The traditional far right is organisationally at its weakest for decades, but its rhetoric and ideas are now increasingly found in the political mainstream.
Both main political parties are struggling to deal with racism and prejudice within their own ranks.
Traditional far-right parties have struggled to maintain a clear identity and purpose at a time when Brexit and notions of British sovereignty have consumed our political and cultural discourse.
The Brexit Party is increasingly irrelevant since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.
We continue to face a far-right terrorism threat, involving younger and more dangerous individuals.
Sexual violence and misogyny is becoming more prevalent on the far right, especially among younger extremists.
Far-right activists are enthusiastic and extreme participants in the culture war.
There are now more ideological routes into the far right than ever before. The far right is increasingly being driven by personalities and peer-to-peer online engagement, rather than organisations and ideology.
The Government’s counter-extremism strategy is outdated and needs an urgent overhaul.
HOPE not hate is calling for the Nazi-Satanist group, the Order of Nine Angles, to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation.
DWINDLING TRADITIONAL FAR RIGHT
The traditional British far right is at its weakest since the late 1960s: in part because of the long-term diminishing importance of race and immigration amongst Britons, and the changing relationship between people and organisations in the digital world, but also because it has found it difficult to be heard at a time when Brexit has dominated the political and cultural discourse.
The far right has moved from being built around organisations to being built around people, and this has been amplified by our digital age. Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage are examples of a new generation of far-right personalities.
Despite being on the decline, traditional groups and parties can emerge as quickly as they decline. The success of the Brexit Party demonstrates that in the right circumstances, and with a charismatic leader, people will join organisations.
THE MAINSTREAMING OF HATE
The boundaries between the far right and the mainstream right have become increasingly blurred, with mainstream politicians and commentators using language and rhetoric which was once found only on the far right. This is partly the consequence of the far right engaging in wider cultural and identity issues, but also because centre right politicians have tried to embrace far right narratives to win support.
Far-right ideas and concepts increasingly intertwine with mainstream debate, while notions of equality have become increasingly used by the far right to foment anti-Muslim sentiment.
The far right now encompasses a much wider group of political currents (such as the alt-right, incels and conspiracy theorists) than previously, which means the paths into it are more numerous and less obvious than before.
The new fronts for the far right are a culture war and arguments over identity, rather than a more explicit and overtly fascist worldview. As a result, we are now fighting the far right on many more fronts than in the past.
The social cost of far-right activism has disappeared or is avoidable.
THE IMPACT OF BREXIT
Brexit has both marginalised the far right but also contributed to the mainstreaming of some far- right notions around immigration and identity. With Brexit dominating the political and cultural debate, the traditional far right (obsessed with race and immigration) has found it hard to find space in which to operate. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s ability to deliver Brexit made the populist-right Brexit Party irrelevant.
Many of those who would have gravitated to the far right in the past supported Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party in the 2019 General Election. Past and present far-right leaders even attended Brexit Day celebrations in Parliament Square.
Many BAME citizens believe Brexit has increased division and racism in society. A poll of 1,000 BAME Britons conducted by HOPE not hate in August 2019 found 70% of those of Pakistani heritage (the vast majority identifying as Muslim) think that the state of race relations in Britain has deteriorated over the last five years, with three-quarters saying they had witnessed or experienced racism on social media. A third (34%) say they have witnessed or experienced violence or threats of violence.
FAR RIGHT TERRORISM
We continue to face a growing threat from far-right terrorism, with those involved becoming younger and more dangerous. During 2019, 12 Britons were convicted of terrorist offences and the police say that seven of the 22 plots they have foiled since March 2017 have been inspired by the far right. A further 10 far-right activists are currently awaiting trial on terror-related offences.
The latest Home Office figures show the number of white people arrested for terrorist activity was 118, compared with 92 for those with an Asian ethnic appearance. For the first time, the number of people referred to a counter-radicalisation programme over suspected far-right extremism in the year to December is at the same level as Islamist extremists.
Internationally, the terrorist wing of the far right now increasingly identifies as a community and it has become commonplace for far-right terrorists to integrate a form of social media ‘strategy’ into their attacks.
While police action has disrupted and closed many of the most violent far-right organisations, there remain dozens of activists under 25-years-old who are operating as independent actors online.
Far-right activists are increasingly adept at using online platforms to promote terrorism and extreme sexual violence. They are also adept at moving between platforms to avoid detection and disruption.
Britain continues to be home to many of the world’s most high-profile, far-right activists online, but action by social media companies has significantly reduced their audiences and ability to earn money from their actions.
The rise of the internet and proliferation of social media platforms has changed how individuals interact with politics and political parties. Behaviour is much more transactional and fluid, but also less loyal.
While deplatforming has been highly effective in inhibiting the power and growth of the far right, there has to remain a balance with freedom of speech to prevent a negative reaction from the British public.
Antisemitism has been increasingly adopted by supposedly non-political YouTube stars, like Pewdiepie, for ‘shock value’.
THE CULTURAL WAR
The far right are enthusiastic and extreme participants in the culture war and have successfully sought to portray themselves as victims of political correctness, the liberal establishment and gender equality.
The so-called ‘manosphere’ has snowballed into an ideology that has taken on a life beyond an online niche. Though its organised elements and online communities are still a fringe issue, they tap into broader reactionary attitudes towards women, feminism and progressive politics.
Once considered the preserve of eccentric cranks and misfits, conspiracy theorists and the ideas they peddle are an increasingly important method of indoctrination and extremist radicalisation. Conspiracy theories provide a framework that can easily be exploited by people with an extreme agenda. The use of conspiracy theories is increasingly a tool to attack minority groups.
British conspiracy theorists like David Icke, Paul Joseph Watson and Richie Allen engage with hundreds of thousands of people. They also become gateways to extremism and more extremist views.
The Keep Talking group brings together far-left activists with Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The Government’s counter-extremism strategy is now outdated and needs an urgent overhaul. The far right is very different from the one identified in the 2015 counter-extremism strategy.
The authorities are not equipped to engage with the far right as an ideological battle, nor to connect offline far-right crimes with the online networks and propaganda influencing them.
The authorities have also been too slow to understand how anti-Muslim rhetoric has replaced race and immigration as one of the key drivers of the far right, and the inter-relationship between mainstream anti-Muslim prejudice and incidents of hate.
While the police have successfully disrupted several far-right terrorist networks, they have consistently appeared to be slow at understanding the threats. More specifically, the authorities have been slow to appreciate the threat from groups like the Order of Nine Angles, which has actively encouraged terrorism for years.
While the organised far right is very weak, many of its ideas are now in the political mainstream. At the same time, the threat we are facing – from far-right ideas, ideology and influence – has never been more diverse.
Bu t just as the far right has declined over the last year, so too it could just as easily re-emerge.
Disillusionment with the Boris Johnson government, a frustration over Brexit not delivering as expected, or even other issues becoming more important as Brexit wanes, could all have a galvanising effect on the British far right.
We also expect a continuing growth in far-right terrorism.