This would indeed be a shocking result - although the possibility is dismissed as "slim" by polling analyst Professor John Curtice - but the figures suggest that it's not as far-fetched as it might appear at first glance.
Of course, for various reasons the figures from the 2005 Westminster contest are unhelpful, but the European election results from earlier this year can perhaps offer some assistance. While Labour and the SNP were way ahead of the other parties, the significant others polled as follows:
BNP - 545
Conservative - 561
Lib Dems - 533
Greens - 822
SSP - 287
Socialist Labour - 446
UKIP - 618
Thus while the Greens were fairly comfortably ahead of the pack, it would clearly not require a miracle for the BNP to take third place, and the Times article mentions the party's high profile following leader Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time, together with the prominence of the asylum issue in the constituency - although the latter point would presumably have been a factor at the time of the Euro poll earlier this year, the Griffin controversy could have galvanised the issue.
However, Angus Macleod doesn't mention UKIP, who aren't standing in the by-election. But since they polled more than the BNP then it might be expected that Griffin's party could benefit substantially from the lack of a UKIP candidate.
Of course, this also ignores the Smeato factor, and my previous post suggested that although John Smeaton's precise views on immigration seem to be an unknown quantity - beyond his claim that the system should be "fairer" - statements he's made in his Sun column could be construed as anti-immigration (despite also making positive noises about immigrants), and thus appeal to some who might otherwise vote BNP. Most obviously, in relation to the criminal element among immigrants:
We are now being flooded by foreigners from dangerous cultures where life is cheap. [...] Is it any wonder when our courts are full of scumbags from around the world.Thus I suspect that this kind of thing, together with Mr Smeaton's high profile and more general appeal, will win the day over the BNP and secure third place for the Jury Team's candidate.
The bookies certainly seem to think so, although Ladbrokes seem to be offering only 33/1 on a Smeato win as opposed to 8/1 when his candidature was announced.