Britain First is now the most popular political party on Facebook, with more than 1.2 Million likes. The Conservatives hold second place with just over 545,000. And with what seems like more people talking about Britain First on the social media sites, than the Conservatives, UKIP, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats combined, they are effectively leading Britain’s far-right politics. But could the rise in popularity for this borderline theatrical group reflect deeper social discontent within British society?
Britain First isn’t shy about its aims: it wants to put the British people ‘first’. ‘First’ in this sense means stopping Muslims from toppling the British government and creating a Caliphate reminiscent of Moorish Iberia…. over 500 years ago. Sounds crazy? Well now they have gone ahead and released their latest controversial video of their ‘Christian patrol’, which involved them marching through the ‘besieged’ streets of Luton with crosses reminding the local Muslim community that this is in fact not their country. They do seem to uncover some pretty unsavoury individuals within the Muslim community, but that isn’t a defence at all. Britain First are incredibly popular on social media and the comment section on all their posts are teeming with support for their cause.
It is very easy to disregard both Britain First and their supporters and look down on them. But we shouldn’t; we should try to understand them. This in itself seems like a big ask. A quick look through their posts and you quickly come across a jumble sale of anti-Islamic propaganda, rabid patriotism, questionable articles on US politics and even a weather warning. But if you put aside their outlandish prophetic warnings and you watch their videos, you quickly see that they are in fact just everyday people. They’re working class men and women who you would see on the street every day, who you would bump into in the supermarket, and who you would have drunken conversations with down the pub. They are the sort of people who worry about paying bills and feel it when the price of petrol goes up or the price of bread. In a country run by career politicians who have safely navigated life under Mummy and Daddy’s wings it is no surprise Britain First is growing in popularity.
A poll by Ipsos MORI, published in the beginning of 2015 showed that politicians were the least trusted of all given professions, with only 16% of Britons saying they trusted what politicians say. Furthermore a similar survey by Ipsos MORI revealed that only 49% of MPs believe they can trust what another politician says. And to top it all off Lord Bew, Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, in an article with The Telegraph following the Lord Sewel scandal, doesn’t believe that politicians will ever regain the public’s trust.
In this light it becomes increasingly obvious that one of the greatest reasons why many of the British public are turning towards Britain First is because the alternative is turning towards upper class politicians who are simply out of touch with the realities of life in modern day Britain. A throwback to David Cameron’s supermarket bread fiasco will suffice as an example of a politician’s loose grip on reality. The reason people are embracing the propaganda spewing Britain First is because politicians have failed to alleviate the stress on the everyday member of the public to simply get by.
Nearly every ‘issue’ championed by Britain First can be traced back to socio-economics. From immigrants ‘pouring’ in and ‘stealing’ all our jobs and benefits, to Islam taking over Britain. The government’s failure to support the people and improve their standard of living has allowed extremist groups like Britain First to scapegoat the ‘other’ and channel the public’s anger towards them. This is a consistent phenomenon throughout history during times of economic hardship; the blame is fixed on the outsiders. You only have to listen to the things being said in Britain First’s videos on their Facebook page to see how superficial their arguments against Islam are. They tap into resentment amongst the British public towards their own conditions and portray them as a result of an Islamic plot, seemingly under way, to seize control of the country and create a Caliphate. They portray extreme instances of Islamic fundamentalism and treat them as if they were the rule and not the exception. Their rhetoric, coupled with their abrasive confrontations with members of the Islamic community, not only seemingly provide the public with an explanation for their hardships but also portray Britain First as actually doing something to help. Compared to the politicians in Westminster who consistently break promises, avoid taking affirmative action and who fail to improve the day to day lives of the British public, it is no surprise that over a million people have given support to far more relatable men and women, providing ‘answers’ and taking action.
In short, Britain First’s popularity reflects the deep scars in British society. They seemingly speak for the voiceless, the everyday men and women who suffer due to the incompetence of successive British governments. I do not believe that all those who support Britain First are naturally inclined to believe what the group is telling them. Rather that, having been seemingly ignored by mainstream politicians, they are naturally attracted to a group of men and women like them who are supposedly ‘fighting back’ against what they’ve portrayed as the real problem in society. And with the government’s recent scrapping of maintenance grants, we could easily be looking at the creation of a future generation left behind by the government, perfectly susceptible to far-right groups like Britain First.