All change on the British ‘extreme right’?: Nick Griffin and the ‘modernisation’ of the British National Party (BNP)

  • Karen Joanna Thomson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


The thesis assesses the ‘modernisation’ of the British National Party (BNP) primarily between October 1999 and May 2003 under the leadership of Nick Griffin. During the 1980s and 1990s while Extreme Right Parties (ERPs) in many Western European countries achieved notable electoral support, British ERPs were languishing on the fringes of British politics. In October 1999, the BNP (the largest of the groups on the British Extreme Right) underwent a change of leadership which has had a quite dramatic impact on the party, as new leader Nick Griffin has sought to make the BNP ‘modem’ and ‘electable’. Between 2001 and 2003 the BNP experienced a dramatic upturn in electoral fortunes, and by May 2003 could boast 16 local councillors.

Existing literature tends to stress voter demand when explaining support for ERPs; such an approach ignores the nature of the party itself. In contrast, this thesis adopts a supply-side perspective, noting the significance of party leadership and discourse in accounting for the varied electoral performance of British ERPs. The thesis does not seek to analyse the increase in support for the BNP between 2001 and 2003, but rather, seeks to identify and examine a major reason why the party has been more successful during this period; namely the party's ‘modernisation’ under the leadership of Nick Griffin. The thesis notes that Griffin's leadership has been crucial in facilitating vital changes to the BNP's overt discourse. These have enabled the party to portray itself as a relevant political force and the defender of the British “silent majority”, and have made the ‘modernised’ party far more able than the ‘old’ BNP to exploit any political opportunities presented to them. The thesis concludes that the modernisation process has been significant; however, doubts remain as to the veracity of the party's new, ‘moderate’ position.

Date of Award28 Apr 2004
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorRoger Eatwell (Supervisor)

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