Far-right politics in the United Kingdom

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Far-right politics in the United Kingdom have existed since at least the 1930s, with the formation of Nazi, fascist and anti-semitic movements. It went on to acquire more explicitly racial connotations, being dominated in the 1960s and 1970s by self-proclaimed white nationalist organisations that opposed non-white and Asian immigration, such as the National Front (NF), the British Movement (BM) and British National Party (BNP), or the British Union of Fascists (BUF). Since the 1980s, the term has mainly been used to describe those groups, such as the English Defence League, who express the wish to preserve what they perceive to be British culture, and those who campaign against the presence of non-indigenous ethnic minorities and what they perceive to be an excessive number of asylum seekers.

The NF and the BNP have been strongly opposed to non-white immigration. They have encouraged the repatriation of ethnic minorities: the NF favours compulsory repatriation, while the BNP favours voluntary repatriation. The BNP have had a number of local councillors in some inner-city areas of East London, and towns in Yorkshire and Lancashire, such as Burnley and Keighley. East London has been the bedrock of far-right support in the UK since the 1930s, whereas BNP success in the north of England is a newer phenomenon. The only other part of the country to provide any significant level of support for such views is the West Midlands.


A flowchart showing the history of the early British fascist movement

1930s to 1960s[edit]

The British far right rose out of the fascist movement. In 1932, Oswald Mosley founded the British Union of Fascists (BUF), which was banned during World War II. Founded in 1954 by A. K. Chesterton, the League of Empire Loyalists became the main British far right group at the time. It was a pressure group rather than a political party, and did not contest elections. Most of its members were part of the Conservative Party, and they were known for politically embarrassing stunts at party conferences. Its more extreme elements wanted to make the group more political, which led to a number of splinter groups forming, including the White Defence League and the National Labour Party. These both stood in local elections in 1958, and merged in 1960 to form the British National Party (BNP).

With the decline of the British Empire becoming inevitable, British far-right parties turned their attention to internal matters. The 1950s had seen an increase in immigration to the UK from its former colonies, particularly India, Pakistan, the Caribbean and Uganda. Led by John Bean and Andrew Fountaine, the BNP opposed the admittance of these people to the UK. A number of its rallies, such as one in 1962 in Trafalgar Square, London, ended in race riots. After a few early successes, the party got into difficulties and was destroyed by internal arguments. In 1967 it joined forces with John Tyndall and the remnants of Chesterton's League of Empire Loyalists to form the National Front (NF).

The Conservative Monday Club, a far-right group within the Conservative Party, was formed in 1961. Its stated aim was "to safeguard the liberty of the subject and integrity of the family in accordance with the customs, traditions, and character of the British people". They expressed general opposition to post-colonial states and immigration, as well as support for hard-line loyalism in Northern Ireland.

1970s to 1990s[edit]

The NF quickly grew to be the biggest British far right party in the UK.[citation needed] It polled 44% in a local election in Deptford, London[citation needed], and finished third in three by-elections, although these results were atypical of the country as a whole. The party supported extreme loyalism in Northern Ireland, and attracted Conservative Party members who had become disillusioned after Harold Macmillan had recognised the right to independence of the African colonies, and had criticised Apartheid in South Africa.[1] During the 1970s, the NF's rallies became a regular feature of British politics. Election results remained strong in a few working class urban areas, with a number of local council seats won, but the party never came anywhere near winning representation in parliament.

The smaller far right groups maintained anti-immigration policies, but there was a move towards a more inclusionist vision of the UK, and a focus on opposing what became the European Union. The NF began to support non-white radicals such as Louis Farrakhan. This led to the splintering of the various groups, with radical political soldiers such as a young Nick Griffin forming the Third Way group, and traditionalists creating the Flag Group.

Membership of the Monday Club meanwhile, who gave strong support to Apartheid in South Africa and to Ian Smith's illegal declaration of independence in Rhodesia, fell to under 600 by 1987.

Nick Griffin led the BNP from 1999 to 2014.

