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There is new research out by Dr Matthew Goodwin based on the leaked BNP membership list. Published in the journal Party Politics, it looks at the areas in England that contain larger clusters of BNP members.
To summarise some of its key findings (and heavily paraphrasing a summary by Matthew himself):
  • The local authorities that contain the highest number of members include Pendle, Burnley, Melton, Charnwood and Barnsley.
  • Key regional areas of ‘membership strength’ are Yorkshire, and the Midlands
  • Far right members tend to concentrate most heavily in areas that are urban, characterised by economic insecurity and where average education levels are low. Far right membership is particularly likely in areas where there are large numbers of residents employed in the manufacturing sector. For every one unit increase in wards of those who are employed in manufacturing, there is a 43% increase in membership (while controlling for other social and economic conditions). The results also suggest that long-term unemployment is not a key driver of far right membership, but rather it is citizens who are employed and in financial precarious positions that are the most susceptible to join far right groups
  • In terms of ethnic diversity, the findings confirm those of earlier studies: membership is correlated with the presence of large Muslim communities in the local area. This is consistent with findings on far right voting, and suggests that perceived threats from culturally distinct and economically deprived Muslim communities is an important factor to explaining support for the far right. However – and also consistent with work on far right voting – it finds that the presence of non-Muslim Asians has no significant impact on membership while membership is lower in areas where there are large numbers of Black British citizens. At broad level, this is further evidence that anti-Muslim prejudice has become a key driver of support for the far right, and that simply describing these groups as ‘anti-immigrant’ glosses a more nuanced picture.
  • Membership is significantly higher in local authorities where the BNP succeeded in winning a council seat, and has established local branches since 2000. While the BNP is now in decline, this suggests that where the far right is active and establishes a local presence its recruitment efforts are more successful
  • There is evidence of a ‘legacy effect’ – membership of the contemporary far right is significantly higher (17% higher) in local authorities where the old National Front (NF) was active in the 1970s, and while holding other social, economic and political factors constant. This would suggest that the modern far right has continued to draw on older networks of supporters within specific areas of the country, and that specific local areas in England are providing a context that is more favourable than others toward anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim campaigns. It might also suggest that areas where the far right is currently most active (for example the EDL), are likely to provide favourable conditions for the far right over coming decades.
This is a great piece of research and essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the far right in England.
Matthew also wrote a piece for ISD on the rise of the far right in Europe a few months ago, which can be downloaded from our website.
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