STATE OF HATE 2024 Feature

Britain’s Radical Right


POLITICS USED to seem simpler for anti-fascists. The line between fascists and mainstream Conservatives felt clearer. While there was always crossover, there were times when fascists focused on dominating the streets through violence and were overtly obsessed with race while mainstream Tories were generally concerned more with a small state and deregulation. However unpleasant the Conservatives might have been on immigration, there was generally a difference between them and the more extreme far right. Sadly, that already blurred line has become ever fainter and the distinction less clear.

In recent years there has understandably been a lot of talk about the “mainstreaming” of far-right politics in Britain. Unquestionably we have seen increasing examples of extreme rhetoric that has traditionally been confined to the far-right fringe being echoed by ostensibly mainstream figures. Of course, the border between the mainstream and the far right has always been porous – better understood as a continuum rather than two distinct groups – but a form of conspiratorial and overtly discriminatory politics has become increasingly normalised.

For some, Britain is seen as something of an exception because of the near-complete absence of a far-right electoral threat. With the rapid decline of the British National Party (BNP) and then UKIP, and the failure of Radical Right start-ups such as Nigel Farage’s Reform UK and Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party to gain any electoral traction, one might think that Britain is bucking the international trend.

The truth, however, is that we face the same fundamental challenge to liberal democracy as many other nations. The difference is that it has emerged within and around the Conservative Party, rather than as a distinct radical or far-right alternative. In short, Britain lacks a successful far-right party because there is currently little space for one.

In Britain this form of politics is advanced by a growing collection of think tanks, campaign groups, smaller political parties, academics and media outlets. Importantly, Radical Right politics is increasingly being adopted within the Conservative Party, which is radicalising in a way not dissimilar to what has happened to the Republican Party in the United States.

We also have a growing ecosystem that, while continuing to accept the fundamentals of democracy, rejects certain values of liberal democracy, such as minority rights and pluralism. It seeks to exploit economic pessimism, inequalities and real or perceived grievances, and offers simplistic solutions, scapegoating and demonising – which, deliberately or otherwise, undermines trust in the political process. This ecosystem also propagates and utilises conspiracy theories to spread its ideology.

One of the things that unites this complex and varied scene is so-called “culture war” issues and opposition to “woke” politics, particularly transgender rights, a certain conception of free speech and multiculturalism.

Together, this Radical Right insurgency is a dangerous challenge to Britain’s liberal democracy and is undermining the rights of minority and vulnerable communities. And, worryingly, it is becoming increasingly confident and influential in British society.


The most visible example of the growing influence of Radical Right politics in Britain is the transformation happening within the Conservative Party, most notably in its rhetoric around the issue of immigration and asylum seekers and its strident opposition to wokeness. In recent years, we have seen an increasing willingness to use language traditionally avoided by mainstream politicians.

The party has always had a wing open to espousing more extreme and at times explicitly racist politics. But what is taking place now is on an altogether different level. The plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing has been met with widespread anger and opposition, and risks Britain being at odds with UK and international law.

Despite legal challenges and domestic and international criticism, the government continues to attempt to force through the policy regardless, even if it means breaking or changing the law. While the policy itself is extreme in nature, it is the way that the government has been willing to trample over legal conventions that is most reminiscent of Radical Right parties in other countries. There is also a conscious strategy to adopt Radical Right and conspiratorial language to generate fear and anger amongst sections of British society in order to win electoral support.

The difference is not simply the severity of the language and policies on immigration, but more the adoption of a wider far-right narrative that has become commonplace on the US right in recent years.

For some within the party, anti-immigration is just one part of a wider “war on woke” that has often resulted in influential members of the Government using language on a range of issues that is indistinguishable from that used by far-right extremists. Central here is the way that they have attempted to “other” whole groups in society they see as enemies, presenting themselves as anti-elite and demonising some of the core institutions of British society.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman once told newspapers that if judges ruled against her, they were “wet liberals” and “soft on criminals”. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss has railed against “left-wing extremists”, whom she says have taken over Britain’s institutions.

The adoption of language and positions more traditionally articulated by the far right has not been confined to the issue of immigration. As Dr Aaron Winter of Lancaster University put it, “the Tory Party has mainstreamed far-right ideas on immigration, race, trans rights and more”.