John Tyndall formed the New National Front in 1980, and changed its name to the British National Party (BNP) in 1982. They, alongside the Conservative Monday Club, campaigned against the increasing integration of the UK into the European Union. However, Tyndall's reputation of a 'brutal, street fighting background' and his admiration for Hitler and the Nazis prevented the party from gaining any respectability. They developed a policy of eschewing the traditional far right methods of extra-parliamentary movements, and concentrated instead on the ballot box. Nick Griffin replaced Tyndall as BNP leader in 1999 and introduced several policies to make the party more electable. Repatriation of ethnic minorities was made voluntary and several other policies were moderated.


The National Front continued to decline, whilst Nick Griffin and the BNP grew in popularity. Around the turn of the 21st century, the BNP won a number of councillor seats. They continued their anti-immigration policy,[2] and a damaging BBC documentary led to Griffin being charged with incitement to racial hatred (although he was acquitted).[3] The 2006 local elections brought the BNP the most successful results of any far right party in British history. They gained 33 council seats, the second highest gain of any party at the elections; in Barking and Dagenham, they gained 12 councillor seats.

In the 2008 local elections, the party won a record 100 councillor seats, and a seat on the Greater London Assembly, which would prove the party's high water mark. At the June 2009 European Parliament Election, the BNP gained two Members of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber and North West England. In October 2009, BNP leader Nick Griffin was allowed on the BBC topical debate show Question Time. His appearance caused much controversy and the show was watched by over 8 million people.

Current (2010–)[edit]

At the 2010 general election, the BNP fielded 338 candidates across England, Scotland and Wales and won 563,743 votes (1.9% of total) but no seats. Nick Griffin subsequently said he would resign as BNP leader in 2013, and was eventually expelled from the party in 2014 as the BNP fell into obscurity. The National Front fielded 17 candidates at the 2010 Election and received 10,784 votes.[citation needed]

The anti-Islamist group, the English Defence League (EDL), started to rise in popularity, appealing to nationalist sentiments on a cultural rather than explicitly racial basis. Originally formed in Luton in 2009, it protests against what it considers the Islamification of Britain[4] by organising demonstrations in towns and cities across England, the largest of which occurred in Luton in February 2011.[5] Soon after, right-wing populist party UK Independence Party (UKIP) started to gain popularity. Although labelled as far-right by some political observers,[6] UKIP was not universally considered so.[7][8] UKIP and the EDL benefited over this period from a rightward shift in the electorate,[9] while former far-right parties such as the BNP and National Front became fringe groups and wield very little media attention or power.[citation needed]

In 2010, Robin Tilbrook, the chairman of the English nationalist party the English Democrats, met with Sergey Yerzunov, a member of the executive committee of the Russian nationalist group Russky Obraz.[10] Shortly afterwards, Obraz announced that they were in alliance with the English Democrats.[11] Other members of this alliance include Serbian Obraz, 1389 Movement, Golden Dawn, Danes' Party, Slovenska Pospolitost, Workers' Party and Noua Dreaptă. Since 2010, a number of former members of the BNP have joined the English Democrats, with the party chairman quoted as saying, "They will help us become an electorally credible party."[12] In an April 2013 interview, Tilbrook said that about 200-300 out of the party's membership of 3,000 were former BNP members. He said it was "perfectly fair" that such people would "change their minds" and join a "moderate, sensible English nationalist party".[13]

In 2011, the far-right, anti-Islamist party Britain First was formed by former members of the BNP.[14] Britain First campaigns primarily against immigration, multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisation of the United Kingdom, and advocates the preservation of traditional British culture. The group is inspired by Ulster loyalism and has a vigilante wing called the "Britain First Defence Force". It attracted attention by taking direct action such as protests outside homes of alleged Islamists, and what it describes as "Christian patrols" and "invasions" of British mosques,[14][15] and has been noted for its online activism.[16] Its leader Paul Golding stood as a candidate in the 2016 London mayoral election, receiving 31,372 or 1.2% of the vote, coming eighth of twelve candidates.[17] Golding was jailed for eight weeks in December 2016 for breaking a court order banning him from entering mosques or encouraging others to do so.[18]

