Published on Sunday, 16 December 2012 13:37 Written by Sonia Gable
Taking a break from its internal splits the English Defence League has rejected the advances of the tiny far-right Britain First group. A week after a mere handful of supporters turned out for Britain First’s anti-mosque protest in Southend on 1 December, the English Defence League warned its supporters to “beware false patriots” and accused Britain First of being “nothing more than a scam, a money making exercise by veteran con artists who are skilled in the arts of subversion, propaganda and deception”.
Britain First started as a campaign group, which rejected fighting elections on the sound anarchist principle that voting doesn’t change anything, even quoting (unattributably) Emma Goldman in support. Nevertheless in September the group, which is run entirely by former British National Party officers, decided to become a political party after all, though has not actually fought any elections so far.
The most prominent Britain First activist, and the cause of the EDL’s condemnation, is Jim Dowson. A militant anti-abortion campaigner, Dowson transformed the BNP’s fundraising from the end of 2007 until autumn 2010 when he and Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, fell out. But as I revealed in several articles in Searchlight from 2008 onwards, Dowson’s methods were not entirely open and honest, let’s say, and he always took care to look after number one. Based on my investigations, I concluded already in mid-2009 that Dowson in effect owned the BNP, something that by mid-2010 several BNP officers had accepted. That fact, and the reckless spending by Griffin and Dowson of far more than the certainly large sums Dowson raised, was one of the factors that led to the growth of dissent in the BNP, which has left the BNP’s organisation in tatters.
My research on Dowson and the BNP was widely used and built upon in antifascist campaigning and adopted by some far-right activists opposed to the BNP. Now the EDL has seen the light too. “They are a group of people who have no remorse for ripping off those who blindly support them, both morally and financially,” the EDL statement on 8 December said, citing “things like raising tens of thousands of pounds to produce leaflets that cost a couple of grand while sharing out the profit as wages and ‘fees’. Things like acquiring cheap laptops for the BNP then charging the BNP a grand each for them, laptops worth a few hundred quid means a tidy profit margin of around 700-800 pounds each, times that by 10 and there’s a hefty profit raised on the backs of hard working people, duped into thinking they were raising monies for a cause they believed in, all along they were on the take. They even engineered fake ‘thermometer campaigns’ on the BNP website so as to raise monies for a propaganda lorry, over £80,000 pounds raised and a clapped out motor bought for over £22,000 when the book price would have been around £8,000 …”
When Tommy Robinson, the EDL’s leader whose real name is Stephen Lennon, was remanded in custody in October, Britain First jumped on the bandwagon of support for the falsely described “political prisoner”, and urged its supporters to write letters of complaint to the High Sherriff of London and their MPs. Although on this occasion Dowson did not appeal for donations, the British Freedom Party, which is allied to the EDL, warned about Britain First’s “false campaign to ‘free Tommy Robinson’” and accused Dowson and Britain First of being “serial scammers”.
Some commentators have suggested that Dowson, despite being Britain First’s administration officer, is also acting as fundraiser for the rival English Democrats Party. He may have sold the EDP a mailing list or given some advice but I am inclined to think Robin Tilbrook, the EDP’s solicitor leader, has more sense than to entwine his party with such a dodgy character.
Meanwhile Tommy Robinson has been moved from Wandsworth to Bedford Prison, closer to home. He reports that magistrates found him not guilty of breaching his football banning order at the end of November. That charge was probably the least of his worries. He still faces three charges of conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud and another of possession of a false identity document with improper intention, all of which he denies. He is due to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 7 January on the identity document charge, presumably for a plea and case management hearing.
Update 17 December The EDL has reported that Robinson has been moved yet again, this time to Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes, and is no longer segregated. He had objected to being isolated from other prisoners and wanted to be put on a “normal” wing, so you would think he would be pleased. But no, the EDL now complains that he will have to associate with murderers and terrorists in this Category A prison and accuses the prison governor and the state of being complicit in ruining his life.