Explaining the early Twenty-First Century electoral success of the British National Party: Nuneaton 2008 as a case study

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Popular support for the British National Party (BNP) in England reached unprecedented high levels during the early twentieth century. The BNP won a number of local council and European Parliament seats on the back of this popularity. This study seeks to provide a case study of one such poll success: Nuneaton 2008. Evidence from Nuneaton, a BNP success not previously studied, will be used to test the literature already generated addressing other locations of ‘breakthrough’, including Burnley and Stoke (Burnett 2011; Rhodes 2009). The thesis seeks to explain why the BNP was able to win elections where there had previously been no appetite for far right politics.

    The research focuses on the role of demand and supply-side factors contributing to the electoral success of the BNP in 2008, showing that any analysis of the far right has to be multivariate in nature. The demand-side variables identified and analysed are: socioeconomics, immigration and Islamophobia. The supply-side factors assessed are political opportunity structures, the BNP campaign strategy and the role of the media. A mixed-method approach was undertaken which included interviews with voters and politicians, focus groups, a questionnaire capturing the views 308 constituents, and archival research of socioeconomic data and newspaper reports.

    The findings of this research indicate that the BNP’s electoral breakthrough in Nuneaton was multivariabl ein nature, and it is reasonable to argue that particular variables were more significant than others. Immigration stands out as the most prominent variable. In addition, the role of the media, the press in particular, was of great significance in explaining breakthrough in Nuneaton through the sanitising and legitimising of negative stereotypes of immigrants, asylum seekers and Muslims. This case study also suggests that Islamophobia should be regarded as a key factor. Indeed, Islamophobia was an important part of the jigsaw and conflates with a number of variables tested in this thesis.

    In sum, this research broadly corroborates the existing literature. It does however suggest that socioeconomics has been overplayed to a degree in previous studies, while Islamophobia has been underplayed.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University

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