In June 2016, Jo Cox was murdered by a far-right extremist after being stoked by the campaigns surrounding the Brexit referendum.[19] Scholars have suggested that far-right attitudes contributed to and were normalised by the result of the Brexit referendum.[20]

In December 2016, the neo-Nazi group National Action was proscribed as a terrorist organisation.[21]

In March 2018 Mark Rowley, the outgoing head of UK counter-terror policing, revealed that four far-right terror plots had been foiled since the Westminster attack in March 2017.[22]

In November 2018 three people, Adam Thomas, Claudia Patatas and Daniel Bogunovic, were convicted of being members of the proscribed terrorist organisation, National Action, after a seven-week trial at the Crown Court in Birmingham. Thomas and Patatas have a child whom they named Adolf.[23][24]

From 2018 to 2019, under the leadership of Gerard Batten, UKIP was widely described as moving into far-right territory, at which point many longstanding members – including former leaders Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall – left. As the new permanent leader, Batten focused the party more on opposing Islam and sought closer relations with the far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, otherwise Tommy Robinson, and his followers.[25] Batten would leave the leadership of UKIP in 2019.

Since 2019 the former director of publicity of the BNP, neo-Nazi[26] and anti-semitic conspiracy theorist[27][28] Mark Collett has led a new far-right party called Patriotic Alternative.

In late 2020, The British Hand was founded by a 15 year old teenager. Since then the group have been at the root of far-right online propaganda, especially on the social media app Telegram. This led Hope not Hate to start an undercover investigation into the group and write an article exposing them.[29]

Election results[edit]

Year Candidate(s) Votes % Rank
1959 National Labour Party (UK, 1957) 1,685 0.0 14th
Total 1,685 0.0 Lost
1964 British National Party (1960) 3,410 0.0 11th
National Democratic Party (UK, 1966) 349 0.0
Patriotic Party (UK) 1,108 0.0 15th
Total 4,867 0.0 Lost
1966 British National Party (1960) 5,182 0.0 11th
National Democratic Party (UK, 1966) 769 0.0
Patriotic Party (UK) 126 0.0
Total 6,077 0.0 Lost
1970 National Front (UK) 11,449 0.0 13th
National Democratic Party (UK, 1966) 14,276 0.0 12th
Total 25,725 0.0 Lost
1974 National Front (UK) 76,865 0.2 9th
National Democratic Party (UK, 1966) 1,161 0.0 24
Total 78,026 0.2 Lost
1974 National Front (UK) 113,843 0.4 8th
Total 113,843 0.4 Lost
1979 National Front (UK) 191,719 0.6 6th
Total 191,719 0.6 Lost
1983 National Front (UK) 27,065 0.1 12th
British National Party 14,621 0.0 9th
Total 41,686 0.1 Lost
1987 British National Party 553 0.0 22
Total 553 0.0 Lost
1992 British National Party 7,631 0.1 16th
National Front (UK) 4,816 0.1 19th
Total 12,447 0.2 Lost
1997 British National Party 35,832 0.1 16th
National Front (UK) 2,716 0.0 28th
Total 38,548 0.1 Lost
2001 British National Party 47,129 0.2 15th
National Front (UK) 2,484 0.0 29th
Total 49,613 0.2 Lost
2005 British National Party 192,745 0.7 8th
National Front (UK) 8,079 0.0 23th
Total 200,824 0.7 Lost
2010 British National Party 564,331 1.9 5th
National Front (UK) 10,784 0.0 21th
Total 575,115 1.9 Lost
2015 British National Party 1,667 0.0 32th
National Front (UK) 1,114 0.0 37th
Total 2,781 0.0 Lost
2017 British National Party 4,580 0.0 17th
Total 4,580 0.0 Lost
2019 British National Party 510 0.0 47th
Total 510 0.0 Lost

