UNLIKE the fascism of the interwar years, Teesside University historian Paul Stocker argues in his new book, English Uprising, that the re-emergence of the extreme populist right is a cultural rather than just an economic phenomenon.

Stocker provides a concise, critical overview of the history of 20th-Century British fascism. Unlike Sir Oswald Mosley’s BUF Blackshirts in the 1930s, the spectacular rise of groups like the National Front and the BNP, were a direct response to post war black commonwealth immigration in the fifties and sixties. In 1967 the NF, a racialist party of the extreme right, was founded. Its main belief system was a redefinition of the ‘real’ British community in terms of colour. For the NF whites were seen as a ‘true Brits’. Black and Asian people weren’t and blamed for social problems like unemployment and bad housing.

By 1979 the NF lost a lot of its support partly due to its thuggish skinhead image, street violence and partly due to Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s populist stance on overseas migration.

By 1992 it fell into decline and was eclipsed by the British National Party. Until 2011 the BNP was the lead player on the extreme right and enjoyed success in council elections especially in the deprived outer-boroughs of London. By 2009 both Nick Griffin and Andrew Broms, one time chair of the NF and lecturer in law at Harrogate College, were elected to the European Parliament for the first time.

By 2012 the rapid rise of UKIP, although not a fascist party, represented the "further mainstreaming’’ of ideas popularised by the BNP. As Nigel Farage, UKIP’s former leader boasted: "We have taken a third of the BNP vote and I’m quite proud of that’’.

Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL) are the fastest growing groups in the new far right according to the charity Hope Not Hate. Established by Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, former BNP activists, Britain First has an extensive presence on social media. Its estimated 800 members have targeted mosques and have tried to whip up unrest in predominantly Muslim communities. Its pernicious on-line propaganda played a key role in the radicalisation of the convicted far-right terrorist Daren Osbourne. Nick Lowles, from Hope not Hate, said : "The speed with which Osbourne was radicalised is frightening.’’

National Action is another extreme far right-right group. Founded by two university students three years ago National Action is a self-defined Neo-Nazi group with about 200 members. Although small in number the group has a disproportionate reach and influence on social media outlets. In 2016 it championed the far-right terrorist Thomas Mair, who was convicted of the murder of Jo Cox MP.

In December 2016 the home secretary Amber Rudd banned the group and described it as a domestic terrorist organisation.

SHOULD we be worried in education? Although racist attitudes and values were prevalent in the latter part of the 20th century, Britain is by and large a tolerant multicultural society. Research by Hope Not Hate notes that we have become more, not less tolerant since 2011. Overtly racist opinions, as measured by surveys, have dropped significantly in the last two decades.

Of-course, there are genuine concerns about migration, which was a key factor in the vote for Brexit.

Since 2009, Newcastle has witnessed a number of far-right protests, led by the organisations such as the EDL, Pegida, National Action, the NF and North-Eastern Infidels, which at their peak attracted 1500 demonstrators. In Gateshead anti-Semitic hate crime is at an all-time high according to a new report by The Community Security Trust. In 2016/17 hate crime in the city rose by 68% compared to the previous year with racial and faith related offences making up 82% of all hate crimes according to the 2017 Safe Newcastle report.

Likewise a Sunday Times report last month noted that far–right extremists are gaining a foothold in some English universities. A report by Robert Ford published recently suggests that only a quarter of those born in the 1980s believe it’s essential to live in a democracy compared to seven out of 10 of those born in the 1930s.

Five in 10 north of England referrals to Prevent, the government’s anti-extremism programme, are for individuals believed to be at risk of far-right terrorism. The revived radical right party UKIP has become increasingly racialised. The fall -out from Brexit could spawn the growth of a new far right national socialist movement, such as For Britain, led by people like Anne Marie Waters, the unsuccessful UKIP leadership candidate and Tommy Robinson, ex-leader of the EDL.

It’s for these reasons that the Government unveiled its Fundamental British Values initiative back in 2016 followed by the Home Office launch of the Building A Stronger Britain Together programme, part of the state’s counter–extremism strategy, to address concerns about the potential growth of far-right groups and "Islamo-fascism’’ in local communities and in schools.

Although most colleges and schools have integrated FBVs into their institutional structures Ofsted chief Amanda Speilman argues that too often they are being taught in a piecemeal and ad hoc way. For a minority of youngsters their sense of disenchantment can easily be exploited by extremists of both the far right and far left who "promise a better tomorrow by scapegoating and blaming minorities today".

Clearly our educational providers have a key role in challenging and exposing extremism in the classroom, online and outside in the wider community. That’s why it’s important that all schools re-emphasise the shared values of democracy, tolerance, respect and the rule of law through the formal and “hidden’’ curriculum.

In the North-East, Newcastle City Council, the national charity Show Racism the Red Card and Newcastle CVS will all be involved in BSBT projects this year with £1m funding.

DR Stocker and his colleagues are correct to challenge an explicit economic explanation for the growth of new far right populism. But as other experts point out, the core lesson from inter-war Britain is that this nativist populism only comes alive when government fails to address the anxieties of the dispossessed living in left-behind and left-out post-industrial towns and coastal communities both in the North and elsewhere.

As former Government adviser Alan Milburn concluded in his latest social mobility report a failure to stem industrial decline, tackle stagnant wages and educational under-achievement, debt and a sense of political alienation could fuel support for a fascist solution through far-right movements or hard-left totalitarian groups in some parts of our divided and fractured post-Brexit region.