Far-right politics in the United Kingdom

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 oppose non-white and Muslim 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 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.


History of British Fascism
A flowchart showing the history of the early British fascist movement

1930s to 1960s

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. It has been argued that the majority of this group were more 'Colonel Blimpish' traditionalists, rather than fascists. However, its more extreme elements wanted to make the group more political. This 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

The NF quickly grew to be the biggest British far right party in the UK. It polled 44% in a local election in Deptford, London, 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
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, the biggest gains the party has had so far. 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–)

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.

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] the UKIP was not universally considered so.[7][8] The UKIP and the EDL have benefited from a rightward shift in the electorate,[9] while former far-right parties such as the BNP and National Front have become fringe groups and wield very little media attention or power.

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 normalized by the result of the Brexit referendum.[20]

In December 2016, the neo-Nazi group National Action was proscribed as a terrorist organisation, becoming the first extreme right-wing group banned in the UK.[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, Caludia 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 which they named Adolf.[23][24]

Since 2018, under the leadership of Gerard Batten, UKIP has been 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 Tommy Robinson and his followers.[25]

See also


  1. ^ "Harold Macmillan's "Winds of Change" Speech: A Case Study in the Rhetoric of Policy Change".
  2. ^ "BNP Policies".
  3. ^ "BBC News: BNP leader cleared of race hate". 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  4. ^ "Who are the English Defence League?". 11 September 2009 – via news.bbc.co.uk.
  5. ^ "Rival protesters rally in Luton". 5 February 2011 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  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.
  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.
  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. Retrieved 2019-01-09.
  20. ^ Lacy, Rodrigo Bueno; Houtum, Henk van (2017-06-19). "The political extreme as the new normal: the cases of Brexit, the French state of emergency and Dutch Islamophobia". Fennia - International Journal of Geography. 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 2017-07-16.
  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.
Anglo-German Fellowship

The Anglo-German Fellowship was a membership organisation which existed from 1935 to 1939, and which aimed to build up friendship between the United Kingdom and Germany. It was widely perceived as being allied to Nazism. Previous groups in Britain with the same aims had been wound up when Adolf Hitler came to power.

British Empire Party

The British Empire Party was a minor right-wing party in the United Kingdom. It was founded in the early 1950s by P. J. Ridout, a former member of the Imperial Fascist League.In the 1951 general election, the party stood one candidate, Trefor David, in Ogmore, who received 1,643 votes. A former Plaid Cymru member and miner, David gained some supporters amongst local miners but saw his support reduced after a local paper revealed the fascist past of Ridout.The party gained a brief boost in 1951 when Arnold Leese told his followers to join the group, although ultimately the minor levels of support that Leese commanded made little difference.

British People's Party (1939)

The British People's Party (BPP) was a British far-right political party founded in 1939 and led by ex-British Union of Fascists (BUF) member and Labour Party Member of Parliament John Beckett.

Britons Publishing Society

Britons Publishing Society, founded in 1923, was an offshoot of The Britons. According to scholar Gisela C. Lebzelter, The Britons split because:

... internal disagreements proved paralysing. Seven members were excluded in November 1923, and three executives members, J. H. Clarke, the famous British homeopath, R. T. Cooper and W. A. Peters, seceded to establish 'The Britons Publishing Society'.

On December 15, 1923 the three executed a memorandum in which they expressed their organizational purpose as follows:

"propagating views in regard to the Jews, the Christian Religion, the Government of the British Isles and the British Empire,

and other matters which, in our opinion from time to time,

it is in the interests of the British Public should be expressed and distributed and to do anything at all which, in our opinion, equips us for this purpose.

The Society to be conducted not for the purpose of making profit"

Candour (magazine)

Candour is a British far right-wing magazine founded and edited by A. K. Chesterton until his death in 1973.

Casuals United

Casuals United also known as UK Casuals United is a far-right British protest group. The group is closely affiliated with the English Defence League. The group describes itself as "Uniting the UK's Football Tribes against the Jihadists", and as "an alliance of British Football Casuals of various colours/races who have come together in order to create a massive, but peaceful protest group to force our Government to get their act in gear."Casuals United is organised around several British football teams' supporters. A leading organiser of Casuals United is Joe Marsh of Barry, South Wales, a former member of the Soul Crew football hooligan firm. He has said: "Hooligans from rival clubs are uniting on this and it is like a ready-made army ... We are protesting against the preachers of hate who are actively encouraging young Muslims in this country to take part in a jihad against Britain."

