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The Rise of ‘Britain First’

By Matthew Goodwin 

FOLLOWING several turbulent years for the far-right in the UK, Britain First is probably the most significant group currently in operation.

Nick Griffin’s British National Party used to be the dominant movement but has now essentially collapsed after financial issues, disastrous election results, and political infighting.

Similarly the English Defence League, which first emerged in 2009 to oppose what it claimed was the ‘Islamification’ of British society, has also disintegrated following the imprisonment of its young leader and internal divisions.

Britain First, which focusses on opposing Islam and British Muslims, is led by former BNP member Paul Golding who in earlier years was Nick Griffin’s right-hand man.

Despite being a registered political party, they seldom contest elections. When they stood in the parliamentary by-election in Rochester and Strood, they failed to win even 60 votes.

Britain First is more significant because of its confrontational style of campaigning, which has seen the group stage ‘mosque invasions’ and provocative patrols in areas with large numbers of British citizens from ethnic minority backgrounds.

While the group remains small – with perhaps a few dozen active members – it does appear to be highly active.

There is also a risk from what is termed ‘cumulative extremism’, where opposing groups of extremists escalate community tensions as they react to each other.

There’s a danger that groups like Britain First and Islamic extremists could bounce off each other in a spiral of growing confrontation – which could end in disorder, or even violence.

One example might be the murder of solider Lee Rigby by Islamic extremists. This rapidly became a propaganda tool for the far-right.

Nonetheless, it is important not to overstate the significance of Britain’s far right, which thankfully remains far smaller and more divided than similar movements across the Channel.

Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Published inBritish PoliticsIslamophobiaPoliticsThe Far-Right & Extremism

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