A beginner’s guide to the far-right in the East Midlands.
At it’s peak the British National Party (BNP) was the most successful far-right party in British history, far exceeding the vote achieved by the National Front in the “bad old days” of the 1970s. Despite these very real achievements, infighting has greatly weakened the party leading many activists to defect.
They were at one point relatively strong in the East Midlands, but now the Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Derbyshire groups need to join forces in order to turn out enough people for a leafleting session.
One of the BNP’ few remaining councillor’s sits on Charnwood Borough Council in Leicestershire. Cathy Duffy is the representative of the East Goscote ward.
Relative newcomers on the far right scene, the English Defence League is the most successful UK branch of the counter jihad movement. Formed as the United Peoples of Luton against an Islamist protest against troops returning from Afghanistan, the EDL recruited amongst football casual firms using an ideology not dissimilar to that of the BNP but tailored to be less explicitly racist. They have courted Zionists and the LGBT community in their opposition to Muslims, something which has caused rifts between modernisers and old school fascists within the organisation (see Infidels, below).
The EDL’s activities are focused on national and regional demonstrations, where supporters are mobilised to town centres to march (if allowed) and rally. The EDL’s early days saw them draw as many as 3,000 supporters to these demos but the numbers have plummeted in recent times to only 300 at their latest demo in Bristol.
The East Midlands divisions are still important to the EDL and loyally turn out to each demo, although they have to share a coach these days. Particularly important are the Nottingham and Leicester divisions, in the region’s two largest cities, although there are smaller Derbyshire and Northants divisions as well.
The Infidels emerged in April 2011 after a split between John “Snowy” Shaw and the EDL leadership. They are much more openly extreme than the EDL, linking up with the National Front and assorted neo-Nazis. While the EDL had flirted with support for Israel, the Infidels have espoused anti-Zionist and even openly anti-Semitic positions, as well as strong loyalism and anti-Irish sentiments (particularly in relation to Steven Yaxley-Lennon and Kevin Carroll of the EDL).
They are strongest in the North of England, but do have (very) small groups in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire.
The British Freedom Party was formed by disgruntled BNP members who fell out with Nick Griffin and split with the party. Their present leader, Paul Weston, is a former UKIP candidate and the party has made official links with the EDL. Steven Yaxley-Lennon and Kevin Carroll of the EDL have been made the party’s deputy leaders, suggesting that they are moving away from the EDL’s street tactics towards electoral politics.
Describing themselves as “cultural nationalists”, the BFP is virulently anti-Islam, opposing the building of all mosques and madrassas, an end to “mass immigration” and a return to “Christian values”.
There is no evidence of BFP activity in the East Midlands at present although there has been suggestion that Nottingham EDL’s Tony Curtis might be interested in joining up.
Once the key player on the British far-right, in 1979 the National front (NF) stood more than 300 candidates and secured almost 200,000 votes, but internal feuds and a series of splits (including the emergence of the BNP) saw the party fade from view. Since then it has only been able to muster a trivial level of support. However, the internal divisions within the BNP appear to have improved the fortunes of the party and at the May 2012 elections the party stood more candidates than it has done since 1982.
Locally the NF remains tiny and paper sellers were chased out of Ripley by anti-fascists. Tim Knowles did manage to get himself elected unopposed onto Langley Mill Parish Council, but was swiftly booted off after having failed to fill in the declaration of acceptance or to attend a single meeting.
Blood and Honour
B&H is a neo-Nazi organisation putting on white power gigs, founded in the late-80s by Ian Stuart Donaldson of fascist band Screwdriver. As pressure on him from anti-fascists grew he decided to move from London to the East Midlands in 1990 and while pressure didn’t relent, the area became a focus for the group with gigs around Notts, Derbyshire and Staffs. B&H still put on occasional, highly secretive gigs up and down the country and a leaked list of members recently turned up a number of names and addresses from the region.
The English Democrats are not a far-right party, instead occupying a similar political space to UKIP somewhere to the right of the Tories. Nevertheless, the implosion of the BNP has led to a major influx of former members joining the English Democrats. While party leader Roger Tilbrook believes that “some of the people who wanted to do their honest best for our country but made the mistake of joining the BNP are now joining us and will help us become that electorally credible party.” While he concedes a “need to be sure that such people are genuine converts to a more civic or cultural nationalism,” how he proposes to ensure they are “genuine converts” isn’t clear. With so many BNP members joining and only 60 people attending the party’s 2011 conference in Leicester, it is not too difficult to imagine a situation where the party is pulled ever further to the right or even taken over completely.
The English Democrats have two district councillors in the region, David Owens and Elliot Fountain, both representing the Fenside ward of Boston Borough Council. David Owens is a former BNP member who defected in the run up to last year’s local elections.
With the ongoing infighting within the BNP and without a credible alternative, a number of individuals have decided to go it alone. Among them Leicestershire County Councillor Graham Partner.
A new and small group, formed in Leicester earlier this year, 212 is more obviously Christian in character than the EDL but seems to share its islamophobic ideology and street fighting methods. There are Leicester and Nottingham branches and strong crossover with the EDL in both cities.