New research on the rise of far-right parties across Europe will be launched today at an international conference organised by Britain’s leading centre-left think tank, Policy Network.
The research paper, authored by Professor Monserrat Guibernau of Queen Mary University, condemns mainstream parties for taking the wrong approach to a new form of right-wing radicalism and says they have failed to address the deep social malaise affecting Europe.
Commenting on the paper, Policy Network’s Elena Jurado said:
“This research shows that Britain’s political elites cannot afford to be complacent about the encroachment of the BNP and their rhetoric of hatred into mainstream politics.”
“Although the BNP is a much weaker party than its continental counterparts and has not yet succeeded in “modernising” its image, all three major parties need to rapidly reach a consensus on how to neutralise the threat of right-wing extremism.”
“That consensus must take seriously the concerns of disenfranchised voters on bread and butter issues like housing, decent public services and their role in the job market. But it must categorically condemn the racist and xenophobic overtones that the BNP and their like exploit to fan the flames of hatred and discontent.”
The paper finds that:
* New right-wing radicalism has built its success on criticism of the current democratic status quo; protest against elites; and the preservation of national cultural integrity.
* The rise of right-wing radicalism cannot solely be explained by short-term economic insecurity as the new radical right have widespread following in more affluent European countries like Denmark and Switzerland and have high levels of support across Europe among middle and lower classes and the self-employed.
* Mainstream parties have failed to stop the rise of the new radical right because they have underestimated the appeal of their message and have dismissed them as fanatics on the fringe of politics.
The paper calls on all mainstream parties across Europe to:
1 . Implement democratic reform to reassert public trust in politics. The new radical right has exploited a growing alienation from politics and increasing mistrust in the political process. Mainstream parties should restore voters’ confidence in politics by improving efficient government, reducing bureaucracy, increasing transparency and enhancing trust between politicians and the citizens they represent.
2. Openly adopt a fair and balanced approach to migration. Anti-immigrant and pro-nationalist discourse is a strong theme across all radical right-wing parties in Europe. Mainstream parties should voice the importance of controlling immigration flows, while formulating immigration policies based clearly on respect for human rights and a balance between rights and duties. Social cohesion should be actively fostered though education and media campaigns, particularly in areas where the concentration of immigrants is high.
3. Smarten up social policies. Rapid change brought about by globalisation and high levels of immigration has alienated large sections of the population. Particular attention should be devoted to the white working class and lower middle class citizens who often feel threatened and unable to compete with cheap foreign labour. This should involve tightened labour legislation to avoid exploitation of citizens and immigrants alike; and a modern welfare state, capable of meeting the needs of the most vulnerable while ensuring access to professional and university education according to ability, not social class.