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Myers, Frank (2000). "Harold Macmillan's "Winds of Change" Speech: A Case Study in the Rhetoric of Policy Change". Rhetoric & Public Affairs. 3 (4): 555–575. doi:10.1353/rap.2000.0012. JSTOR 41939631. S2CID 143681245.
  2. ^ "BNP Policies". Archived from the original on 4 February 2006. Retrieved 29 January 2006.
  3. ^ "BBC News: BNP leader cleared of race hate". 10 November 2006. Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  4. ^ "Who are the English Defence League?". 11 September 2009 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  5. ^ "Rival protesters rally in Luton". BBC News. 5 February 2011.
  6. ^ Fell, Jade. "Europe 2014: the rise of the far right". Global: the international briefing. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  7. ^ Leach, Robert (2015). Political ideology in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 197. ISBN 9781137332561. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  8. ^ Tournier-Sol, Karine (2015). "Reworking the Eurosceptic and Conservative Traditions into a Populist Narrative: UKIP's Winning Formula?". Journal of Common Market Studies. 53 (1): 147. doi:10.1111/jcms.12208. S2CID 142738345.
  9. ^ "UKIP absorbs Britain's far-right". EurActiv. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  10. ^ "Robin Tilbrook meets Russian Nationalists". rus-obraz.net. Archived from the original on 4 August 2012.
  11. ^ "Russian Obraz". right-world.net. Archived from the original on 23 March 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2012.
  12. ^ "English Democrats". Hope not Hate. Archived from the original on 1 December 2016. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  13. ^ "'Up to one in 10' English Democrat members were in BNP". BBC News. 23 April 2013.
  14. ^ a b Palmer, Ewan (20 May 2014). "Who are Britain First? The Far-Right Party 'Invading' Mosques". International Business Times.
  15. ^ Gadher, Dipesh (25 May 2014). "Far right invades mosques to hand out Bibles". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on 9 July 2014.
  16. ^ Tomchak, Anne-Marie (9 October 2014). "#BBCtrending: The rise of Britain First online". BBC News. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  17. ^ "Results". BBC News. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Ex-Britain First leader Paul Golding jailed over mosque ban". BBC News. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
  19. ^ "The slow-burning hatred that led Thomas Mair to murder Jo Cox". theguardian.com. 23 November 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  20. ^ Lacy, Rodrigo Bueno; Houtum, Henk van (19 June 2017). "The political extreme as the new normal: the cases of Brexit, the French state of emergency and Dutch Islamophobia". Fennia. 195 (1): 85–101. doi:10.11143/fennia.64568. ISSN 1798-5617.
  21. ^ "National Action becomes first extreme right-wing group to be banned in UK - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  22. ^ "Four far-right UK terrorist plots foiled since Westminster attack, police reveal". The Independent. 26 February 2018.
  23. ^ Barnes, Tom (12 November 2018). "National Action: Couple who named baby after Hitler found guilty of being part of neo-Nazi terror group". The Independent. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  24. ^ "National Action trial: Three guilty of neo-Nazi group membership". BBC News. 12 November 2018. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  25. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (4 December 2018). "Ukip being turned into 'anti-Islamic party' that could soon have Tommy Robinson as leader, defectors say". The Independent. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  26. ^ "YouTube cashes in on neo-Nazi's hate videos". The Sunday Times. 11 August 2019. Retrieved 12 November 2019.
  27. ^ Cohen, Nick (18 October 2009). "How the BNP's far-right journey ends up on primetime TV". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2018. Earlier this month, Radio 1's Newsbeat cutely allowed "Mark and Joey, two young guys who are members of the BNP", to imply that Chelsea and England footballer Ashley Cole was not really British. It did not reveal that "Mark" was Mark Collett, the BNP's press officer and an admirer of Nazism, and "Joey" was Joey Smith, who runs the BNP's record label.
  28. ^ Laura Spitalniak, Rep. Steve King compares backlash over white supremacy comments to Jesus' suffering, ABC News, 24 April 2019, "retweeting Mark Collett, a neo-Nazi..."
  29. ^ "The British Hand: FAR RIGHT TERROR CELL EXPOSED". Hope not Hate.