By Gerry Gable
As Searchlight has already reported, the UK’s largest nazi organisation has split down the middle. Of the 54 organisers in Patriotic Alternative (PA), 32 deserted its founder and leader Mark Collett in late April 2023 and defected to a new breakaway movement, the Homeland Party, led by PA’s national admin officer Kenny Smith.
A few weeks earlier, a smaller breakaway was led by Alek Yerbury, a former PA activist in Yorkshire to create the National Support Detachment (NSD). So the already fragmented PA has split three ways within a month.
Searchlight’s sources inside PA have been expecting this split for months, after hearing persistent complaints about Collett’s notorious arrogance and disregard for basic leadership responsibilities.
Much of the trouble stems from bitter hatreds within the British National Party (BNP) more than 15 years ago, when Collett was the main target of a dissident faction whose leaders included Smith and his then partner Nicholla Ritchie.
At a 2006 BNP organisers conference in Blackpool, Smith was one of the main critics of Collett, and his then ally Dave Hannam, for inappropriate behaviour with 14- and 15-year-old girls. It was Smith who obtained video footage from one of the girls. While persuading them not to go to the press, he used the footage to urge disciplinary action against Collett.
When BNP leader Nick Griffin eventually sided with Collett over a series of scandals, Smith was co leader of an attempted coup that split the party in December 2007. Many observers inside and outside PA were surprised when Collett and Smith buried the hatchet, and Smith accepted the same job title in PA (national admin officer) he had held in Griffin’s BNP.
What this actually shows is not Collett’s magnanimity, but a continuing lack of talent and experience within the British far right. In fact, the real surprise of the latest PA split is not that Smith has proven disloyal, but that (so far) his old ally from BNP days, PA’s Eastern region organiser Steve Blake, has remained loyal to Collett.
Also backing Collett are his deputy Laura Tyrie (alias Laura Towler) and her husband, Yorkshire regional organiser Sam Melia, as well as another PA power couples, Newcastle auctioneer Phoebe Hoare and fellow North East England regional organiser Steven Wilson.
The Collett team also has support from some of London PA’s officials, although the region has been divided, heavily infiltrated and sometimes shambolic ever since PA’s creation. The North West England region is similarly split and badly organised.
Elsewhere most PA organisers have gone over to the new Homeland Party. The split has been characterised as ‘content creators’ (podcasters, streamers and social media stars) on the Collett side, versus ‘serious’ political activists on the Smith/Homeland side.
Regional organisers defecting to Homeland include Smith’s right-hand man Simon Crane in Scotland; Connor Marlow, regional organiser for West Midlands; Anthony Burrows, regional organiser for East Midlands regarded as a cybersecurity expert; and Jerome O’Reilly, a Cardiff-based graduate and regional organiser for Wales; Fraser Patterson, regional organiser for South East England; and Laurence Parsons, regional organiser for South West England.
For some reason his fellow nazis are keen to disguise Parsons’ identity by calling him ‘Laurence Somerset’.
Another Homeland supporter using various names is the independent candidate for Cannock South in the 4 May local council elections, David Hyden, also known as David Hyden Milakovic. His regional organiser, Connor Marlow, is an important backer of Kenny Smith’s argument that PA’s leadership has failed to put enough effort into election campaigning and building a serious party organisation.
Collett has claimed for years that he is being obstructed in efforts to register PA with the Electoral Commission as a political party. Without such registration, PA/Homeland supporters such as Hyden cannot have a party name on the ballot paper. But his many critics have often argued that he has other reasons for failing to register: either because he has been more interested in subcultural activities such as fitness clubs, video gaming and online streaming, or has a reason for preferring to avoid the financial transparency and constitutional accountability to PA members as required by the Electoral Commission.
Smith and his Homeland allies have also criticised Collett for not giving enough support to Smith’s reforms of PA security. In its first year or two, PA was notorious for leaks to anti-fascists and the press. Collett’s enemies accuse him of caring more about self-publicity and fundraising than the security of his members or making political progress.
Both sides in the split are likely to contain violent street activists. After losing middle class graduate Jerome O’Reilly, Collett’s Welsh operation relies heavily on the notorious Cardiff City football hooligan Joe Marsh alias Joe Butler, who has several convictions for violent offences. Marsh was co-founder of two political alliances of football thugs, Casuals United (closely linked to the English Defence League and the Pie and Mash Squad). Within days of the latest split, he publicly aligned himself with PA.
It might be no coincidence that this split took place during serious criminal trials involving leading allies of Collett. After several years in the political wilderness, PA grew out of efforts by former BNP organiser Larry Nunn to pursue alternatives to electoral politics. Nunn argued election campaigns were a waste of time, money and effort. He tried to persuade a diverse collection of far-right activists to invest in plans to buy properties and set up businesses to create self-sufficient white communities.
