Published on Friday, 01 March 2013 23:55 Written by Ray Mount
Just 59 people attended the launch meeting of the British Democratic Party near Leicester on 9 February. The turnout must have been a disappointment to its steering committee who held a series of regional meetings late last year to build support for the national launch at Queniborough Village Hall. They are hoping it will replace the British National Party, which Andrew Brons MEP, the BDP’s president, claimed was in terminal decline.
In particular, the number was well down on the 150 to 170 people who attended Brons’s BNP Ideas conference at the same venue on 22 October 2011 and called on him to form a new party. Brons maintained then that the time was not right, that there was not enough momentum for a new party. Some might question whether anything has changed.
The BDP will supposedly be different from the myriad other parties and groupuscules on the far right, but one feature it shares is the paucity of women: only eight at the meeting.
The platform backdrop was bedecked with the Union Flag and cheap-quality national flags: Cross of St George, Saltire, Welsh Dragon, but no sign of the Red Hand of Ulster. The BNP never managed to achieve anything in Northern Ireland other than to put a local printer out of business by not paying its bills. Perhaps the BDP knows which side its bread is definitely not buttered.
The new party’s literature was also produced on the cheap: three A5 leaflets which all essentially said stop immigration in different ways, an A4 join-up-and-donate form and a detailed policy statement on a twice-folded A3 sheet, all to be found on the BDP’s stall.
There were two other stalls. One on behalf of the A K Chesterton Trust was run by Jeremy “Jez” Bedford-Turner, organiser of the Iona London Forum (see pages 12-13). The Trust publishes Candour, which it describes as Britain’s longest running nationalist magazine – in print since 1953.
The other stall was run by Liam Haines-Kernaghan, a former longstanding BNP activist who joined the party aged 18 in 1983, shortly after its foundation. Kernaghan runs a giftware business in Bradford and has more recently been active in the tiny Democratic Nationalists, which hardly spread outside Bradford and has now folded itself into the BDP.
The meeting started around 11.00am and the morning was devoted to members of the steering committee explaining why they were convinced of the need for a new party, something one might think could have been taken as read by this stage.
The ten-strong steering committee is self-appointed, to be replaced in 2014 by an elected ten-strong national council once the party’s members know each other, something that was one of the purposes of the launch meeting. Nine were present, the absentee being John Bean, a veteran nationalist who has described himself as “the British Joseph Goebbels” and whom Brons called the grandfather of British nationalism in a summary of the meeting on his Nationalist Unity website.
Bean, 86, was active in Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement in the early 1950s and held leading positions successively in the League of Empire Loyalists, the National Labour Party, the 1960s version of the British National Party and the National Front from 1967, which he co-founded. After moving into the present BNP he edited its now-defunct quarterly theoretical magazine Identity until 2010. He was imprisoned in the 1960s for his far-right activities.
Notwithstanding his trajectory through the history of British fascism, Bean denies being a Nazi, commenting on the Mirror website on 11 February: “If I had sympathies for Nazism I would not have volunteered for RAF aircrew in March 1945. I may be an ancient pensoner [sic], bupt [sic] not a ‘Nazi’ one.”
Brons excused his “honourable” absence on grounds of age but stated that he plays an active part in email discussion with other members.
Brons himself is the party’s president. Named positions are held by Kevin Scott (chairman), Adrian Davies (treasurer) and Ken Booth (national nominating officer). The others on the committee are Dr James Lewthwaite, Brian Mahoney, Andrew Moffat, Kevan Stafford, Sam Swerling and John Walker. All except Davies are former BNP members, and of those, all except Swerling were BNP officers.
Roger Bennett, not in attendance, was mooted as a potential 11th committee member. Bennett, a former Somerset BNP officer, was the founder and chairman of the Brent Group, an early forerunner of the BDP formed in 2010 to keep “British Nationalists together after the failure of the BNP”. He then joined the British Freedom Party, now linked to the English Defence League but barely operational since it failed to renew its registration with the Electoral Commission and was struck off on 11 December 2012, swiftly followed by the resignation of its leader Paul Weston.
Throughout the six-hour meeting speakers made frequent references to “the previous party” – the BNP – and its leader Nick Griffin, words that were deemed unmentionable in all contributions from the floor. Anyone breaking the rule had to contribute 10p into a glass “swear box”. Brons deposited £20 in the pot at the beginning of his address in anticipation of uttering the aforementioned “swear words”.
