How Trump is stoking Britain’s political fringe

Alex Massie writes: Britain First is a fringe organization even by the standards of fringe organizations. In 2011, the movement broke off from the far-right British National Party. Today, Britain First exists to stoke outrage and a sense of dread, promoting the concept of an unavoidable clash of civilizations between white, Christian Britons and the non-white, immigrant, often Muslim population. It is not, at heart, a political party so much as it is a movement of racist alienation. As Britain First sees it, the “native” British are losing, betrayed by a feckless elite who know little and care less about the future health of their country. Indeed, the elite are a subset of the problem itself, selling the true-born Britons’ birthright for a mess of multicultural pottage. Last year, Fransen warned that the organization’s “pro-EU, Islamist-loving opponents” were “ruining our country.” Britain First, she vowed, “will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country. And by punished, I mean good old-fashioned British justice at the end of a rope.” This, then, is the company the president of the United States of America now keeps.

Accurate estimates of Britain First’s membership are hard to come by, though most suggest it has no more than 1,000 active members. It specializes in provocative stunts such as carrying crucifixes through heavily Muslim neighborhoods or asking mobs of Union Jack-waving patriots to “invade” and occupy mosques. As an electoral force, Britain First is close to an irrelevance. Last year, its leader, Paul Golding ran in London’s mayoral election and won just 1 percent of the vote. Like Fransen, Golding is due in court later this month on further charges of religiously inspired hatred and harassment. Last year, he was jailed for four months for breaching the terms of a court order banning him from entering mosques. When Fransen stood in a parliamentary special election in 2014, she won just 56 votes.

Social media remains a land of opportunity for organizations such as Britain First, however. Golding has boasted that “we’re looking forward to all the new followers and support we’ll get from Trump’s publicity.” In a video message to Trump, recorded on Thursday, Fransen appealed for Trump’s help in advance of her next court appearance. Complaining that Britain has become “Sharia compliant,” she said she was speaking “on behalf of myself and every citizen of Britain and for everyone, every man and woman that has fought bled and died for us to have to have the freedom of speech.” One analysis of Britain First’s social media reach, done by a Scottish investigative outlet, reported that from February 2016 to January 2017 the group’s Facebook posts earned more than a million “reactions”—almost four times as many as on the Conservative Party’s official page. While this partly reflects Britain First’s high volume of posting, it’s still disturbing to think the audience for the group’s provocations is so widespread. [Continue reading…]

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