Young Britons increasingly lured by far-right, says report

The rise in support is among white British men from low income households, according to campaign group HOPE not hate

People hold the Union Flag whilst attending a Britain First rally as deputy leader Jayda Fransen (L) looks on, in Rochester, Britain November 15, 2014. Picture taken November 15, 2014.   REUTERS/Kevin Coombs
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Rising numbers of Britain's young people are joining or are sympathetic to far-right groups in the UK with a sizeable minority likely to believe anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, research by the HOPE not hate campaign group has found.

A survey of more than 2,000 people aged between 16 and 24 in the UK found that nine per cent voiced a positive opinion of far-right activists.

They are typically more likely to spend longer on YouTube than other platforms, often support political violence and are overwhelmingly white British men from low income households who are less educated but more likely to have some form of employment.

Of the 9 per cent, 37 per cent believed the official account of the Holocaust to be a lie compared to 34 per cent who reject this notion. Just under half have also engaged with online content from prominent right-wing activists like Tommy Robinson or Paul Joseph Watson.

Nick Lowles of HOPE not hate said far-right activism had changed in the last decade, with the fall of the British National Party ending hopes of a parliamentary route for fascism.

“One of the most worrying developments on the British far right in recent years has been the large increase in young people getting involved, especially in some of the most violent and terroristic organisations,” he said.

Mr Lowles said the more confrontational approach favoured by groups such as the English Defence League was more appealing to young people.

“While of course the numbers of young people getting attracted to far right terrorism is still small, there has certainly been a sharp increase in recent years,” said Mr Lowles.

“This most likely reflects an upsurge in interest in far right extremism among a small, but no longer insignificant proportion of young people,” he added.

Far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, who goes by the name Tommy Robinson, speaks outside the Houses of Parliament at a pro-Brexit demonstration in London, Britain March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Far-right activist Tommy Robinson has gained a wealth of supporters. Reuters

A large proportion of all those polled – not just far-right sympathisers – believe violence can be necessary to defend something they strongly believe in extreme circumstances, with 39 per cent agreeing and 34 per cent disagreeing.

Larissa Kennedy, president of the UK’s National Union of Students, said she thought it was important to recognise that society and institutions had been built on racism.

“The fact this report shows that young people are accessing extreme content online, think political violence is acceptable and are more likely to believe conspiracy theory rooted in racism, anti-immigration rhetoric, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia should act as a wake-up call,” she added.