We are also witnessing the adoption of other far-right and conspiratorial tropes. When watering down the Government’s net-zero targets, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deliberately and quite consciously lied about the views of the Labour Party, accusing them of wanting to tax meat and force households to have seven bins. Even when confronted by journalists about these ludicrous lies, the Conservative Party and its ministers continued to peddle them.

At the last party conference, it got worse, with Transport Minister Mark Harper saying the Tories would stop the “misuse of 15-minute cities,” which he claimed is “the idea of local councils deciding how often you can go to the shops”. Of course the claim is totally untrue and just another example of the adoption of conspiratorial views by the Conservative Government.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran, took to Twitter to hit back at Harper: “In Oxford we’ve been descended upon by ultra right conspiracy theorists purporting to speak for local residents who largely stayed away. It is genuinely chilling to see Government ministers play to this crowd.”


Due to our electoral system our two main parties are very broad ideological coalitions. This makes it hard to argue that the Conservative Party is now “Radical Right”. However, there is certainly a wing within it which comfortably fits the definition and the party as a whole is increasingly adopting Radical Right policies and rhetoric as part of its electoral strategy.

Sunak’s background in international banking and hedge funds means he is unlikely to agree with
the more strident elements of anti-elite Radical Right language, though it hasn’t stopped him opportunistically parroting it. James Cleverly, the new Home Secretary whose job it is to implement the Rwanda plan, has privately described it as “batshit”. Lord Cameron, the new Foreign Secretary, has also privately opposed the scheme in the recent past, as indeed, has Sunak himself.

Despite these private condemnations, the debate has shifted from whether the policy is acceptable to how best to implement it – a good example of how radical right policies become normalised quickly. This is another example of how how Sunak has been willing to put private concerns aside and adopt Radical Right rhetoric and policies for short-term electoral gain.

Standing for party leader after Boris Johnson had been toppled, Sunak trod a very mainstream political and economic strategy. Indeed, up against the firebrand free-marketeer Liz Truss, Sunak initially made a virtue of his normality. It was back to business as usual, he announced, contrasting his more moderate tone against the backdrop of the chaos of the Johnson years.

Of course, this approach did not last long, as it quickly became apparent that while the country at large might have wanted a more orthodox leader, many Tory Party members were in a different place. Sunak swung right in an attempt to revive his leadership bid, talking tough on immigration, demanding “free speech” absolutism and demonising the cultural left, whom he argued had captured many British institutions.

His change of direction was both too late and not believed, and Sunak was beaten by Truss. However, her premiership lasted just 44 days and following the chaos of her reign, Sunak emerged as leader.

While it initially appeared as though Sunak was going to return to traditional Conservative orthodoxy, it became apparent that he was going to navigate a strategy of playing both sides simultaneously. Sunak adopted a fiscally cautious approach much to the anger of the libertarian right, and largely left the “anti- woke” culture warriors in his cabinet to do as they wished. However, with a general election approaching and his popularity continuing to decline, Sunak is now following a divisive wedge-issue strategy to highlight the differences between himself and Labour.

Sunak consciously allowed Braverman and others to shift ever further right on immigration and multiculturalism, securing the necessary populist and supportive headlines in the right-wing press, whilst quietly telling more serious media outlets that he privately disagreed with some of her statements. He was only eventually forced to act against her when she openly criticised the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and accused the Met of two-tier policing ahead of a predictably violent far-right demonstration in Whitehall.

Braverman’s dismissal has, however, not halted Sunak’s adoption of Radical Right language. His recent announcements on scaling back Britain’s green targets and his public defence of motorists are couched in right-wing culture-war language about environmental zealots – despite the fact that many of the policies he is now overturning were actually introduced by Conservatives in the first place.

So, while it would be going too far to say the Conservative Party has become a Radical Right party in its entirety, it is fair to argue that there is a wing within the party that is unquestionably comparable to other far-right parties around the world.


The Radical Right within the parliamentary Conservative Party are to be found in the self-dubbed “five families” – the five groups of MPs who initially posted their opposition to Sunak’s Rwanda Bill earlier this year. At the heart of this grouping is the New Conservatives, a strongly anti-immigrant and social authoritarian group made up of about 25 MPs. Leading them are Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger.

Others in the “five families” include the pro-Brexit European Research Group, led by Mark Francois, the Common Sense Group, chaired by John Hayes, who describe themselves as “Trump-style populists”, and the Conservative Growth Group, a libertarian small- government group, led by former ministers Ranil Jayawardena and Simon Clarke.

