POLITICIANS have a “moral obligation to moderate their rhetoric” and should be more aware of the influence this could potentially have on far-right groups, a social psychologist has said.

Dr Ana-Maria Bliuc, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Dundee, drew parallels between the political climate of Donald Trump’s America and what we’re seeing across the UK now.

In February alone right-wing demonstrations have been on the rise.

Protesters clashed with trans-rights campaigners at a drag queen storytelling event at the Tate Britain. Disturbances also broke out in Knowsley near Liverpool after several hundred far-right demonstrators protested against asylum seekers who were housed in a local hotel by the Home Office.

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In Scotland, an anti-racist counter-protest was called in opposition to far-right group Patriotic Alternative’s (PA) anti-refugee rally in Erskine.

Elsewhere, Cornwall Council has put out a statement attempting to discourage people from attending a similar protest planned in Newquay.

So why exactly is the right-wing movement on the rise and where has it all stemmed from?

The power of language

“Invasion.” That was how Home Secretary Suella Braverman described refugees arriving on England’s southern coast.

“The British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast and which party is not,” she told the House of Commons.

The use of language like this, and a policy plan which would see asylum seekers sent to Rwanda, is part of what fuels confidence in the far-right, Bliuc explained.

“The last couple of years have been hard from a societal point of view," she said. "We see this rhetoric of very charged words in mainstream political discourse. That’s what Trump was using, although maybe less subtly."

During the launch of his first campaign to become president, Trump said that Mexico was sending people to the US with “lots of problems”, claiming they were brining “crime” and some of them were “rapists”.

Braverman herself was previously warned by government lawyers that inflammatory rhetoric could inspire a far-right attack.

A Home Office spokesperson at the time said Braverman’s priority would be to protect “the security of the UK and safety of its citizens”.  

How does this language inspire the far-right?

As a social psychologist, Bliuc has done a lot of work on the influence language can have on people.

The National previously spoke with Roz Foyer about how a similar strategy was being used by the Conservatives towards trade unions.

Bliuc added: “They’re using our identities to try antagonise others. It’s about making ‘them’ the enemy and it’s really charged language.”

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Building on this, Keir McKechnie, a volunteer with Stand Up To Racism, said that the Tories are “scapegoating” refugees to “deflect from the economic mess their government has created”.

“They’re using the language of the far-right and the far-right are taking confidence from this.”

What has Suella Braverman said?

During an interview with GB News, Braverman was asked about the issue of far-right protests - specifically whether this was a fair description.

The Home Secretary condemned “in the fullest possible terms” the use of violence, intimidation and harassment in any kind of protest.

However, she added: “It’s clear that we have an unsustainable situation in towns and cities around our country whereby because of the overwhelming numbers of people arriving here illegally and our legal duties to accommodate them, we are now having to house them in hotels and that is causing understandable tensions within communities.”

The National: Suella Braverman has previously been slammed for her rhetoric on immigrantsSuella Braverman has previously been slammed for her rhetoric on immigrants

Asked if she supported the protesters, she said she “understood people’s frustrations” with asylum seekers being housed in hotels.

“It is clear and undeniable that there are really serious pressures on communities and saying so does not make you racist or bigoted.”

Bliuc explained how anti-immigration rhetoric is “dangerous” for the public.

“Using moral outrage is very effective because it helps to mobilise emotions," she said. "People might hold right-wing views but not be far-right. When you talk about these common issues, you make a moral narrative around these things.”

Who are Patriotic Alternative?

A meeting at a church in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, recently was intended to air concerns about the arrival of asylum seekers in hotels amongst locals.

The Guardian reported that residents had seen a leaflet distributed by PA emblazoned with the slogan: “You pay Migrants Stay.”

The Home Office and its contractors had to increase security inside the hotel and advised asylum seekers to stay inside.

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Among those to speak at the event was PA activist Wesley Russell. PA was first formed in 2019 by Mark Collett, formerly a chairman of the Young BNP.

He was once filmed in an undercover documentary saying: "Hitler will live on forever and maybe I will."

The organisation has been described as the largest “fascist threat” in the UK by Hope Not Hate, despite describing itself as a “community-building and activism group”.

The campaign group’s report compared PA to the Nazis, while members have previously climbed Ben Nevis to unfurl a White Lives Matter Banner.

In response, a spokesperson for PA said Hope Not Hate were a “far-left anti-white organisation with a known history of attacking, lying about and misrepresenting good people’.

Bliuc said: “PA have been quite vocal recently. They’ve been strategic in using these different social issues to get public attention.”

Major rally organised

Stand Up To Racism has helped to organise a rally as part of a national day of action. The Scottish Trade Union Congress are also involved.

McKechnie explained: “The context that has forced us to do this is the hostile environment created by the Tory government.

“They’re looking to scapegoat for their political mess. So far we’ve outnumbered the fascists and we will continue to do that to explain to people that refugees are not a threat, they’ve been victims of persecution.

“That’s not all we have to say about it, one of the key issues is that if we are going to move different groups of people then that requires investment in communities.

“We need health resources, education resources and to talk to those living in areas to show them that innocent refugees should not be blamed for mistakes being made by those at the top of society.”