“One of the most challenging and in-depth studies of the BNP”
Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, the Rt Hon Baroness Warsi
David Cameron was right to highlight public anxiety about immigration, says a leading expert on the far right, but insists it’s not all about jobs and houses.
Dr Matt Goodwin, author of a new book on the BNP - The New British Fascism: Rise of the BNP - says the Prime Minister’s unveiling of plans to manage the issue ignored one of the most powerful drivers of support for parties like the BNP: a perception that immigration and rising diversity is threatening British culture, values and ways of life.
Cabinet colleague Vince Cable hit out at Cameron after his comments, saying the Prime Minister had risked inflaming extremism. This debate has taken place alongside the election of a BNP Mayor in Padiham, the arrest of a BNP candidate after burning a copy of the Koran, and as the party prepares to stand over 200 candidates at the forthcoming local elections.
“On the one hand Cameron’s right,” says Dr Goodwin. “Of course there are economic concerns about immigration, and that is an issue for far right wing voters. But there is a more substantial cornerstone for the extremists and the PM missed it; Britons who vote for far right parties or join them are also driven strongly by a sense that their wider group and community is facing a serious threat.
“Unless the government addresses that directly, it’s missing the point.”
Dr Goodwin’s book The New British Fascism: Rise of the BNP is the first of its kind to really get into the mindset of the far right and its most dedicated followers.
For the book, published by Routledge Politics on 5 May, Dr Goodwin had unprecedented access to the BNP leadership and its members to fully understand the party and the reasons why people turn to it.
“There are an abundance of studies on the far right, looking at its voters, individual political parties and comparative studies,” says Dr Goodwin. “Alongside that there’s been a very high profile contentious public debate over why these parties are recruiting record levels of support and what threat, if any, they pose to western liberal democracy?
“What there hasn’t been however are studies that get inside these parties, talk to their most committed followers and understand what drives their political behaviour.”
The book looks at who is supporting the far right and why. It shows how supporters are driven by a ‘potent combination’ of deep hostility toward immigration, and profound dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties. It also reveals how many feel they are fighting not simply for votes in elections, but for their racial survival.
In response to the book, the Rt Hon David Blunkett MP said, "It is easy to dismiss such extreme views as an irrelevance in British politics...it is all too easy for fringe views to emerge in the mainstream. That is why this in-depth study is worthy of examination."
Crucially, the book looks at the rise of the BNP through the eyes of its most committed supporters, without which it’s impossible to properly understand and deal with the BNP and other extreme right parties.
“What this book gives readers,” adds Dr Goodwin, “is a far more nuanced, rich story about how and why the BNP has risen at this moment in British politics, what types of supporters it attracts, how it has sought to sell itself to ordinary citizens, and how it is working to sustain this support over time.”
The New British Fascism: Rise of the BNP is out on 5 May 2011 at all good booksellers.
For more informationon the book visit the Rise of the BNP Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rise-of-the-BNP-Book/115847508492926
And Routledge Politics website http://www.routledge.com/politics/
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