Here we go again. Another day, another attempt to paint Britain’s working-class communities as brooding cesspits of hatred and bigotry, ready to be seduced by a secret army of fascists. This time it arrives in the shape of a report published by the anti-racist group Hope Not Hate, which identified 52 local authority areas in England and Wales as being ripe for exploitation by the far-Right.
These “vulnerable” areas are comprised largely of the nation’s neglected post-industrial and coastal communities, as well as some of our grittier provincial districts with sizeable working-class populations. Think Rochdale, Great Yarmouth, Thurrock… According to the report, these sorts of places could soon become hotspots of far-Right activity resulting in “the election of far-Right politicians, spikes in hate crime or one-off flash points spiralling out of control”.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
A dramatic warning indeed. So, what exactly prompted the group to draw these conclusions? Had a hidden network of neo-Nazi cells been uncovered? Was a clutch of modern-day Lord Haw-Haws transmitting fascist propaganda to impressionable listeners via community radio stations? Was there a sudden surge in support for far-Right political parties?
Well, no. Nothing of the sort. Hope Not Hate appears to base its conclusions on two prevailing factors. First, and not inaccurately, the identified areas have taken the hardest hit, economically and otherwise, from the covid pandemic. Second, those residing in these districts have — heaven forbid! — “less liberal than average” attitudes to multiculturalism and migration.
So there we are. Any place that displays “less liberal than average” — for which read “less liberal than our own” — views on multiculturalism and migration is, so far as these oh-so-enlightened progressives are concerned, effectively worthy of being placed in special measures.
It is an attitude dripping with contempt and illiberalism. It is a tactic designed to marginalise anyone who voices opposition to, say, open borders or contends that state-sponsored multiculturalism has, all things considered, not been entirely to the good.
Of course, these opinions are common currency outside of our nation’s fashionable cities and university towns. But these are places where our high-minded political and cultural elites — including those who run our leading think-tanks, charities and advocacy groups — seemingly rarely venture. If they did, they would find communities which are, in fact, overwhelmingly fair-minded and decent. Most are populated by residents who are decidedly not opposed to immigration per se; they merely expect the system to be managed properly (as it plainly has not been in recent times) so that their neighbourhoods and local economies are not subjected to rapid and profound change.
Similarly, they will respect the right of their fellow citizens to live the life they wish within the law, but question whether the particular model of multiculturalism foisted on society by their rulers hasn’t served to fragment communities and push people apart rather than bring them together. (They also wonder how it can be right that they are constantly chivvied to celebrate the culture of others when their own is looked upon with such disdain by those doing the chivvying.)
To our liberal establishment and its outriders, these opinions are so beyond the pale that those who hold them must be considered outside the boundaries of mainstream politics and, in some cases, deserving of high surveillance. It is a mindset that sees anyone holding patriotic, communitarian, small ‘c’ conservative views as being motivated by an inherent xenophobia and narrow provincialism — and thereby some kind of threat. And if that means perpetuating a false narrative that portrays such opinions and those who hold them as being driven by “hatred”, so be it. Anything deemed to be out of step with modern progressive thought must be crushed under foot in the crusade for “tolerance”. Diversity, as ever, in everything but thought.
One thing this shows us is that many among our liberal class still haven’t learned the lessons of Brexit. Millions — including significant numbers living in exactly the types of places identified in the Hope Not Hate report — voted Leave in large part because they felt demonised and misrepresented by the type of people now painting them as incipient fascist foot soldiers. Their votes were not a demonstration of innate racism and bigotry; they were instead a demonstration of anger at constantly being denounced as racist and bigoted. See the difference?
The attitude of contempt towards our working-class Brexit-voting communities still prevails among our elites. It is as though they inhabit a different country altogether. They show no recognition of the great strides Britain has made in the fight to eradicate discrimination and prejudice, nor of the fact that our record in that regard is far superior to that of most other nations.
Indeed, it could be argued that Britain is an exemplar when it comes to tolerance and understanding. For example, a 2019 study by US academics found that prejudice against migrants and minority ethnic or religious groups was lower in Britain than in most other European countries, with 85% saying they would be happy to have a foreign worker as a neighbour and 95% someone from a different religion. “There are many ways in which Britain is known to be ‘exceptional’ in the European context,” said the study’s co-author Dr Jonathan Kelley, “but prejudice against immigrants is clearly not one of them.”
Of course, none of this fits the caricature propagated by those insistent that our country is a sewer of despicable racism and must engage in regular bouts of self-flagellation for its wickedness. We witnessed this attitude in the aftermath of this year’s European football championships, when a handful of vile social media messages directed towards England’s black players were presented as evidence that our nation was caught in a rising tide of prejudice and bigotry — no matter that most of the messages were sent from abroad.
That the far-Right has never been a serious force across our land, even during periods when circumstances were arguably more conducive to it, doesn’t prevent our liberal class from routinely trotting out hysterical predictions of a new dark age just around the corner. Their prophecies are hocus-pocus, an insult to fundamentally decent and tolerant working-class communities. They should be seen as such.