Partly inspired by US extremists, he also backed survivalist training schemes, including several camps in the Welsh countryside. Early organisers of these included former Young BNP official Matt Tait and the Russian operative Denis Nikitin, whose true loyalties are doubted by fascists and anti-fascists alike.
These camps influenced Collett, who recruited several activists from the banned terrorist organisation National Action. Collett led some of their fitness training programmes. Photographs and video show Collett with prominent PA members at the camps, such as Michael Woodbridge, a retired schoolteacher who has been active in British nazi groups for more than 50 years, and ‘James Mac’ from Merseyside, leading British member of the Creativity Movement. This is a pseudo-religious racist sect whose leader Matt Hale is serving 40 years for attempting to incite the murder of a US federal judge.
Like another of PA’s ideological mentors Kai Murros, a former Maoist from Finland, Nunn has made several speeches at gatherings such as the London Forum, which call for violent revolution. But in recent years his public activism has receded. One of his few regular outings is as a contributor to Radio Albion, an internet station formerly known as Radio Aryan, with PA activist James Allchurch, alias Sven Longshanks. Allchurch was convicted in April of multiple offences of inciting racial hatred. He will be sentenced on 15 May and can expect several years in prison.
In May 2023, an even more prominent PA and former National Action activist will be sentenced at the Old Bailey for Terrorism Act offences. Kristofer Kearney (alias Kris Kearns) organised PA fitness clubs and online forums, and contributed to Collett’s many video streams and broadcasts where he was sometimes known as Charlie Big Potatoes. One of his online channels was known as ‘Fascist Fitness’. Kearney was extradited from Spain last year to face terrorism charges. In March, he admitted posting terrorist documents on his social media account, including the manifestos of mass murderers Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant. An Old Bailey judge will assess Kearney’s motives for committing these offences before passing sentence.
It is likely Collett’s rivals will exploit his links to members of a banned nazi terror group. But there is a lot of hypocrisy. During his BNP days Smith had extensive ties to the most violent nazis in Griffin’s party, and has promoted one of the UK’s most hardline national socialist publications, Heritage and Destiny.
The second breakaway from PA, the NSD, that criticises both the Collett and Smith factions, presents itself in quasi-military style and is led by ex-soldier Alek Yerbury, who until this year was a PA activist in Yorkshire. He now calls himself ‘Commanding Officer’ of the NSD.
All three factions seek to stir up racism in British towns and cities by protesting outside venues used to house asylum-seekers. PA is also obsessed by homophobic and transphobic campaigns, which might be a case of Collett being oversensitive to questions about the exact nature of his relationship in his early twenties with Nick Griffin.
As with so many splits within the National Front, BNP etc down the decades, these three fragments of the old PA will fish for recruits in the same foetid waters of racism, nazism, misogyny and homophobia.
The state of the far right
To the extent that there are perceptible differences between the various active factions and parties, Searchlight would expect the following slight differences of emphasis and character.
Heavy focus on online activity, as well as demonstrations. Will struggle to register as a political party if Mark Collett insists on avoiding a transparent and accountable constitution, and running PA via a limited company run by himself, Laura Towler and Steve Blake.
Might try to avoid some of PA’s more obviously wild rhetoric, although in reality has a similar hardline nazi ideology. Will make serious efforts to register as a political party and will probably collapse if this fails. Has potential to become the main electoral force on Britain’s far right.
National Support Detachment
Blatantly rejects electoral politics in favour of demonstrations, unexplained ‘practical’ actions and military-style training. Criticises both PA and Homeland for being dominated by middle-class cliques, but this reflects the chip on founder Alek Yerbury’s shoulder, not any serious analysis.
Led by Collett’s old rival in the Young BNP of the early 2000s, Paul Golding. Succeeded in registering as a political party and achieved one credible local council vote last year in Salford, Lancashire. But it has mainly recruited low ability street activists who enjoy harassing Muslims, and has more potential for violence and general trouble-making than for political growth.
British Democratic Party/British Democrats
Despite having superficially high-calibre founders/leaders including ex-MEP Andrew Brons, barrister Adrian Davies, and ex-councillor James Lewthwaite, its progress has been patchy. Likely to be involved in unification discussions with the remnants of Patriotic Alternative before long.
A tiny nazi sect with strong connections to the semi-illegal international music empire of Blood & Honour, although BM-linked bands now use various other labels to avoid the growing legal troubles attached to B&H. Both PA and Homeland will compete for support from some BM activists, who unlike many others on the British far right are seen as trustworthy by their comrades.
British Freedom Party
Despite its name, the latest version of the BFP is not an active political party in any usual sense. It is an online fundraising operation supposedly led by Paul Golding’s former partner Jayda Fransen, but in reality run by Nick Griffin and his business partner Jim Dowson from a base in Northern Ireland, where they also operate pseudo-religious cash cows with names like Knights Templar International.