PRIME Minister Tony Blair today made a personal appeal to voters in a Blackburn by-election: Don't vote BNP.

Speaking exclusively to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, Mr Blair said any vote for the British National Party in Mill Hill was a wasted vote.

The PM said: "The BNP offer nothing to people and the only impact BNP councillors would have in Blackburn would be to drive house prices down and push business out because people don't want that type of tension and bad relations in local communities.

"It is important people in Mill Hill get out and vote - and vote because of the real issues.

"There are choices between the three main parties, a big choice at that, even without the BNP.

"I think it's extremely important that people turn out and vote and certainly do not vote for the BNP, who offer no real solutions to any of the issues - as we have seen in Burnley."

Four candidates, including the BNP's Robin Evans, are standing in tomorrow's by-election, which was triggered by the retirement of Liberal Democrat Edmund Critchley last month.

Blackburn MP Jack Straw has also urged people not to vote BNP.

He said: "I would hope that people vote Labour, but if they don't I would hope they vote for one of the mainstream parties."

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Rev Alan Chesters, said he had deep concerns at the BNP standing in Mill Hill and stressed how hard all faiths in Blackburn had worked to create a sense of community cohesion.

He said: "It would be a major step backwards if those promoting divisive and inflammatory policies gained support in Blackburn."

But the BNP said people in Mill Hill were fed up of 'outside interference'.

Spokesman Simon Bennett said: "They should be allowed to make up their own minds based on the information they have been given and what they believe in. I believe that is what they will do in the end."

Labour lost the Mill Hill seat to the LibDems in May when there was a turnout of just 29 per cent.

Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Bill Taylor said he would rather people voted for another of the main parties than not vote at all.

Conservative leader Colin Rigby added: "There is a danger in people not voting that the minority view can win. People need to get out and vote, even if it is not for ourselves, but for one of the other two mainstream parties."

LibDem leader Paul Browne said people in Mill Hill were sensible enough not to vote BNP.

Mill Hill vicar Anthony Bedell, from St Luke with St Philip's Church, said: "As Christians in politics, I passionately believe that the Government of this country, locally and nationally, needs to comprise politicians who care about the needs of all people.

"I would urge all people to vote. Vote for those who will be the advocate for all, especially for the poorest and those most marginalised in our community. Encourage others to vote. And people should vote for the party who they believes will foster a healthy Blackburn, a respectful Blackburn and a tolerant Blackburn."

The other candidates are Gail Barton (Lab), Karl Turner (Con) and David D'arcy (Lib Dem).