Changing course or changing clothes? Reflections on the ideological evolution of the British National Party 1999–2006

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Copsey examines the ideological development of the British National Party (BNP) under the leadership of Nick Griffin. Until recently, Griffin's programme of 'modernization' had considered ideology a secondary concern. Ideological debates were put to one side as Griffin looked to transform the BNP from a political pariah into a respectable electoral party capable of entering Britain's mainstream. At first, the BNP simply borrowed from the discursive and organizational style of more moderate continental national-populist parties, in particular the French Front National. However, the failure of the BNP to bring about a historic breakthrough at the European and local elections in 2004 occasioned an ideological overhaul and, while Griffin characterizes it as 'popular nationalism', Copsey questions whether the BNP has really transformed itself into a party of the national-populist right. At the outset, he offers some conceptual clarifications regarding fascism, national-populism and neo-fascism before discussing the nature of Griffin's 'modernization' project and the circumstances behind his decision to revamp the party's ideology. He then moves on to a critical examination of the party's new ideological position as revealed in its 2005 general election manifesto Rebuilding British Democracy. He concludes that ideological renewal under Griffin constitutes a recalibration of fascism rather than a fundamental break in ideological continuity. All the same, the party's ideological face-lift lends support to Griffin's broader normalization strategy, which, as the results of the 2006 local elections confirm, is contributing to its electoral success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-82
JournalPatterns of Prejudice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007


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