Big two parties blamed for rise in far-right

A NEW book has suggested that dissatisfaction with the UK’s two main political parties has led to growing support for the British National Party.

‘The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain’ has claimed that discontent with the Labour Party and the absence of credible Tory campaigning has contributed to rising numbers of BNP strongholds.

University of Manchester’s Dr Matt Goodwin, who co-wrote the book with Dr Robert Ford, said that BNP activists faced little or no competition from Conservatives – the only mainstream party with a reputation for tough immigration policies.

The far-right party is also performing strongly in places such as Barking and Dagenham, Burnley, Sandwell and Stoke, reflecting dissatisfaction with the Labour Party in places where it has been historically dominant.

Analysis of the 2006 Barking and Dagenham local elections show the success of the BNP’s campaigning strategy: three out of five residents said they had received a BNP leaflet.

And nearly one in five said that a representative of the far-right party had canvassed them personally.

Though the Labour Party reported similar campaigning activity, Conservative activists were much less visible during the pre-election campaign.

However, resentment appears to have been directed principally toward the local Labour Party grouping – 49% of BNP voters said their vote was a protest against Labour.

Unsurprisingly, they blamed Labour primarily for its immigration policy, but other local issues were also a source of tension, including the allocation of council housing, crime, policing and jobs.

“As a result of a range of factors, the BNP has become Barking and Dagenham council’s second largest party with 12 councillors, second to Labour’s 33,” said Dr Goodwin, who is based at the university’s Institute for Political and Economic Governance.

“They are now setting their sights on winning outright control and the Barking parliamentary seat.”

Dr Goodwin and his team also found that older men at the bottom of the economic ladder living in the North of England were the most likely to vote BNP.

Using a large sample of self-identified extreme right voters, the researchers also found a shift from the base of far-right support in London and the West Midlands during the 1980s to northern England.

“The rising trend in electoral support for the far-right in Britain is gathering pace – and part of that can be attributed to the performance of the main parties,” Dr Goodwin added.

“For example, in 2006 only 31 per cent of Barking and Dagenham residents received a Tory leaflet and only five per cent met a Tory representative.

“So BNP activists faced little competition from the only mainstream party with a reputation for tough immigration policies.”

In former Labour dominated councils such as Stoke, Barking and Dagenham and Burnley, the BNP has been able to mobilise the resentments of working class voters against Labour.

“Many working class voters have lost faith in dominant local Labour parties which have not faced any serious competition from other mainstream opposition parties,” said Dr Goodwin.

Other far-right political organisations have also begun to emerge because of political dissatisfaction in recent years.

The English Defence League (EDL), which was set up on 27 June 2009, via its website claims that it was established because of “lack of any significant action by the British Government against extremist Muslim preachers and organisations”.

It has held rallies and has attempted to enrole new members in several towns across England and claims that it is non-violent and non-racist. EDL is planning to hold a protest in Bolton on Saturday 20 March 2010.

Despite these claims a number of arrests have been made during EDL rallies due to violence. During its rally in Manchester in October 2009 50 people were arrested and more than 90 were arrested when EDL protested in Birmingham.

In both cases it was not clear whether the violence was started by the EDL or by the individuals and organisations that oppose it.

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2 Responses

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