Sizing up the Ultra-Right

David Butler

  • The National Front by Nigel Fielding
    Routledge, 252 pp, £12.50, January 1981, ISBN 0 7100 0559 8
  • Left, Right: The March of Political Extremism in Britain by John Tomlinson
    Calder, 152 pp, £4.95, March 1981, ISBN 0 7145 3855 8

Britain in recent years should have been a breeding ground for parties of the ultra-Right. A country humbled by the loss of its imperial role, by its industrial decline compared to other major – and minor – powers, and by the failure of the nostrums prescribed by alternating governments, meets most of the textbook requirements for the growth of extremism. Some profess to see in the monetarist takeover of the Conservative Party, or in the Labour Party’s lurch to the left, a fulfilment of these requirements. But Margaret Thatcher and Tony Benn are committed Parliamentarians and, despite all the rhetoric about the reactionary Conservative Government or Marxists in the Labour Party, no policy that has been, or is likely to be, enacted at Westminster ranges beyond what has proved acceptable in civilised democracies elsewhere. Indeed, current developments suggest a move back to the middle, as Conservative and Labour each seeks to recapture the neglected centre ground which recent opinion polls have shown to be so extensive.

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