Mr Holt said he had been contacted two months ago by a “long-standing member” who invited him to join the Tory party with a view to standing for the council.

But it is understood Conservative HQ this week stepped in and suspended Mr Holt from the party.

The Darwen and Rossendale Conservative Association has started an investigation in a bid to discover how Mr Holt reached the shortlist for the town council, which is being created after elections in June.

East Lancashire’s sole Conservative MP Nigel Evans said he was “alarmed” that Mr Holt, who polled 2,263 to finish fourth in 2005’s general election, had even been considered as a Tory candidate.

The Ribble Valley MP said officials needed to look at party procedures to ‘close any loopholes’.

He said: “The fact that he’s not renounced the BNP principles says it all.

“That someone was able to get so far in a nomination process who holds distasteful beliefs is alarming.

“He clearly didn’t get enough votes as a BNP candidate so tried to seek refuge in our party.”

A spokesman for Conservative Party central office said: "As soon as Mr Holt's history with the BNP was discovered by the party action was taken to immediately suspend him from the party with the intention of expelling him.”

Mr Holt told of his shock at being approached.

He said: “I had no real interest in the town council but they sort of sold it to me.

“I thought I was standing up until Tuesday.

“I was a little bit surprised they asked me. I never volunteered it.

“I still subscribe to the BNP’s principles, but I was taking a break from it.

"When the Conservatives approached me it seemed like the right thing to do.

"But I have never renounced the BNP and I never would.

“They were happy to have me. I laughed at first but they persuaded me.”

The Darwen branch of the local Conservative Party, which is organising the town council campaign, said all local party members had been invited to stand, but a final shortlist had not yet been produced.

Peter Steen, the chairman of Rossendale and Darwen Conservatives, said: “At this moment his membership has been suspended.

“I have called an executive meeting for the next seven days to discuss this.

"Investigations are ongoing and until they are complete I cannot comment.”

Labour group leader Kate Hollern said: “This is unbelievable.

"They must have known about his background. They must be so desperate to get in that they’ll stand anyone.”

Fernhurst councillor John Slater, of Darwen Conservatives, said Mr Holt had told them he agreed with the Tories’ stance on the issue of English MPs voting on issues only affecting England.

He said he had not invited Mr Holt to join the party, but was not aware whether another local member had done so.

Coun Slater said: “He is a member of the Conservative Party, but there’s an incubation period for new members and he recently stood for another party.

“I have not given him any impression that he would be selected whatsoever.”