Proceedings were opened by Kevin Scott, the founder in 2006 and director – and probably the only member – of Civil Liberty, a nationalist civil rights organisation, and until 2006 the North East regional organiser of the BNP, which he joined in 1983 as a teenager.
Scott told the audience that the BDP aims to be a broad church from the Conservative right, UK Independence Party, National Front and even old Labour, saying “we must form a union with all other nationalists”. He expressed a hope that those 150-170 people who attended the BNP Ideas conference in October 2011 and were no longer active were not lost to nationalism for good.
This party belongs to you the membership, he said. We have a plan to win back the nationalist movement as the premier nationalist party in Britain. In a remark directed at Griffin, he stated that the BDP would only be run for the benefit of its members and not for money grabbers. The party has no salaried staff but a paid employee is likely when the party reaches 1,000 members.
Scott, who was convicted of assault in 1987 and of threatening words and behaviour in 1993, asked that we at Searchlight update our content to include the launch of the BDP – happy to oblige with this article. But the main enemy for him was clearly the BNP. He explained that the meeting’s organisers had arranged rendezvous points for those attending, rather than announcing the venue publicly, not so much because of any threat from anti-fascists but because of the risk of the BNP scuppering the meeting or sabotaging the premises.
He ended by announcing that the BDP would hold further regional meetings following those in Newcastle, Rotherham and Wigan at the end of 2012. A London meeting is expected in March and a general meeting in July.
Andrew Brons, who was elected as a BNP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber in 2009 but now sits as an independent, paid tribute to Peter Phillips’s role in establishing the BDP, saying Phillips had set the ball rolling to launch a new party. In fact Phillips had registered a different party in November 2011, True Brits, which Brons had been hoping to use as his new vehicle, until Phillips walked out suddenly at the beginning of last November.
Joking that Nick Lowles, former editor of Searchlight and chief executive of Hope Not Hate, had received an invitation to attend the launch meeting, he said it was a different Nick – Griffin – who had successfully destroyed British nationalism today.
What is our purpose, he asked. The alternative is too dire to contemplate. The rump BNP is past recovery. It is in terminal decline. Patrick Harrington [Griffin’s long-time comrade who works for the BNP] is trying to stop a nationalist party replacing the BNP. What are the alternatives?
Answering his question, he said that the British Freedom Party had been deregistered by the Electoral Commission and Britain First had disappeared – untrue. Turning to the English Democrats (EDP) he said its former BNP members, such as Chris Beverley, Andy Kershaw and Eddy Butler, were thoroughly decent people but it fosters multiracialism even more enthusiastically than UKIP, in other words it is not racist enough.
Tellingly, he said the National Front was ideologically sound but unfortunately had an approach that “those who are not with us are against us”. The tiny, ideologically sound NF, a shadow of what it was in the 1970s, believes in “repatriation” of non-white people, wants women to have children rather than a career, would introduce the death penalty and birching, wants police to stop and search people because they are black, and would seal the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
The BDP, said Brons, is the only answer. Can we make it work? All the people of talent in the BNP have left. We must start from the ground floor upwards and not contest every parliamentary by-election. We must contest carefully selected local council seats with well known candidates, leaflet and get good results. We will have estimable efforts at the local level. Then we attract publicity, first by nationalists and then by others. The BNP became significant but is ending with a whimper, not a bang. The BDP will do the opposite.
Discussing proportional representation Brons said PR would help us get a foothold initially but would prevent us from ever achieving power on our own. He cited the example of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) which has only ever been part of a coalition government. The issue is close to Brons’s heart as it was a form of PR that got him and Griffin elected to the European Parliament in 2009.
Turning to the party’s policy and ideology, he tried to distinguish between the two concepts, saying that ideology was the party’s political philosophy and principles, upon which its policy – “the here and now” – was based. “Ideology educates our membership to win over recruits who have been subject to brainwashing”. He may be alone in drawing that distinction: the party’s “policy statement” is a mishmash of ideology and policies.
As with any far-right party, the most important issue is immigration. On this he at least explained honestly to the audience why the party was not going to be honest to the public: the BDP will understate its policy on immigration because people are squeamish. We will win people over by playing down our policy.
But what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. Pointing out that some of nationalism’s best people have gone to the EDP, he complained that the EDP is saying one thing but believing another on immigration.