Eddy Morrison

Eddy Morrison (born 1949) is a far-right political activist in Britain, who has been involved in a number of movements throughout his career.

Flag Group

The Flag Group was a British political party, formed from one of the two wings of the National Front in the 1980s. Formed in opposition to the Political Soldier wing of the Official National Front, it took its name from The Flag, a newspaper the followers of this faction formed after leaving and regrouping outside the main and diminishing rump of the rest of the party.

Militant Christian Patriots

The Militant Christian Patriots (MCP) were a short-lived but influential anti-Semitic organisation active in the United Kingdom immediately prior to the Second World War. It played a central role in the ultimately unsuccessful attempts to keep the UK out of any European war.

National Fascisti

The National Fascisti were a splinter group from the British Fascisti formed in 1924. In the early days of the British Fascisti the movement lacked any real policy or direction and so this group split away with the intention of pursuing a more definite path towards a fascist state.

National Independence Party (UK)

The National Independence Party was a minor far-right party that appeared in British politics during the 1970s. The party was led by John Davis, and campaigned on a platform similar to that of the much bigger National Front (NF) on anti-immigration, anti-European Economic Community, anti-communism themes.

National Socialist League

The National Socialist League was a short-lived Nazi political movement in the United Kingdom immediately before the Second World War.

Nordic League

The Nordic League was a far right organisation in the United Kingdom from 1935 to 1939 that sought to serve as a co-ordinating body for the various extremist movements whilst also seeking to promote Nazism. The League was a private organisation that did not organise any public events.

Patriotic Party (UK)

The Patriotic Party was a far right political party in the United Kingdom.

The group began life as the True Tories in 1962 when Major-General Richard Hilton, formerly a leading member of the League of Empire Loyalists, set up his own nationalistic group with a membership largely made up of former military figures. The group adopted the "Patriotic Party" name for the 1964 general election and sponsored two candidates. During the campaign the party split, with Deputy Chairman and former Liberal Party election candidate Major Arthur Braybrooke continuing the Patriotic Party and General Hilton re-establishing the True Tories. The two candidates polled only 1,108 votes between them and Braybrooke's candidacy in the 1966 general election attracted even less support.Hilton's True Tories failed to take off and he became associated with the 1960s British National Party, before the remnants of both the Patriotic Party and the True Tories were absorbed by the National Front upon its foundation in 1967.

Political Soldier

Political Soldier is a political concept associated with the Third Position. It played a leading role in Britain's National Front from the late 1970s onwards under young radicals Nick Griffin, Patrick Harrington and Derek Holland of the Official National Front. The term was used to indicate an almost fanatical devotion to the cause of nationalism, which its supporters felt was needed to bring about a revolutionary change in society.

A faction within the National Front called for the building of a fresh ethos within society and for the emergence of a new man, to be known as the Political Soldier, who would reject materialism and devote himself to the nationalist struggle with religious zeal. Basing their ideas on those of Julius Evola, an Italian philosopher who sought the creation of a new elite to combat the decadence of modern bourgeois society, Political Soldiers rejected traditional British nationalism in favour of a European outlook and a racialist equality of separate races.

Right Club

The Right Club was a small group of antisemitic and fascist sympathising renegades within the British establishment formed a few months before the Second World War by the Scottish Unionist MP Archibald Ramsay. It was focused on opposition to war with Germany up to and including by acts of treason to the point that many of its members were imprisoned for the duration of the war.

The Britons

The Britons was an English anti-Semitic and anti-immigration organisation founded in July 1919 by Henry Hamilton Beamish. The organisation published pamphlets and propaganda under the imprint names of the Judaic Publishing Co., and subsequently the Britons Publishing Society. These entities engaged primarily in disseminating anti-Semitic literature and rhetoric in the United Kingdom, and bore hallmarks of the British fascist movement. Imprints under the label of the Judaic Publishing Co. exist for the years 1920, 1921, and 1922.

White Defence League

The White Defence League was a British far-right political group. Using the provocative marching techniques popularised by Oswald Mosley, its members included a young John Tyndall.

White Nationalist Party

The White Nationalist Party (WNP) was a neo-fascist British political party, founded in May 2002 as "the British political wing of Aryan Unity".

Far-right politics in the United Kingdom
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