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by Kirsteen Paterson
09 March 2022
Political distrust and pandemic create 'fertile ground for growth of the far-right'

Political distrust and pandemic create 'fertile ground for growth of the far-right'

HOPE Not Hate report raises concerns about disinformation and young people

The pandemic has created “fertile ground for the growth of right wing ideas” which have an “increasing influence” on mainstream political and media narratives, a new report claims.

In a wide-ranging paper, campaign group HOPE not Hate says this is set to continue as far-right activists stand in elections and seek to exploit the uncertainties caused by economic hardship amidst the cost of living squeeze.

There was a rise in banner drops, leafleting, demonstrations and other offline activities by far-right groups in the UK in 2021, the report found, with much of this linked to the “conspiracy-driven” anti-lockdown and ant-vaccine movement, it is claimed.

The use of social media to circulate this material means growing numbers of young people are being exposed and attracted to far-right ideas, the report says, with fitness and wellness being used to frame the activities as part of self-improvement.

Based on polling representative of the UK population, the report found declining trust in the political system, with almost three-quarters stating that politicians do not listen to them and just one third of respondents agreeing that the political system “works well”. That level has fallen by 11 per cent since July 2021 and the report’s authors say declining trust has allowed “anti-democratic, authoritarian and extreme right-wing ideas to grow”. Fewer than 60 per cent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with the way democracy works in the UK.

Partygate, feelings of betrayal related to unfulfilled Brexit expectations and resistance to Covid-19 restrictions are all cited as contributory factors.

At 57 per cent, honesty was the most sought-after quality for politicians, according to the research, but one quarter of those aged 18-24 said “they did not care if politicians are corrupt so long as they get the job done”.

Additionally, more than a quarter of all respondents (26 per cent), indicated support for a system in which a strong leader could make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts.

More than 1,000 people were surveyed by Focaldata.

Nick Lowles, CEO of the anti-racist and anti-fascist charity, said: “What we’re looking at is a country that has moved on from Brexit, which marginalised the British far right, and the fallout from an erosion of political trust. Growing opposition towards lockdowns and vaccine hesitancy, the Partygate scandal and a looming cost of living crisis have led to a loss of confidence in our leaders. This has all created fertile ground for far-right activists to exploit people’s fears and twist narratives to suit its hateful ideology.”

He added: “We are particularly worried about the growing numbers of young people being attracted to far-right politics and dangerous conspiracy theories. This trend has been happening for several years, but it has been accelerated by Covid-19 conspiracies and the increasingly aggressive anti-lockdown movement.”

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