Making up the quintet is the Northern Research Group of red wall Tories, led by Jake Berry. Many owe their political success to Boris Johnson, though this group is probably the least ideologically right-wing of the five groups.

Supporting the five outside Parliament is the Conservative Democratic Organisation, set up by Lord Peter Cruddas in 2022 to support a beleaguered Boris Johnson, who used the political threat posed by Reform UK to attack what they saw as a “drag to the left” under Rishi Sunak.

Most recently, the five have been joined by the recently established Popular Conservatives, led by Liz Truss. Whilst more economically libertarian in outlook, the new group has weaved Radical Right rhetoric around immigration and anti-elite culture-war politics into its political repertoire.

While the rebellion by the “five families” embarrassingly fizzled out, the Radical Right opposition to Sunak has not ended. In a clear attempt to undermine his leadership, an attempted coup took place, with the active participation of the Daily Telegraph, when YouGov polling and data analysis was used to show Sunak’s unpopularity and the scale of a likely Labour victory. Fronting up this attempt was Lord Frost, one of the key architects of implementing Brexit, as well as a number of former Sunak aides and advisors.


The Radical Right ecosystem also operates politically outside the Conservative Party, most notably Reform UK. Led by Richard Tice, Reform UK is the successor to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party which was formed in November 2018 and rebranded following the UK’s exit from the European Union. While until recently it had struggled to have any real purpose or obvious political vision, it is now seeing a shift in its political fortunes as right-wing anger at Rishi Sunak has continued to grow.

With its hardline views on immigration and anti-climate action policies, Reform UK is currently polling at 12%, which, while too low to achieve any significant electoral breakthrough, could see it cost the Conservatives dozens of seats in the forthcoming general election.

How much Reform UK poses a challenge to the Conservatives will largely depend on the future plans of its erstwhile leader and current Honorary President, Nigel Farage. Having spent the last couple of years hosting a primetime show on GB News, he further boosted his post-Brexit profile – and bank balance – by coming third in the reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here.

If Farage returns to frontline politics with Reform UK ahead of the general election, then he could dramatically transform their political fortunes, with one poll suggesting that he himself could win the Essex seat of Clacton and bring a handful of other South Yorkshire, Kent and Essex seats into play for the party. Without his return, Reform UK is likely to see its support squeezed during the election campaign, as the Conservatives raise the supposed danger of open-door migration if Labour wins.

That said, Reform UK’s increased polling performance of late has rattled the Conservative Party and is being weaponised by its right wing to demand and justify the transformation of the whole party.


There is also a growing Radical Right infrastructure in media and culture that has emerged to facilitate and encourage the radicalisation of the Tory Party and buttress the wider Radical Right agenda.

This was perhaps best illustrated by the National Conservatism Conference in May. Organised by the US based Edmund Burke Foundation, the event was the latest in a series of conferences around the world that have hosted high profile far-right politicians, including Viktor Orbán and Giorgia Meloni.

Much of the rhetoric emanating from the stage was indistinguishable from the sort of conspiratorial and reactionary speeches found at traditional far-right meetings. Speakers warned about “transgenderism”, “wokeism”, “cancel culture”, “neo-Marxism” and “globalists” and the “end of our way of life.”

Another group operating on the fringes of the party is the New Culture Forum. Set up by former UKIP London Assembly member Peter Whittle, it claims to challenge “the cultural orthodoxies dominant in the media, academia, education, and wider British culture.”

The NCF functions from 55 Tufton Street, described by the BBC as “the other black door shaping British politics”. Among the many dubious organisations that operate from that address are the Tax Payers’ Alliance and the Global Warming Policy Foundation – and it is the former home of many others, such as Vote Leave and Brexit Central. Restore Trust, the supposed “anti- woke” group which attempted to take control of the National Trust, operated from this building, as did Net Zero Watch and the right-wing Institute of Economic Affairs.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate change sceptic “think tank”, publicly welcomed Rishi Sunak’s weakening of the net-zero targets, stating that it was a “significant first move” towards completely dismantling the net-zero targets altogether. FairFuelUK, which is run by Reform UK’s London Mayoral candidate Howard Cox and also operates out of Tufton Street, likewise welcomed the move, saying it offered a “breathing space” to overturn the ban on petrol and diesel car sales.

