Far right posting gains in England
Fueled by the recession, the groups have won members and seats in recent elections.
(Page 2 of 2)
Alienated working-class whites in urban areas are now being lured away from the Labour and Conservative parties by the BNP in several low-income urban areas, says Jill Rutter, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think tank with ties to the Labour Party. In working-class Barking and Dagenham, for instance, the BNP is now the second largest party in the town hall. The main street in the borough of 170,000 has changed significantly in recent years – on the local high street, Afro-Caribbean eateries now stand beside traditional pubs and pie-and-mashed potato cafes.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
"The population has never been comfortable with immigration, whether it was the Jews in the 19th century or the immigration of post-war years. [Woolas's] comments are a continuation of the view of migrants that has not always been positive," Ms. Rutter says.
Even without the economic crisis, continental Europe has witnessed a marked increase in far right sentiment.
In Austria, the rise of the extreme right over the past decade culminated in September when two such parties captured 29 percent of the vote in national elections. Germany's neo-Nazi National Democratic Party has made steady gains in regional elections since the country's reunification in 1989. Italy's National Alliance party, which was formed from the roots of the country's neo-fascist movement, is a partner in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's governing coalition. Far right movements also appear to be thriving in France and Belgium.
Still, until recently Britain has not mirrored its neighbors' politics, says Cruddas. "There has always been an exceptionalism about the UK, but I'm not sure that's the case any more."
Inside the BNP's office in London's City Hall, Richard Barnbrook says his party's gains are just starting. "We expect an economic collapse similar to the 1920s and 30s," says Mr. Barnbrook, the party's first and only representative on the 25-member London Assembly. Forecasting a subsequent outbreak of racial and ethnic conflict, he predicts the BNP will then step into the breach as the party of choice for what he calls "indigenous" Britons.
Others, such as Habib Rahman, of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, are confident such a scenario is unlikely, though he worries mainstream politicians are pandering to "myths" about immigration to gain "cheap votes."
Says Mr. Rahman, "We will have to pull together to get out of a recession, and I think one positive thing will be that new ideas and the hard work of migrants will be part of that."