The British National party (BNP) has become more "dangerous" by toning down its racist rhetoric, experts have warned.
Research analysing the party's manifestos published in the Political Quarterly journal shows that the BNP's emphasis since Nick Griffin became leader in 1999 has focused on protecting Britain's values and institutions, rather than a nationalism based on race. It suggests that Ukip's language has been mirrored by the BNP, especially on Europe, and that its anti-immigration stance has shifted from racial tensions towards broader social and economic problems.
"We are definitely not saying that the BNP is no longer an extreme right racist party," Daphne Halikiopoulou from the LSE's department of government commented. "Indeed its use of more inclusive rhetoric makes it more dangerous because it makes it more difficult to identify it as such."
The civic narrative developed by the BNP has led to mixed results for the party. It has won two seats in the European parliament but, following intense media coverage, lost all its councillors in Barking and Dagenham in May 2010.
Another researcher, Sofia Vasilopoulou, said Mr Griffin's reforms had had a noticeable impact on the far-right party's arguments, however.
"The BNP's post 1999 manifestos are characterised by a rhetoric shift," she explained. "Although race still figures, it is less prominent and no longer forms the premise of its nationalist agenda. Instead, the BNP has increasingly talked about its agenda using elements of British national identity which unite rather than divide, such as 'democracy', 'freedom', and 'liberty' - all values that the party has previously rejected as 'liberal sickness'."