Lee Anderson’s support of the death penalty is from the National Front’s playbook
Lee Anderson MP has given an interview to right-wing rag the Spectator in which he called for the reinstatement of capital punishment. Only days later, PM Rishi Sunak saw fit to elevate him to the rank of deputy chair of the Conservative Party.
When asked if he would support the return of the death penalty, Anderson answered “Yes”, stating:
Nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed. You know that, don’t you? 100% success rate.
Sunak was immediately forced to state “that’s not my view, that’s not the Government’s view” in response to Anderson’s comment, but Anderson was by no means alone. iNews reported that Brendan Clarke-Smith and two other anonymous MPs leapt to Anderson’s defence. Clarke-Smith went so far as to say “I am one of those people” who supports capital punishment. Whilst it may appear that calls for capital punishment are an extreme position to take, Anderson’s views have deep roots in the history of Britain.
Britain’s far right element have included that National Front, a fringe party formed in 1967 by the combination of the League of Empire Loyalists, the British National Party, and the Racial Preservation Society – followed later by the neo-Nazi Greater Britain Movement.
In 1970, the National Front put out one of its most infamous campaign posters. Along with the urging to “Put Britons First” and “Vote National Front”, it stated six policies. These were:
REJECT common market
RESTORE capital punishment
MAKE Britain great again
SCRAP overseas aid
REBUILD our armed forces
Horrifyingly, each of these positions can be found in Tory policy or supported by individual Tory MPs right now.
Enter, Brexit. The Tories – and the National Front, for that matter – have already seen their win here. Former PM Boris Johnson backed a hardline Brexit trade deal which he called “a turning point in the life of our nation”. Britain crashed out of the EU’s single market with little planning or preparation.
Since then, we’ve seen life in Britain follow a steady decline. As our own Joe Glenton summarised:
Brexit has caused a food price hike of nearly £6bn in the last two years, according to new research. The study by the London School of Economics (LSE) states that the rise in prices is due to increased red tape. That’s somewhat of an irony given Brexit was often touted as a way to reduce bureaucracy and added costs.
Along with that, the public has borne witness to a disastrous ‘Festival of Brexit’, chaos in fuel pricing, and shortages of basic necessities. Even the former strongholds of Brexit Britain are experiencing crushing regret for their choices. And, sure enough, the Tories have ticked another fascist policy off of the National Front’s list. We’re now watching in real time exactly how ‘great’ an isolationist Britain can truly be.
In fact, the phrase “make Britain great again” reared its head when Boris Johnson vowed to make the UK the “the greatest place on earth”. As Nadine El-Enany explained in Open Democracy:
Britain’s imperialism of recent decades has been masked in the language of humanitarian intervention, international trade and European cooperation. The Brexit era has created renewed purchase for the idea of the next British empire.
After all, what’s fascism without colonialism?
The Tory attitude to immigration is vile, as it always has been – especially rhetoric around “pushing back” small boat crossings. Take the home secretary, Suella Braverman, as an example. As the Canary’s Sophia Purdy-Moore reported at the time:
In October, Braverman proudly told Tory Party Conference attendees that it is her ‘dream‘ and ‘obsession’ to see a flight traffic asylum seekers to offshore detention sites in Rwanda. This scheme comes alongside the inhumane and discriminatory Nationality and Borders Bill, which seeks to criminalise vulnerable people seeking refuge in the UK.
The planned Rwanda flights faced repeated protests and legal challenges due to their “‘shopping list’ of potential illegality” and stark inhumanity. Braverman failed to see them carried through because of the collapse of the then-government under Liz Truss.
Less aid, more arms
The Tory Party’s rule has also seen dramatic reductions in overseas aid, just as the National Front demanded 50 years ago. A statement from the House of Lords last year explained that:
In 2021 (the latest figures available), the UK’s ODA spend was £11,423mn, a decrease of £3,054mn (21.1%) on 2020. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) explained that this decrease was “driven by the government’s decision to reduce ODA from 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to 0.5% in 2021”.
‘ODA’ here refers to official development assistance. Its main objective is “the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries”. Spending on ODA has taken a sharp downturn in recent years, both in terms of raw cash and gross national income (GNI):
Meanwhile, the opposite is true for Britain’s military budget. Last year’s defence spending received an “increase of £3.6 billion from the previous year, which when adjusted for inflation is an 8.9% increase”. This was mirrored in the Ministry of Defence’s rise in the rankings of government payouts, becoming the “fifth highest spending area of UK government during 2021/22, up from sixth position in 2020/21.”
On top of this, Tory MP Tobias Ellwood has lamented the “decline in our global security architecture” whilst making grand plans to deepen conflict with Russia – all accompanied by the background noise of sabre rattling from the government.
The respectable face
It seems increasingly clear that Britain’s problem wasn’t with the policies of the National Front themselves. After all, we’ve repeatedly voted Tories into government who echo all of their main talking points from 50 years ago.
The public doesn’t like its fascism in jackboots or wearing a shaven head. Instead, the horrors should come from the mouths of Eton alums with expensive suits and clipped accents.
With Conservatives like these, who even needs fascists any more?
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ David Woolfall, CC BY 3.0, resized to 770*403
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