Are we seeing the rise of the far-right in Britain?

Are we seeing a resurgence of far-right extremism in Britain? According to one of the Home Office’s most senior advisers, the rise of ISIS and the fallout from Rotherham is fuelling a backlash.

On the promise of anonymity (to protect his personal safety), the adviser, who is part of the Home Office’s Prevent strategy, told Radio 4:

“This is one of the most worrying periods in right-wing extremism, given the growth in right-wing groups and the recent news events which are making them more angry.”

“A lot of the emphasis is put on the global jihadist agenda, which is fine, and it needs to be, but I really feel that this agenda, the repercussions of some of that in terms of the far-right can’t be ignored.”

The internet is a breeding ground for various extreme ideologies. According to the latest Europol report, it is the far-right’s preferred communication tool for reaching their target audience (teenagers and adolescents).

Social media helps pacify and increase the attractiveness of far-right messages, whilst in turn, mobilising online sympathisers and distributing propaganda instantaneously. Groups like Britain First regularly use Facebook to spread various anti-Muslim and anti-migrant memes.

Twitter and Facebook are slowly clamping down on far-right content. Yet, a consequence of censorship means individuals are switching to the Russian-based social media site VK. The use of smaller social media platforms means extreme rhetoric faces little censor.

On a street-based level, anti-Muslim bigotry bucks the trend of hate crime reporting.

In terms of terrorism, Pavlo Lapshyn, a self-radicalised neo-Nazi, attempted to bomb various mosques in the West Midlands and murdered Mohammed Saleem. Ian Forman was jailed after plotting to bomb two Merseyside mosques after the murder of Lee Rigby.

In August alone, Tell Mama recorded 219 examples of anti-Muslim abuse in England, the same month as James Foley’s execution at the hands of ISIS. But the data is only a microcosm of abuse as many incidents go unreported.

So how do we deal with the far-right? Nick Lowles, from Hope not Hate, downplayed the threat of the extreme right in the UK.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) suggested “a range of tactics,” including the European model of Exit programmes. In Germany, ISD noted that over 500 individuals helped disengage and leave the far-right, at success rate of 97 per cent. In the same report, the think tank argued:

“The importance of Exit programmes should not be understated, as it is an important step in preventing violence, and thereby victimhood. Exit programmes can offer numerous social benefits and a positive impact on wider counter-extremism effort.”

Yet, the Exit strategy is not without critics. A separate report published by the Institute of Race Relations, was critical of the accountability gap and methods used, which focused upon ‘individual grievances and not racist ideologies’.

Liz Fekete, who authored the IRR report, stated, “I hope that this report will act as a wake-up call to all those hitherto seduced by the Exit brand that the total lack of transparency and accountability within Exit is not only unacceptable but potentially dangerous.”

The main motivator for the far-right across Europe is xenophobia – migrants and Romani communities are often victims of street violence and bigotry. Various ‘Defence League’ branches exist across Europe and as the groups maintain international links.

In several EU member states, anti-Semitism remains the ideological basis for right wing extremism, which largely exists online, but occasionally results in violence and vandalism.

Yannis Behrakis argued that the future of Europe depends upon countries accepting Jews and Muslims as citizens. Pew noted varying degrees of hostility to both faiths in general European populations.

But in the context of the UK, the government maintains that the threat of the far-right is taken seriously, as the Prevent strategy “tackles all forms of extremism, including from the far right”.

The recent jailing of Ryan McGee raises questions about the role online radicalisation within the far-right – a topic not so readily discussed.