The political breakthrough of the BNP: The case of Burnley

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Abstract

The ascent to power of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 was widely seen as sounding a death-knell for far-right extremism in Britain. As far-right parties began to make significant gains across Western and Northern Europe during the 1980s and 1990s, Britain became something of an anomaly, with the British National Party (BNP) remaining a marginal political actor. However, since 1999 the party has undergone a rapid process of 'modernisation', leading to unprecedented levels of electoral success. Although much of the support for the BNP has been concentrated within particular areas such as Barking and Dagenham, Stoke-on-Trent and Epping Forest, academic research has instead focused on broader political developments. The paper aims to address this. Using qualitative interviews with BNP voters and ex-candidates, as well as archival research, the paper will trace the emergence of the BNP in Burnley. A number of key factors that enabled the party to breakthrough will be outlined: a growing sense of political disaffection towards Labour; the weakness of the other mainstream political parties in Burnley; the politicisation of 'race' by the Independents and the BNP; and finally, the actions of the BNP itself. © 2009 Palgrave Macmillan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-46
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Politics
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2009

Keywords

  • British National Party
  • Burnley
  • Far-right breakthrough
  • Legitimacy
  • Local politics
  • Racism

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