In recent years, an insidious trend has begun to return to British politics – the emergence of an organising and unifying British far-right. The Football Lads Alliance (FLA) has emerged as a unified protest group for the far-right, growing from several football supporter’s groups that oppose the perceived extremism of Islam and Islamification of the United Kingdom. The group has pulled in significant support, with Tommy Robinson a vocal supporter, and prominent members of political parties, such as Geert Wilders of the Dutch Party for Freedom and UKIP leader Gerard Batten, speaking at rallies and events.
The group is not organised as a modern political party, but rather as a protest group of significant size. A brief examination of their website sees the immediate statement that the group does not accept any form of terrorism and holds a commitment to “Being inclusive and acceptable to all colours, creeds, faiths and religions”. Their actions and their evident platform suggest otherwise.
Their platform revolves primarily around a ‘fight’ against the perceived victimisation of the British people (who, it should be noted, are almost exclusively white in the eyes of this group) by Islam and communism; Luke Bailey of I news, who attended a FLA and Far right rally, noted the repeated links made by key speaker Anne-Marie Walters to a conspiracy of Islam and global Communism to “criminalise you [the British people]”. The FLA point to stories of migrant crime and the growth of extremist Islamic groups, many of which are exaggerated or simply false, as justification for the growing fight against radical Islam, which they themselves use as the justification for racially motivated attacks and criticism of all those of the Islamic Faith. Similarly, the group significantly opposes the current incarceration of Tommy Robinson, describing it as an attack on free speech. Robinson, currently incarcerated on a thirteen-month sentence for parole violations and contempt of court, remains an affiliate of the FLA and an apparent ‘martyr’ of the Far-right.
The somewhat ridiculous nature of their platform, however, is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is their organisation and growth. On Change.org alone, there are several petitions to the government to free Robinson, varying in support from several thousand signatories to over 600,000.
A recent march in London drew an estimated 15,000 supporters, seeing violence and aggression towards police and only a few hundred counter-protestors. Their rhetoric on social media, which paints the ‘working man’ as the victim of multiculturalism, Europe and the malevolence of elites finds significant success in drawing support from those who feel left behind by neoliberalism and multi-culturalism, with support for the movement growing daily. In no uncertain terms, what we are witnessing is the rise of an organised and extreme political movement; one that espouses rhetoric of victimhood, racism and violence.
Regardless of your opinion of the state of British politics today, the rise of an organised far-right poses a significant threat to the peaceful democratic processes and social cohesion that has been constructed for decades in this country. Yet the government seems not only sceptical of response but passive in allowing the growth of this movement. The Conservative party, though occasionally commenting from their PR wing about the issue, hides behind the issue of Brexit to shed their responsibility to this serious issue. It is thus the job of the opposition and the left to respond to, and to stop, this growth of racism and nationalism that is continuing to grow in this country. Already, the Labour party, as well as grassroots organisations including Stand up to Racism, have begun to address and fight back against the growth of the far right. Senior figures in the Labour party, including John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, have called for parliamentary debate on the growth of the FLA and the far-right, whilst Stand up to Racism have been instrumental in counter-protesting the demonstrations of the Far-right.
But to truly address this, more support is needed. The Left must continue to raise the issue of the growth of the far right to the national rhetoric, else create the possibility that the growth of such an insidious and organised movement goes unnoticed. Counter-demonstrations, such as the one organised against the planned 14th July march to free Tommy Robinson, not only show the far right that there is organised opposition to their movement, but helps to highlight that the people are opposed to such racist and nationalist political sentiments. Make no mistake – the growth of the Far-right is an issue that must be taken seriously. The FLA represents the most serious attempt at an organised far-right movement in Britain since the disintegration of the BNP, with an unprecedented 15,000 people in attendance for the march held on June 9th. If the government is too busy hiding from responsibility under the guise of Brexit negotiations, a theme that continues to recur since the referendum, then it is the job of the Left and the opposition to respond, undermine and challenge the growth of the FLA and the Far-right movement. Such sentiments have no place in the 21st century, our country or indeed modern politics itself; it is our job to fight them.