The radical right in the United Kingdom is in disarray, according to a report published by anti-fascist HOPE not hate magazine in its first issue of 2015. The report delves deep into the far right nebulae and comes to the conclusion that “the British far right [ended] 2014 in its worst state for almost 20 years.”
Nick Lowles and Matthew Collins, the co-authors of “The State of Hate 2014” report, identify electoral and organisational failures in addition to groups splitting to explain the decline.
The British National Party, for instance, lost the two MEP seats it had held since 2009, including that of then-BNP leader Nick Griffin. The party received 1.14% of votes, down from more than 6% in the 2009 European elections, according to the BBC.
Griffin was subsequently expelled from the party in October after stepping down as its leader in July amidst accusations of destabilisation and harassment from senior party officials. Griffin had started 2014 by declaring personal bankruptcy.
Elsewhere on the far-right of the British political spectrum, the National Front, which is split in two along a North/South line according to the report, was deregistered by the UK’s Electoral Commission due to on-going legal actions.
Famed for its headline-grabbing St. George’s Cross-waving marches, the “counter-jihadi” group English Defense League is faltering too. Among the reasons listed by the authors: the “resignations and personal and political feuds”, as well as the departure of leader and spokesperson Stephen Lennon, known under the alias Tommy Robinson, in October 2013. Attendance of the marches is dwindling, and so is the media interest.
Far right groups, the reports say, have “of course (…) been adversely affected by the rise of UKIP, which has steamrolled through their previous heartlands and stolen their voters. While UKIP is not the BNP and Farage is not Griffin, it is clear that most former BNP voters feel quite at home in the UKIP stable.”
However, the report notes, “it would be wrong to put the decline of Britain’s far-right simply down to UKIP. The BNP’s electoral decline began before the rise of UKIP and over the last few years the focus has been more on street activism rather than the ballot box and even these groups are declining.”
Far-right ideas gone mainstream
“The good news in Britain is that far-right groups are at a low ebb, but the bad news is that some of their ideas have gone mainstream,” journalist and author Daniel Trilling told euronews by email. “Political support for UKIP, until recently a fringe party, has grown while the established parties have responded with an increasingly hardline stance on immigration.”
UKIP, a staunchly anti-EU, anti-immigration party led by MEP Nigel Farage, received 26.6% of the vote in the 2014 European elections, grabbing 24 seats, more than any other British parties. A frequent guest on TV, Farage is now considering running for a parliamentary seat in the coming UK general election.
With anti-Islam PEDIGA marches going strong in Germany and acts of Islamophobia multiplying in France after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, the fate of the British far-right appears almost an anomaly.
“The fortunes of far-right movements around Europe vary according to their ability to organise, as well as local political circumstances,” details Trilling, who authored ‘Bloody Nasty People: The Rise of Britain’s Far Right’, a history of the BNP and the English Defence League.
However, “the discontent that drives their support is present across the continent, including in Britain. Many citizens feel that their political systems have stopped working in their interests, and this feeling has intensified in the years since the financial crisis.”
“In the absence of any progressive alternative, some of these people can be convinced to blame immigrants and other minority groups” says Trilling, who is a contributor to this issue of the Hope Not Hate magazine. “The only lasting challenge to the far-right will come from a political movement that gives ordinary people hope, and a sense of control over their own lives”.
No respite for anti-Semitism
The results of the report should be nuanced too by a survey published on Wednesday which highlights worrying results for the UK’s Jewish community.
In the poll, around 45% of the general public believed at least one anti-Semitic statement shown to them to be true. Around 25% believed “Jews chase money more than other British people” while one in six agreed that “Jews think they are better than other people,” or that they hold too much power in the media.
Surveyed Jews, part of an estimated 260,000-strong community in the UK, expressed strong feelings of insecurity. More than half had witnessed more anti-Semitism in the last two years than ever before and 45% felt their family was threatened by Islamist extremism.
“Whilst anti-Semitism in Britain is not yet at the levels seen in most of Europe, the results of our survey should be a wakeup call,” said Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism in a foreword to its report quoted by Reuters. “Britain is at a tipping point: unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.”
It seems that some already do. According to the survey, almost sixty percent of surveyed Jewish Britons felt Jews might have no long term future in Europe and 25% had considered leaving the UK in the last two years.