The rise of the BNP is the most serious threat to race relations the UK has ever faced, according to a trade union leader.
Speaking at the launch of Solutions, a Birmingham based charity to combat race and hate crime, Unison's political services manager for the West Midlands, Tony Rabaiotti, said the far-right party had become more dangerous since activists changed the way they dress.
He said: "It's my view that the BNP is the most serious threat to democracy and racial harmony that this country has ever known.
"That is because they have thrown away their boots and braces and put on their suits under their current leader, Nick Griffin. It has led to them slowly but surely winning political power up and down the country.
"In recent years, they have been targeting the Black Country and Stoke-on-Trent, because they are areas of high unemployment and disaffected young people."
He said he wanted all Unison members to be committed to racial harmony, but that it was not the case.
He said: "Race hate in the workplace is extremely common.
"Before the general election, I wrote to every Unison member in Stoke-on-Trent and parts of the Black Country, urging them not to vote for the BNP. My name was at the bottom of the letter with my direct telephone number.
"The hate mail and the loathsome and threatening telephone calls I received were frankly incredible. They abused my name because it is Italian. Some of them thought it was Jewish, which takes us right back to the Second World War. I have no doubt that we are dealing with a very serious threat in the West Midlands."
He said Unison would do everything in its power to help Solutions tackle race and hate crime.
Launched on Friday, Solutions aims to support those whose lives are made difficult by race and hate crimes, and to act on their behalf legally where necessary.
Keith Harris, who launched the charity, gave a message of hope for the future.
He said: "There are alternatives to this national barbarity and need to debase others. We have seen spontaneity and kindness during the Tsunami disaster from our people to aspire to."
Richard Burden MP ( Labour, Northfield) said the areas where race hate crime was most prevalent were not those with a high ethnic minority population.
"The breeding grounds for race hate crimes are not ethnically diverse areas," he said.
"Birmingham is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country but in Northfield, while the ethnic mix is changing, more than 90 per cent of its population is white."
He said the BNP had campaigned outside Longbridge hoping to capitalise on the collapse of MG Rover by recruiting disaffected former employees.
The areas with the most hate crimes were those worst hit by poverty and deprivation, he said, and the link between poverty and race hate needed to be tackled.
Lorely Burt MP (Lib Dem, Solihull) said: "You might think that leafy Solihull is an area where we don't experience a great deal of religious and race hate crimes. That's probably true, but that doesn't mean to say it doesn't happen.
"The first person who came to me and asked for help, long before I was an MP, was a West Indian man who had been beaten up. He lost his job and his confidence. We have been working together to try to restore his confidence and pride.
"You don't have to live in the centre of Birmingham to understand that this kind of thing happens. Solutions is one of the few organisations which focuses on the victims of these crimes."