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Big two parties blamed for rise of far-right

08 Mar 2010

A new book has shown how dissatisfaction with the Labour Party and the absence of credible Tory campaigning has contributed to rising numbers of BNP strongholds.

Dr Matt Goodwin, from The University of Manchester, said 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.

The research forms part of a chapter in ‘The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain’ published by Routledge  and edited by Dr Goodwin and The University of Bath's Professor Roger Eatwell.

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 they had been canvassed personally by a representative of the far-right party.

Though similar campaigning activity was reported by the Labour Party, 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 per cent 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 councilors, second to Labour’s 33,” said Dr Goodwin.

“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.

Dr Goodwin is based at the University of Manchester’s Institute for Political and Economic Governance.

He said: “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.

“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.

Notes for editors

The New Extremism in 21st Century Britain is edited by Professor Roger Eatwell and Dr Matthew Goodwin. It is published by Routledge.

The book, published this month, provides the most detailed ever analysis of the far-right in the UK.

It assesses the current level of support for Islamism and right-wing extremism,  and asks why, despite recent gains, has the far-right achieved only limited success in the UK.

It also assesses the potential role of political actors, media and civil society to responding to the extremist challenge.

Chapter nine: Who votes extreme right in twenty-first-century Britain? the social bases of support for the National Front and British National Party  was written by Dr Matthew Goodwin, Dr Robert Ford from The University of Manchester , and Bobby Duffy and Rea Robey from Ipsos MORI.

The team analysed data from 2002 to 2006. Out of 190,882 people aged over 15, 1,001 respondents stated they had voted BNP or Modern NF, 0.5 per cent of the total.

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The University of Manchester
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