revealed: cities threatened by far-right extremism | Race
It was intended as an “essay on civilization,” but some have argued that Harlow has at times fallen short of this lofty ambition. Now, a new analysis heralds new doom for the new town of Essex – conceived in 1947 – calling it one of the places in England and Wales most ‘at risk’ from the pandemic’s fallout, which could have repercussions on the support for right-wing extremism.
Out of 336 boards, researchers identified 52 – including Harlow – where Covid allegedly caused community tensions and could inspire far-right activity. A report released Monday by the Hope not Hate charitable trust says each of the places has suffered a significant downturn from the pandemic, has a history of slowly recovering from economic shocks and displays “less liberal than average” attitudes towards migration and multiculturalism.
Hope not Hate researcher Chris Clarke said: “It doesn’t mean these places will automatically be susceptible to far-right openings, but the risk may have increased. Economic hardship can fuel community tensions, and these can be expressed through the election of far-right politicians, spikes in hate crimes, or one-off flash points that get out of hand. “
Although the 52 authorities include some ‘left behind’ cities, others are well connected, like Newark in Nottinghamshire, or rely on an international transport hub, like Luton. Others are seaside resorts like Great Yarmouth in Norfolk or beauty spots like Eden on the edge of the Lake District. The only Welsh place on the list was Anglesey.
Of the 52 authorities, the researchers estimated that 16 were the most vulnerable to rising community tensions and possible far-right support, in part because they had high rates of unemployment and benefit claims since. the start of the pandemic.
These are Liverpool and the Lancashire towns of Blackpool, Bolton, Burnley and Rochdale, plus Pendle Council and, on the east coast, Middlesbrough. In the Midlands, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Sandwell have been cited and, further south, Peterborough. In the south-east, Luton, Barking and Dagenham in east London, Thurrock in Essex, Swale and Thanet in Kent as well as Harlow.
Last week, the mood in Harlow, first described as an essay on civilization by former New Towns Commission chief Lord Reith, was mixed. Walking through Britain’s first pedestrianized shopping district, dentist Iffath Ahmed said she had not encountered any racism here. “Everyone has been very friendly. There was absolutely no problem, ”said the 27-year-old, who commutes from multicultural east London. However, she said the impact of the pandemic was clear: “A lot of people are struggling: some can no longer afford dental care.”
Peter Cox, enthusiastically cleaning the windows of a Polish grocery store, said social cohesion had been threatened by the conversion of a 14-story office building, Terminus House, into 200 housing units, and the influx of strangers had disrupted the local fabric and engendered antipathy. Five years have passed since the murder of Polish immigrant Arkadiusz Jóźwik in Harlow fueled a debate over xenophobia. Although the trial found no xenophobic grounds, Cox says tensions are high.
A broader analysis of the 52 ‘at risk’ councils found that they contained 144 towns which, on average, were larger than the typical town in England and Wales – with an average population of 47,000 versus 38 000 nationwide.
Last week’s budget signaled a reversal of some Conservative austerity measures, their impact remains severe. The report said: “There was a strong feeling in the 52 ‘at risk’ areas that austerity never really ‘ended’ and that another wave of budget cuts would leave councils with little or no ability to manage. build trust and build community relationships. ”
“Not many people are going to stay here at night anymore,” Cox said, describing how in 1975, when he started working at the compound, Harlow felt energetic. “It’s like a whole different place now.”
The Hope not Hate report says that although born out of post-war Labor idealism, Harlow suffers from “fewer heritage assets – cheaper housing and a lack of status-conferring assets – city status , football club, medieval history ”. Perceptions of community cohesion plummeted during the pandemic, he added, especially among the most disadvantaged communities with disinformation antagonizing inter-ethnic divisions.
A council official said he had witnessed an “increase in far-right activity and homophobia, transphobia and conspiracy theory activity at the local level.” Another described how the name of infamous conspiracy theorist David Icke was tagged on the fences with others describing how anti-vaccination theorists got louder.
Harlow City Council rejects claim that there is a risk of extremism. Deputy Chief Joel Charles said: “The council has always been committed to working with community groups to address all forms of intolerance through the Safer Harlow Partnership. One of its priorities is to fight hate crimes. He added that a new community resilience strategy had been developed to ensure recovery from the pandemic. and is keen to look for new ways to celebrate their contribution to the city.
“Work continues, in partnership with the community, to ensure Harlow remains a tolerant and welcoming place, free from extremism. “