Also backing Sunak’s announcement was the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, made up of 25 backbench Conservative MPs, led by Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay and founded by Steve Baker MP. The group also operates out of Tufton Street and whilst it claims not to deny climate change, it draws heavily on research by the climate-change-denying Global Warming Policy Foundation.

This collection of think tanks provides both policy recommendations for the Conservatives, but also pressurises the party, encouraging its rightward and conspiratorial drift.


Perhaps most important though has been the growth of a specific media scene that platforms and elevates Radical Right politicians and activists and is increasingly influencing the agenda of the Tory Party.

The existence of a reactionary and right-wing media is by no means a new phenomenon in Britain. However, recent years have seen the emergence of new and influential outlets that peddle a politics that even the traditional right-wing print media has historically baulked at. In turn this has pulled more mainstream publications rightwards and editorial standards downwards.

Most prominent of these is GB News, an increasingly influential media outlet for Conservative opinion that regularly pushes far-right, Radical Right and conspiratorial narratives. While viewpoints vary across its programmes, a number of GB News’ most high-profile presenters use the platform to promote harmful conspiracy theories and socially divisive, hyper-partisan political narratives.

The channel has been found in breach of Ofcom’s due impartiality rules four times in 2023, and faces 11 ongoing investigations at the time of writing. Yet this hasn’t stopped former Deputy Chair of the Tory Party Lee Anderson and Jacob Rees-Mogg accepting their own shows, and a range of MPs, including cabinet ministers, appear regularly on the channel.

Another regular on GB News is Matthew Goodwin. Formerly a respected academic, his dramatic shift right has seen him become an increasingly influential figure within the Radical Right for his ability to provide a thin veneer of respectability to increasingly extreme politics.

Beyond GB News there is also a growing roster of columnists in The Telegraph and Spectator who seem obsessed with fighting back against “wokeness” and the “liberal elite.” Other media like Talk TV also regularly platform figures like Douglas Murray who has a long history of extreme views.

In addition to all of this is the impact of social media, most notably the toxification of X (formerly Twitter) under Elon Musk’s ownership. While social media has always posed a problem, Musk’s Twitter, with its lax moderation policies, poor enforcement and embrace of formerly banned extremists, has become a safe place for extreme people and politics to flourish.


Whether it is a section of our media landscape, the collection of influential think-tanks or the Conservative Party itself, Radical Right politics has a range of powerful and influential voices in Britain. We are already seeing the result of this with extreme policies such as the Rwanda plan and the use of ever more extreme and conspiratorial rhetoric from supposedly mainstream political figures.

Sadly, things could be set to get worse in the coming months. Despite people like Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman no longer being in the cabinet, there seems little chance that the Conservative Party’s rightward shift is at an end.

In the short term, we are likely to see Sunak’s government continue to announce ever more extreme conspiratorial and sometimes incendiary policies as we approach the next election. Lagging behind in the polls, the Conservative election strategy is to appeal to its 2019 Red Wall voters, many of whom have deserted the Tories over the past two years but have not gone over to Labour.

The expected success for far-right and Radical Right parties in next summer’s European elections will only encourage those, inside and outside the party, to move ever further to the right. This is likely to be repeated as we approach the highly charged US presidential elections this November, especially, as looks likely, if Trump is the Republican nominee. With so much of the UK right gaining political and ideological inspiration from the US, a heavily confrontational electoral battle, with immigration and anti-woke narratives at its core, will naturally find its way over here, especially in the far-right ecosystem inside and outside the Conservative Party.

While Sunak is likely to continue to adopt Radical Right policies for short-term opportunistic reasons, the more ideologically-driven Radical Right is preparing for the post-election scenario where, in the event of a Labour victory, it believes it can take over the party with a true believer. And exclusive polling of Conservative Party members by HOPE not hate (see page 36 of our report) suggests that they have a chance – if they can get a candidate into the final two.

If that route fails, then we could see Reform UK really come into its own, as a proper alternative to the Conservatives for the right-wing vote.

If we think things are bad now, they could still get far worse very soon.



“State of HATE 2024: Pessimism, Decline, and the Rising Radical Right” is available now. This guide offers the most comprehensive and insightful analysis of far-right extremism in Britain today. Secure your free copy now.



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