The UK should prepare for “greater violence” from far-right groups – and in “extreme cases, terrorism” – in 2016, as members increasingly target British Muslims to get their message across “as anti-Muslim hatred is being mainstreamed”, a report has found.
Far-right extremists, the State of Hate 2015 report warned, are increasingly turning to violence, and some have even been videoed training with knives and teaching members martial arts and survivalist skills.
The report by Hope not Hate found that far-right groups had increased their public profile in 2015, staging a third more demonstrations than in 2014. Last year 61 demonstrations were held, compared to 41 in 2014.
A report has warned that the UK should expect “greater violence” from the far-right this year; a bloodied protester is pictured above during a North West Infidels protest in Dover last month
“Political and economic conditions for right-wing extremist groups could hardly be better,” the report released on Monday found, even though the activists remained “politically marginalised, fractured, leaderless and increasingly violent”.
Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope not Hate warned the UK needed to prepare itself for the “rising militancy of Britain’s far right” which he said would “lead to greater violence in 2016”.
He said: “This could be manifested in three ways: a general increase in anti-left wing harassment and attacks; communal violence where gangs of far-right supporters clash with Muslim or Eastern European youths; or, in extreme cases, terrorism.
“The underlying rhetoric of much of Britain’s far right is that a societal conflict – either between Muslims and non-Muslims or more generally with immigrant communities – is inevitable. For some, that means preparing for it or even encouraging it along.
“The Government needs to understand the changing nature of the British far-right threat and get to grips with the growing threat posed by far-right violence.”
Far-right political party Britain First were accused of ‘inflaming’ tensions after staging a ‘Christian Patrol’ in Luton
Hope not Hate said the most active far-right group in 2015 was the North West Infidels, who were involved in violence with anti-fascist protesters in Dover on January 30 this year.
The Infidels, the report said, is a network of “regional fascist gangs” which split from the English Defence League and “pursue a far more confrontational and violent agenda”.
Hope not Hate said 2015 saw far-right activists increasingly getting involved in survivalist, outdoor training and martial arts groups.
These included, the report found, the Misanthropic Division, which is led by a former member of the fascist Azov Battalion in Ukraine and the Italian Nazi group, Casa Pound.
Another group, Sigurd Legion (Legion), Hope not Hate said, released videos documenting men stripped to the waist punching each other as they practice unarmed combat while others train with knives.
National Action, which was overwhelmed by counter-protesters when it staged a “White Man March” in Liverpool last year, was the “most organisationally sophisticated neo-nazi group”, the report found. It has its own internal internet forum and regularly uses the Dark Web.
Foreign far-right supporters living in the UK are also becoming increasingly active, the report revealed. One of the most active groups, according to Hope not Hate, is called Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski, meaning “the national rebirth of Poland”. Dozens of UK-based Italian fascists are also active in the British nazi music scene, the anti-extremist group found.
The State of Hate report noted that despite the acceleration of violence, traditional far-right movements were collapsing in the UK, such as the British National Party (BNP) and the EDL.
The 2015 General Election highlighted the “political impotency of Britain’s far right”, the report found, with the BNP standing just eight candidates in 2015, compared to 338 in 2010, and averaging just 0.5% of the vote in these seats.
“A lack of effective leadership has severely hampered traditional British far-right parties, contributing to their underlying weaknesses,” the report concluded.
Hope not Hate’s 2014 State of Hate report revealed that the movement’s three key leaders – Nick Griffin, ex-leader of the BNP; Jim Dowson, formerly Chairman of Britain First; and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, ex-EDL leader and current Pegida UK manager) had all withdrawn from frontline leadership roles during 2014.
However, all three, the report noted, “have attempted to make political comebacks in 2015, to varying degrees of success”. Yaxley-Lennon has been most successful, taking on a management role of Pegida UK. The group staged a rally in Birmingham over the weekend, which took place at the same time as several other marches across Europe.