Our Story

For a world without hate.

Where ‘HOPE not hate’ came from 

HOPE not hate began as the campaigning arm of Searchlight, a longstanding anti-fascist research operation, but after the emergence of the BNP (British National Party) in 2001 we adopted a campaigning approach to counter their rise.

‘HOPE not hate’ was coined through our research into why people were voting for the BNP – and also why people were not voting for them. The BNP was gaining support in white working class communities, initially in the North West and Yorkshire, and traditional anti-fascist and anti-racist campaigning against them was ineffective.

We conducted the first analysis of the BNP voter, showing their voters had real or perceived grievances that needed addressing and that shouting “nazi” or “racist” at them not only failed to have an impact, but was counterproductive and only reinforced their anger. While there was some racist and anti-immigrant sentiment motivating BNP voters, these were not their only drivers and were often symptoms of anger and disillusionment.

Our research showed that the BNP vote was overwhelmingly male, and that many women were put off by the BNP’s aggression and feared the trouble they could bring to their communities. Women were turned off by traditional anti-fascist tactics and slogans, believing they too were aggressive and divisive. They wanted to support something positive rather than just being “anti” something.

The slogan ‘HOPE not hate’ encapsulated our positive message. It offered our hopefulness over the BNP’s hatred. And became our name. 

Beating the BNP 

HOPE not hate were instrumental in the campaign to defeat the BNP in Barking & Dagenham in East London. In 2006, the BNP averaged 41% of the vote in the areas they stood in, winning 11 of the 12 seats. Triumphant, the BNP went into the 2010 election hoping to take control of the council, and with it, a £200m a year budget.

This was the biggest campaign we’ve ever run, and a test of our theory that hopeful messages would beat hate. Over a three month period up to election day, we distributed 355,000 newspapers, leaflets and letters across the borough and mobilised hundreds of activists.The heavy defeat of the BNP in the election led to the Party imploding.

While Barking and Dagenham might have captured most attention, we worked tirelessly in communities around the country, including Burnley, Oldham, Bradford and Sandwell.

We used our research to guide and inform our campaigning. After the 2001 riots, we knew Oldham was going to be a key political battleground. In preparation, we put three people inside Oldham BNP so we knew everything they were doing. Using our insider access we exposed their deputy organiser as a convicted rapist and armed robber. In Bradford, we persuaded the BNP organiser to become an informant against the Party, so again, we were always a step ahead of them.

With the demise of the BNP in 2010 we broadened our work. We moved from reactive campaigning to addressing the underlying causes of the BNP’s rise. From there we set up a community organising team, which engaged in communities susceptible to the far right and built community opposition to English Defense League protests. Throughout it all, we used our positive campaign of HOPE to defeat hate.

HOPE not hate today

HOPE not hate builds hope and counters the politics of hate through research, intelligence, campaigning and community engagement. 

Research is at the core of our work, but has had to change to reflect the changing nature of the far right. After 2010, the far right moved from the ballot box to the streets, but more recently has changed again through the use of the internet and social media platforms. We are now facing a post-organisational far-right, with individual personalities and looser alliances replacing traditional organisations and loyalties. We have also witnessed a rise in younger people getting involved in far-right terrorist groups and becoming radicalised online.

The far-right threat is the fastest growing terror threat in the UK, with deadly attacks taking place here and around the world. Over the last few years we have prevented terrorist attacks and disrupted several far-right terror groups. In 2017, our intelligence led to the foiling of a plot from the banned far-right terror group National Action from murdering a Labour MP.

Our research and intelligence teams remain one step ahead of the far right. We continue to be the first port of call for journalists, publishing reports and our annual State of HATE report is the single, most authoritative analysis of the British far-right publicly available.

Using our research, we campaign for change online and on the ground to defeat the far right. We’ve taken on UKIP, Tommy Robinson, Andrew Tate and more. We continue to challenge the far right at the ballot box at elections. 

We want to understand what drives political and cultural attitudes. From 2011 we began to produce our Fear and HOPE reports. These reports give an understanding of the drivers of fear and hate and shape our community engagement and campaigning. They demonstrate that support for the far right is greatest in areas where pessimism was high. When people feel bad about their own situation, they are more likely to transmit that onto other people. Our Policy team has led our Hopeful Towns project and supports community response work.

We believe it is vital to reach and interact with young people as they are developing their political and cultural understanding of the world, and to offer training to teachers and to others working with and for young people. Our education work has even been highlighted as an example of good practice by the Department of Education. 

We aim to leverage HOPE – by supporting and empowering people to build the stronger, more resilient, inclusive and hopeful communities they want to be part of, where the power of hope overcomes hate.

Together we can challenge hate and build hope. 

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