The Brexit Party comfortably won the European Elections in May, setting off a huge political earthquake. They have dropped off the news agenda since the elevation of Boris Johnson to Prime Minister, but the Brexit Party surge in the polls shows no sign of being a flash in the pan. Their role could be significant in a looming General Election, and it is possible that the party could have MPs in the next parliament.
But who are the Brexit party, and how worried should we be?
The threat from this party is very real. Nigel Farage is dangerous, and has used racism and Islamophobia to stir up division.
Farage’s far-right connections across Europe and the United States are absolutely toxic. He has cosied up to extreme figures across the world. Nigel Farage has more in common with Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin than with the common sense values of British people.
While Farage is, by far, the most high profile figure in the Brexit Party, he is backed by a party that is rife with bad actors.
The party’s first leader, Catherine Blaiklock resigned abruptly after being exposed by HOPE not hate as having an extensive history of social media racism and had frequently retweeted neo-Nazi content. The party’s Treasurer was sacked after being exposed over antisemitism social media posts. A Brexit Party campaign coordinator was sacked after a newspaper highlighted his previous BNP membership.
These people are not isolated cases:
Even after attacking UKIP for being taken over by the far right, Nigel Farage said that “there is no difference” between UKIP and the Brexit Party. Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party want to present a mainstream image but time and time again, people with extreme views have found their political home in this movement.
The threat of the Brexit party is partly electoral: they played a major role in the Peterborough byelection, and are likely to be a major factor in a looming General Election. We can expect that most, if not all of their candidates will hold rightwing populist views, at best. Needless to say, the presence of these people in the next Parliament poses a serious threat to our vision of a hopeful, tolerant country.
But the threat is not only electoral. By becoming a serious electoral threat, the Brexit Party is already moving the political debate. We need to provide our own pushback against their politics of division, and to help shape the pushback of other progressive forces. HOPE not hate and its supporters will play our part in that pushback.