Adrian Davies, a barrister who registered the BDP with the Electoral Commission on 23 May 2011, told the audience that his motivation was to save the British people from themselves. In his view there was no objective reason not to have a large successful, credible, established party like the Front National (FN) in France. British nationalism has been reduced to a sick joke. There will be no elected nationalist representatives at local level in 2014, he said.
Davies, who is in financial straits as a result of complicated litigation over the will of his late brother Owen Davies, has founded a party before. The Freedom Party, formed in 2000, went nowhere and petered out in 2006. Davies has also been prominent on the Tory right on the council of the Conservative Monday Club and the executive committee of Tory Action, and was secretary of the right-wing pressure group, the London Swinton Circle.
His bugbear was people who seek respectability, such as UKIP. Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader, has never gone outside the parameters of debate, said Davies. We should not go the same road. We are opposed to the whole establishment philosophy of liberalism and respectability. UKIP will do very well in the 2014 European elections. However, its contradictions will adversely affect it and David Cameron could shoot its fox in relation to an in-out referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU. He similarly wrote off Robin Tilbrook of the EDP for seeking respectability.
He was less enamoured than Brons with the NF, saying he did not wish to see a youth wing such as the Young NF which published a Bulldog newspaper in the 1970s, listing “a league of football hooligan louts” for its followers. He also wrote off the EDL, complaining that it would not challenge the establishment principles and takes coked-up, lager louts to demonstrations outside Westminster.
We need to create a party that challenges the core principles of the establishment, added Davies. It is important how we conduct ourselves and behave as the public face of the movement. There is no other way ahead.
Following on from Brons’s words about downplaying the immigration issue, Davies said membership of the BDP was open to all without regard to ethnicity, acknowledging that some will not like it. But he expected that 90% of BDP members would come from the BNP. Not too many non-whites expected then.
He promised that the BDP’s website, which is currently being redirected to the Nationalist Unity Forum’s site, would be launched within a week or two of the meeting. At the time of writing, the redirection remains in place.
Turning to the party’s constitution, which he had drafted, he explained that the BDP was not going to be a BNP mark two. The way the BNP has been run over recent years has been staggering beyond belief, he said. The BDP would be a completely democratic party, both at the macro and the micro level. It will grow slowly and change society slowly. It will be internally democratic. The Constitution is thoroughly democratic, efficient and will guard against the worst financial abuses.
Referring to an often contentious issue in the BNP, he explained that members will select a panel to choose the party’s Disciplinary Committee. The Constitution provides for a method to expel people whose behaviour has become politically unacceptable but the executive cannot expel people because they have said something the executive does not want to hear or advocated policies it disagrees with.
He outlined the timetable for the election to the party’s national council to replace the non-democratic steering committee. Nominations would open in June 2014, with voting in July, counting in August and assumption of office on 1 September 2014. All members will have voting rights.
The chairman will be initially elected by the National Council, though some people wanted direct election of the chairman by the membership. Davies pointed out that the Constitution can be changed by a special majority of two-thirds of those BDP members attending the AGM. In his view there is no risk of a dilution of the party’s membership, a problem that has provided the excuse for all sorts of restrictions in the BNP’s constitution.
A lengthy debate ensued on whether to accelerate the elections to the National Council from 2014 to autumn 2013, but it was decided to stick to the 2014 timetable.
Turning to the subject of his own role as BDP treasurer, he pronounced that the BNP’s set of accounts were extraordinary and stagger belief. Under the BDP constitution the salary of any future employee of the party will be publicised in the accounts.
Although legally the auditor of party accounts is responsible to the treasurer, the BDP made a point of stating that its accounts will be audited on behalf of the membership by a party member outside the steering committee. It is unlikely that will make much difference.
Ken Booth, who took over from Scott as North East regional organiser of the BNP, until 2010, recognised that the BDP would find the going hard in the shadow of UKIP, which the media have overblown and promoted.
He wants to build a party that belongs to its members, starting with the organisational structure at grassroots level. UKIP have a limited shelf life of 4-5 years, he said. We must fill the void after UKIP doesn’t have a reason to exist after the collapse of the euro or Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
The focus is on winning hearts and minds, he added. All our literature depicts mass immigration as the cause of the problems in our country e.g. housing. We will be a volunteer-led grassroots party.
Booth appealed for help from graphic designers and website designers in the party.
