x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Immigration survey shows support for UK’s far right

In the survey commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust, almost two-thirds of white Britons said they believed that had been bad for the UK and 48 per cent say they would consider supporting a new far right-wing party, if it shunned violence.

LONDON // A disturbing picture of Britons' antipathy towards immigration in general, and Muslims in particular, is highlighted in a major study published on Monday.

In one of the largest surveys ever undertaken into attitudes towards immigration, almost two-thirds of white Britons said they believed that had been bad for the UK.

Fourty-eight per cent say they would consider supporting a new far right-wing party, if it shunned violence and "fascist imagery".

But, perversely, the ethnic group most in favour of banning all immigration immediately, at least until the economic climate in the UK improves, is not made up of whites, but of Britons of Asian origin.

Jon Cruddas, a Labour MP for a racially diverse London constituency, says in a foreword to the report that its findings should "ricochet through the body politic".

Unless the mainstream parties act soon, he says, there is real potential in the UK for an unprecedented rise in support for the far right.

"Arguably (the report) identifies a 'new politics' built around belonging and loss; of identity, culture and nationhood which transcends both an older class politics and even more recent debates around demographics and immigration," he says.

"The research suggests that economic change and material insecurity have altered, fundamentally, orthodox political assumptions as to what constitutes the centre ground, or 'middle England'."

But the MP says there are positives, as well as negatives within the report. "The core message of hope contained within is that people share a common sentiment, a search for a common life even, built on a desire for belonging and security, which does indeed create possibilities for an optimistic 'new politics' but only if the mainstream political parties step up. The jury is out."

The survey was commissioned by the Searchlight Educational Trust, a London-based charity set up to fight racism and fascism, and was conducted among more than 5,000 Britons by the polling organisation Populus.

Based on 91 questions, the report found that 63 per cent of all whites considered that immigration had been, on the whole, bad for Britain.

Asked the same question, 43 per cent of all British Asians also considered it to have been bad, but only 17 per cent of black Britons did.

The report also found that 39 per cent of Asians, 34 per cent of whites and 21 per cent of blacks believed immigration should be halted either permanently or at least until the UK's economy was back on track.

Almost half (48 per cent) said they might support a new far-right party as long as it eschewed "fascist imagery" and did not condone violence. And 52 per cent of all respondents agreed that "Muslims create problems in the UK".

In its executive summary of the survey, the trust says: "On one level it is not happy reading. It concludes that there is not a progressive majority in society and it reveals that there is a deep resentment to immigration, as well as scepticism towards multiculturalism.

"There is a widespread fear of the 'Other', particularly Muslims, and there is an appetite for a new right-wing political party that has none of the fascist trappings of the British National Party or the violence of the English Defence League.

"With a clear correlation between economic pessimism and negative views to immigration, the situation is likely to get worse over the next few years."

On a more positive note, the trust said that the survey showed there was widespread opposition to political violence and that two-thirds of people regarded English nationalist extremists as bad as Muslim extremists.

The survey also found that ethnic minority communities generally feel less proud at seeing the English flag, although even among whites such an emotion was only produced in a quarter of respondents.

Nick Lowles, the director of the trust, said on Monday that one of the positive findings was that young people surveyed were "more hopeful about the future and more open to living in an ethnically diverse society".

But he added: "This report gives those of us who are campaigning against extremism nowhere to hide. The harsh truth is we are in danger of losing touch with the public on race, immigration and multiculturalism.

"The attitude of all sections of the community to these complex issues is now running far ahead of the politicians and community leaders."

dsapsted@thenatinal.ae