The world’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, coupled with a period of economic stagnation across large parts of Europe, has seen a surge in far-right politics across the continent. But what about the United Kingdom?
It is a common misconception, supported by mainstream political parties, that it would never be a possible for far right extremist groups to gain any serious credibility or power within the 21st century political system. However, since 2010 there has been a significant increase in the support for and membership of parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and the British National Party (BNP) – suggesting that there has been a major shift towards the political right amongst the UK electorate. These parties are now petitioning for the removal of the First Past the Post electoral system, and replacing it with Proportional Representation. A more literal reflection of the country’s voting preferences would inevitably bring more far right politicians into positions of power, eventually re-writing the entire dynamics and workings of British politics.
Certain areas of the UK have a greater number of far right sympathisers than one would initially predict, and these areas have been rapidly expanding ever since the 2008 global financial crisis. East London is a ‘political stronghold’ of the far right and has been since the 1970s. UKIP currently has 21 MEPs out of 73 – an outstanding portion considering the British public are continuously told the far right have no significant influence and that the party’s main policy line surrounds the UK ending their membership to the EU. However, the Brexit result and the waves of xenophobia that appear to have followed have recently made these numbers ever so slightly more logical. The BNP’s success in in places such as Yorkshire and Lancashire, where they hold local seats in Burnley and Keighley, is a more recent development that can be linked to as a rise in support of far right parties.
So why does this matter?
Many Britons, if asked, would say that ISIS, Russia or even Donald Trump are the greatest potential threats to our country. However, for those of us that are Britons, to truly be able to say that we are proud to call ourselves British, then surely there should be a greater emphasis placed on our country’s shared values of inclusivity, community and acceptance. Instead of focusing on threats from outside the country, maybe we should be focusing on the internal threats that are created as by-products of our own xenophobia?