Opinion

Why economic hardship could fuel support for the far-right in Wales

06 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
Welsh flag face. Hope not hate

Rosie Carter, Head of Policy at the HOPE not hate Charitable Trust

The long-term impacts of the pandemic are yet to be seen, but it is clear that any loss will compound existing inequalities, adding to the economic challenges already worsened by Brexit.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has predicted a “tide of poverty” to hit Wales after coronavirus, deepening existing problems. And the uneven geographic spread of these impacts means that isolated towns reliant on already at-risk industries and declining populations could bear the brunt.

This context is not just a huge challenge for individuals and families, but it will also have a substantial impact on communities, with the potential to damage social cohesion.

HOPE not hate’s new report, which analyses exclusive new polling of over 1,000 people in Wales, representative of the Welsh population, highlights that although most people in Wales are open, tolerant and welcoming, there is a sizeable proportion of the Welsh population who are susceptible to swing towards populist right support or far-right sympathies if conditions are stressed.

The research identifies a contradiction between broad perceptions of Wales as a welcoming and tolerant nation and pockets of hostility towards multiculturalism and immigration. But it also finds that these pockets could grow, as economic hardship emerging from the pandemic feed anger and growing mistrust in the political system.

HOPE not hate research has consistently shown that the balance of social and cultural attitudes are often tipped by worsening economic conditions, as the very real resentments and frustrations that people feel about their own lives are exploited by those who seek to divide.

Our report outlines division in Welsh society by grouping the population into ten ‘identity tribes’. Polling shows that half of people in Wales fear they or a family member will lose their job as a result of the pandemic, and one in five say they have applied for universal credit (19%), been furloughed (19%) or had their hours reduced (21%)as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Racist beliefs

We identify a minority of the Welsh population who hold hostile attitudes and racist beliefs, but our research also highlights that divisions could grow as economic hardship resulting from the pandemic feeds mistrust and pessimism.

The research identifies a group who make up 8% of the Welsh population who are particularly likely to swing towards greater hostility. Largely female and middle-aged, this is a group of people who are uneasy about the pace of change, linked to their strong sense of decline and pessimism for the future. They are a group who have traditionally voted Labour, but don’t think that politicians listen to them, and don’t feel that the political system serves people like them well.

This is not a group of people who share particularly strong views about culture or identity issues, and although many voted Leave in 2016, most are fearful about the impacts of Britain’s exit from the EU. But their precarity makes them vulnerable from those who work to divide by scapegoating immigrants, and create a direct link between a feeling of loss and growing diversity.

There is a job to do to challenge racism, anti-immigrant sentiment and discrimination in all its forms. But there is also a job to challenge growing economic inequality in Wales so that it does not feed further social division.

Building back better from coronavirus, for everyone, by supporting people and communities and offering hope, can start to heal, rather than deepen, divides.

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Erisian
Erisian
1 month ago

That would be the height of folly. The right are not interested in doing anything about hardship and poverty other than exploting it for their own cynical purporses.
Consider how much Trumps GOP have actually done for America’s poor and disadvantaged… SFA!

Last edited 1 month ago by Erisian
Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

The right wing extremists have battered us! What to do? Vote right wing extremist!! There should be compulsory brain scans before polling cards are issued.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

The right-wing extremist are there whatever state the ecconomy is in. And when the conditions were right, slid from under their dank stones to corrupt normally good people into following their twisted agenda. It was the right-wing who entranced Welsh voters into voting for Brexit, the very same who devastated the same coalfield communities. Sadly those areas became apathetic and ripe for exploiting. The sad thing is. Those who aided the bigoted English Tory agenda will suffer the most. They were lied to, and will feel the wrath of Conservatism soon. And yes, we have devolution to protect our NHS… Read more »

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Right wing ….left wing … I don’t think either of them cares much about Wales when they spend their lives wrapped in a butcher’s apron. It’s mostly about London, followed by a weakening ripple of concern spreading out from the UK’s capital. The so called left have abandoned the working class or what’s left of it electing to focus its mind on other issues. As for the so called far right there is no doubt that it captures the passing support of those who feel left behind but fast forward a couple of years and there is a realisation that… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago

Pre-judging working-class Welsh women will do nothing to further the writer’s strategy. Those who live in post-industrial parts of Wales have been feeling the sharp end of the stick from Westminster’s right-wing policies since the rise of Thatcher. The current Welsh government may be limited in what it can do to fend off Johnson’s current war against devolution and his insistence on “levelling up” on his own terms, but the recent election suggests that the majority in Cymru are behind Darkeford in his attempt to hold the line. Things are likely to get worse for Wales with Johnson in power,… Read more »

qaz
qaz
1 month ago

I have yet to meet Welsh people who harbour racist views against immigrants. After all, Wales has long seen continuous mass immigration from England. Which brings me to the point – how many of those polled were asked whether they were came from Wales or identified as Welsh? The only ones I have heard bemoaning ‘immigrants’ are the ‘white-flight’ brigade from England. They are also the ones that mostly voted Brexit, yet Wales is considered a ‘leaver’s’ country.

Erisian
Erisian
24 days ago

It is not hardship, but inequality and unfairness, that open the way for the right wing to engender and exploit division.

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