First published: July 1997 The doubling of the vote for fascist candidates in the general election should set the alarm bells ringing about the risk of a rise of racism and fascist activity under a right wing Labour government. While the extreme right, concentrated mainly in the BNP, remains a tiny political force, such an advance – in a general election characterised by a massive swing to Labour – should not be taken lightly. A right wing Labour government which presides over the further dismantling of the welfare state, drives down wages and attacks the most vulnerable in society will create exactly the conditions which led to the breakthrough into mass politics of fascist and far right currents in France, Italy, Austria and elsewhere in Europe.The BNP’s election manifesto explained it was making ‘its strongest ever challenge, fighting seats in almost every part of Britain’. Eighty-three extreme right candidates stood in the election, fifty-four of them from the BNP. The average 50 per cent rise in the vote masks a much greater rise in a few specific pockets. It also has to be taken together with the rise in the number of candidates, up from 29 in 1992. Therefore, while in this year’s election the 83 extreme right candidates secured an average 1.4 per cent of the vote compared with 0.9 per cent in 1992, candidates in East London consolidated a base of fascist support, and in parts of the West Midlands and West Yorkshire won substantial numbers of votes.
First published: Summer 1991
A potential change of government from one party to another is a fairly routine matter in British politics. But what underlies the decline of the present Tory government, and the evident inability of the Labour Party to present any convincing alternative, is something more fundamental. Britain is approaching one of those great turning points in political history which have so far occurred roughly only once a century, which imply a shift in the entire party political system, that is in the form of bourgeois political hegemony.
Since the English bourgeois revolution of 1642–49 there have been only four crises of equivalent scale – 1688 with the ‘Glorious Revolution’, 1783 with the turning point after the American War of Independence, 1832 and the passing of the first Reform Act, and 1886 with the fatal split in the Liberal Party over Irish Home rule. In order to grasp the scale and nature of what is unfolding in British politics today it is therefore valuable to step back from immediate issues and consider the general course of British political history.
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