THE ‘AUTHORITARIAN FOOTPRINT’ CLUSTER
e.g. Sheerness, Burnley, Boston, Dudley
The ‘authoritarian footprint’ cluster is based in part on HNH data, both about the electoral record of UKIP and the far-right, and about online and offline far-right activism. We specifically focused on local elections when developing this cluster – not on Westminster or European elections – as ward data provides the granularity to extrapolate to town level. This meant Brexit Party results are not included.
The cluster includes 37 towns matching all criteria. These are places where authoritarian parties and far-right activists have had success both at the ballot box and beyond.
As we can see, many of the sites for this cluster are in the North West and along the Thames Estuary. There is some variety within the grouping, and it includes seaside towns successfully targeted by UKIP in the 2010s, as well as areas courted by the BNP in the 2000s. There have also been substantial instances of street organising or digital activism in these towns.
There is a question, with all of these places, about whether a historic ‘authoritarian footprint’ is likely to make an area more vigilant against racism, or to make it more ready to follow the same path again.
There are certainly many instances where the former is the case, and a far-right spike has acted as a spur for a community to drive out racist elements. However, it seems equally likely that, despite electoral defeat or the collapse of street movements, the capacity for resentments to re- surface remains more acute in places where they have appeared before.
As our ‘in focus’ look at mill towns suggests (page 76) some of the best approaches in towns with an ‘authoritarian footprint’ will acknowledge the challenges of the past, and to develop inclusive narratives that make a virtue of how a place has learned from the experience and changed.