Next up was Brian Mahoney, a former BNP organiser for Wales. He too was keen on the grass roots, promising that the party would build firm and solid foundations. We are going to build a movement never seen before in this country. It will be a locally-based grassroots party built up from below.
He added that no one voted for the social engineering project, the diminution of our constitutional rights and Marxist political correctness.
Then came Andrew Moffat, another man with a long history on the far right. A member of the young NF in the 1970s, he stood as a candidate for UKIP in the general elections of 2001 and 2005 and for the BNP in 2010. He worked for a period on the BNP’s staff in the European Parliament, but denied being a former political secretary to David Irving, the Holocaust revisionist writer.
Like Scott and Brons, he mentioned Searchlight, which he accused of getting into a frenzy over the establishment of the new party. Wrong: we are gathering intelligence on the BDP and are confident that antifascists will defeat it like they have all the other far-right parties that have raised their ugly heads in Britain.
As for his links with Irving, who was it who campaigned to get Moffat reinstated when he was required to leave his Army regiment in Scotland?
Moffat told the audience there is anxiety afflicting our people who have nowhere to turn. What do we do? The leaders of UKIP are politically correct, spineless cowards. There is a huge divide between the membership and leadership in UKIP.
Describing Griffin as a clown, he said that in the public sector he would have been turfed out. Exaggerating somewhat, he said the BNP has lost 85-90% of its activists, regional and branch officials and membership. All representatives coming up for re-election have failed. It is now continuously being beaten by UKIP. Its party magazine has closed, its website is pretty illiterate and its accounts lack transparency – perhaps not surprising since its leader was once bankrupt. The BNP had 14,500 members at its peak in 2009. It has ignored and failed to use the best talent it had: IT experts, graphic designers, salesmen and professionals such as accountants. Its leader has continued to surround himself with ne’er-do-wells, nitwits, numbsculls, halfwits, many with criminal convictions.
The combined enemies of the nationalist movement in this country could not have done what the leader [Griffin] has done in the last three years to break the movement that had so much potential, he continued. We are trustees of the future unborn generation and those who came before us. We have no right to do nothing. The BNP is going nowhere. If necessary we can go to prison for what we believe in. This is to do with love of our own traditions, culture, heritage and our own people, he concluded.
He was followed by Sam Swerling, who also uses the name Peter Strudwick and was chairman of the Conservative Monday Club from 1980 to 1982 and a former member of the League of Empire Loyalists and the BNP.
Swerling said there is a need for ideology in politics. There is a lack of conviction, purpose and sentiment in mainstream parties. We have a real opportunity. We must develop policies based on sound principles.
He called for the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 and restoration of the power of this country to govern ourselves.
The BDP needed a clear-cut policy on immigration, he said, as if it needed to be said to that audience. A government should put its own people first. Maybe we need to move beyond the party’s current immigration policy. We must make immigration one of the main planks in our new party. Statistics show that a disproportionate number of non-white people were involved in the English rioting in August 2011. He pointed out that the 1971 Immigration Act included a policy of voluntary-assisted repatriation.
In his view UKIP would not advance more than it has already. He condemned it as an internationalist, free market and globalist party.
The BDP must attract people with a less economic liberal view of politics. We need people from the left as much as people from the right. Nationalists draw our strength from across the political spectrum. Swerling also wanted to see the renationalisation of the railways and the public utilities returned to public ownership.
We must reassert a moral imperative, he emphasised. Marriage is between a man and a woman. There is no mandate for gay marriage. As the demographer David Coleman at Oxford University has predicted, this country in 20-30 years will be changed so greatly and be unrecognisable except in countryside/rural areas.
We can borrow a lot from the left, from the right and the hard centre. We must fight for the soul of this country which we hold so dear, he concluded.
The final steering committee speaker was Kevan Stafford, former organiser of the BNP’s Charnwood branch and a Labour Party member until 1999. In his view the existing nationalist parties are not fit for purpose. Ethno-nationalist parties, by which he meant the BNP, NF and the Democratic Nationalists, are anti-immigration, whereas civic nationalist parties – the EDP, British Freedom Party, EDL and UKIP – favour accepting immigrants.
Stafford favoured ethno-nationalism. Ethnicity is worth preserving, he said. It would be diluted by the civic nationalist parties. We are all becoming coffee-coloured. This is not a good thing from a conservation point of view. We must conserve our ethnicity just as preserving the countryside.
