Young voters far more comfortable with the changing face of Britain than the over-60s

 

Deputy Political Editor

First-time voters are dramatically more at ease with Britain’s rapidly changing ethnic make-up than their fellow citizens aged over 60, a survey found today.

British Future, the think tank which commissioned the poll, said the findings suggested support for hardline right-wing groups such as the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) would fade over time.

The YouGov survey discovered that nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of young adults who will be able next May to vote for the first time at a general election were comfortable with Britain being more ethnically diverse than 20 years ago.

That contrasted with less than one third of over-60s (32 per cent) who said they were relaxed with the change.

First-time voters – people aged between 17 and 21 – were also much more positive about the potential benefits for Britain from immigration.

When asked to rate the impact of immigration, 31 per cent gave it a very positive score of between eight and 10, twice as many as those who scored it negatively at between zero and two (16 per cent).

There was a strikingly different response among the over-60s, with 40 per cent giving immigration a score of zero to two and just eight per cent feeling positive and rating its impact at between eight and ten.

The findings were released by British Future to coincide with a mock funeral in east London to celebrate the BNP losing its two European Parliamentary seats in last week’s elections. Its downfall was in striking contrast to the spectacular gains by Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France.

 

A horse-drawn hearse carried a coffin, with flowers spelling “RIP Fascism”, in a procession down Cable Street, where local residents stopped black-shirted followers of Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists marching through the area in 1936. It ended with a “wake” at nearby Wilton’s Music Hall.

Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, said: “Young people have grown up in modern, diverse Britain, and they are comfortable with what they see.

“Angry men with far-right views who want to kick out their friends and neighbours hold no appeal to them. Fascism, as a political force, is a thing of the past.”

He added: “The far-right have never secured mass appeal in this country because they never shed the jackboot image. Defeating fascism in the Second World War is one of the proudest moments of this country's history and is part of our identity as a people.”

The findings were at odds with data this week from NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey which concluded that racial intolerance had started rising again after years of decline.

If found that 30 per cent of Britons described themselves as either “very” or “a little” prejudiced against people of other races, an increase since 2001.

The BNP saw its vote collapse in last week’s Euro and local elections. Its party leader, Nick Griffin, lost his seat in the European Parliament after BNP support slumped by three-quarters in the North-West of England region.

The party achieved just one win in a council election, retaining a seat in the Lancashire authority of Pendle.

Several former activists have resigned to set up splinter parties. They include Britain First, whose supporters recently attracted headlines when they handed out Bibles at mosques in Bradford.

Meanwhile the EDL, the street protest movement which protests again “Islamic extremism” was thrown into turmoil last year when its founder, Stephen Lennon, suddenly resigned from the organisation. However, it remains active and continues to mount demonstrations.

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