The issue of Holocaust denial, always present in such gatherings, surfaced in his speech. The BNP’s use of the term “Holohoax” offended potential supporters, he said. The accusation of racism is nationalism’s Achilles heel which holds nationalism back. It leads to accusations of extremism, fascism and neo-Nazism. A majority of people support the two main planks of nationalism: withdrawal from the EU and anti-immigration.
He confirmed what Searchlight has said from the start, that the differences between Brons’s supporters and the BNP are not ideological. There is not much wrong with the policies of the BNP, he said, it is how they are put over to the public. We need a party that is respectable and doesn’t cause offence. In light of the BDP supporters’ pasts, it is unclear how they will manage that.
The audience included many well known former BNP supporters and other racists, among them:
Robert Baggs, former secretary of West Yorkshire NF, former BNP South West regional organiser and former chairman of the English Democrats Wiltshire branch.
Richard Barnbrook, the notorious former BNP member of the London Assembly.
Emmerson Collier, a Birmingham University student, former BNP activist, Director of Communications of the National Culturists and co-ordinator of the Young Patriots League, youth wing of Britain First.
Richard Edmonds veteran senior officer and activist in the NF and BNP, editor during the 1980s of the antisemitic Holocaust News. Edmonds has been active in the formation of the BDP but is not on the steering committee and stood for the NF in the Croydon North by-election last November. He told the meeting that there was an absolute vital need for a new party to replace the BNP. We must put the past behind. Two qualities are needed: confidence in yourselves and commitment. You will inherit where we were three years ago.
Frank Forte, who said he came from the “Islamic Republic of Waltham Forest” and that history was being made because for the first time we have an honest nationalist party.
Julian Leppert, former BNP councillor in the London Borough of Redbridge, whose appointment as BDP London organiser was announced soon after the meeting.
Matt Tait, former BNP Buckinghamshire organiser and participant in American Renaissance conferences, who wanted to set goals for what they have achieved by the next meeting.
Also present were Rosalind Gauci, former BNP Tameside organiser, the veteran NF activist Bob Gertner, Ray Heath, Edward Holmes, Bert Leech, Robert Page, Peter Phillips, David Preston, Gary Pudsey, David Owen, who intends to contest the Doncaster mayoral election in May, Peter Rushton of Heritage and Destiny, Steven Smith of the England First Party and former Burnley BNP organiser, Barry Taylor, former BNP treasurer John Walker, Roy West and Ivan Winters, secretary of the Democratic Nationalists.
According to Brons, a collection raised £318.34 which paid for the £152 to hire the hall and £70.17 for refreshments. A further donor gave £1,000 to subsidise party leaflets.
Several people joined on the day and others have joined since. Several expressed support on the Nationalist Unity Forum, apologising for being unable to attend.
Andrew Brons MEP, the president and figurehead of the British Democratic Party, as a long history on the far right. Now aged 65, he joined Colin Jordan’s National Socialist Movement aged 17. In 1965 he wrote in a letter to Jordan’s wife, Françoise Dior, that he felt the NSM’s campaign of arson against Jewish property and synagogues at the time was “well intentioned” but was concerned that the party’s public image might suffer. The same year he sent Dior money “for a badge (black swastika etc.) and … for a copy of the Horst Wessel song”.
Brons then joined John Bean’s British National Party and followed it into the National Front in 1967. He became chairman of the NF in Yorkshire and joined the NF national directorate in 1974.
After John Tyndall, the NF leader, departed in 1980 Brons took over the declining party’s chairmanship. He resigned in 1984 reportedly because he was terrified at the increasingly violent and illegal activities of the Strasserites who had taken over the party.
In June 1984 Brons was convicted of behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace. He and a fellow NF member Paul Vessey were arrested in Leeds whilst selling papers in a shopping centre. They were heard shouting slogans like “Death to Jews”, “White Power” and “National Front”. When approached by PC John Raj, Brons stated: “inferior beings like yourself probably do not understand the principle of free speech.”
Brons was on the opposite side to Nick Griffin in the NF split of 1986, joining Ian Anderson and Martin Wingfield in the so-called Flag Group after the party’s newspaper The Flag. He disappeared off the scene for many years but joined the BNP in 2005 and became editor of its quarterly journal Identity.
He resigned from the BNP in October 2012 after a long dispute with Griffin.
Brons has lived in Harrogate since the age of 11 and lectured in A Level law, government and politics at Harrogate College from 1970 until his retirement in 2005.