Gloves come off as UK nazis slug it out

By Searchlight Team
As Patriotic Alternative limps on, its two breakaways are looking to gain electoral success in the May local elections. Paul Gale charts the latest ups and downs of the three rumps

One year on from its catastrophic split, the UK’s leading far right group Patriotic Alternative (PA) is raking in the cash but struggling to motivate activists. A three-way split within the organisation, founded by former Griffinite favourite Mark Collett in 2019, has become even more bitter in recent weeks.

One thing you can say about Collett and his deputy Laura Tyrie, alias Laura Towler, is that they certainly don’t miss an opportunity for fundraising.

As soon as Towler’s husband Sam Melia – PA’s Yorkshire organiser and a former member of the now banned nazi terrorist group National Action (NA) – was convicted and imprisoned at the start of March, Towler and Collett began an online propaganda blitz that is believed to have netted more than £40,000.

After NA’s proscription under the Terrorism Act in 2016 and the failure of several covert attempts to keep the group alive, Melia created the “Hundred Handers”. Using Telegram (a favourite social media platform for the most extreme factions of the international far right) he distributed racist stickers and advised his thousands of followers on how to set up secure communications.

As the head of the Crown Prosecution Service Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division said after Melia’s conviction: “[He] knew full well the impact these racially inflammatory stickers were having, and by attempting to remain anonymous, sought to protect himself and others from investigation.”

Even after Melia’s arrest in April 2021 Towler carried on lying about her husband’s role in the Hundred Handers.


In assessing our own strategic approach to combatting PA, it is important for anti-fascists to think about Towler’s motivation for lying, and some of the contradictory reactions to Melia’s conviction within PA and the broader far right.

PA’s bravado has made much of the worldwide publicity attracted by Melia’s case, and the short-time boost to the group’s fundraising. But we should not fall for the notion that the prosecution was counter-productive, or that campaigning against PA gives it the valuable “oxygen of publicity”.

The reason Towler denied Melia’s role in the Hundred Handers for so long, and the reason that PA has been so badly disrupted by recent convictions of several senior activists is that its members are mostly cowards.

They like to form micro-communities online, where they can spend hours every week watching each other’s video streams. They like to set up tiny businesses to sell each other scented candles and relabelled teabags. They like to hold conferences in upmarket hotels.

But most of them are afraid to show their faces and use their real names. Even many of PA’s senior organisers are terrified of being identified. This makes it difficult for PA to field election candidates or to carry out normal campaigns.

And the situation has become even worse after the criminal cases that have beset PA during the past 12 months, which have led to a number of leading activists – James Allchurch, Kris Kearney and James Costello – doing prison time, the latter two for terrorist offences.

Several other PA followers have also been jailed, but these three were well known throughout the movement. And Melia’s conviction was the final proof that belonging to PA, if you got drawn into its culture of extreme racism, could be very bad indeed for your career prospects and threaten your liberty.

That is one reason why Collett’s followers are dropping away. It is one thing to watch a video and click “like”. It is very different if you are expected to show your face on a demonstration. And as for putting your name on publicly accessible forms as a candidate or election agent – forget it!

There was a minority faction within PA that always saw it as an embryonic political party that could take over where the British National Party (BNP) had failed. This faction was led by Kenny Smith, who like Collett had been part of Nick Griffin’s BNP.

Billy no mates While Kenny Smith and Alek Yerbury have managed to find limited common ground, Mark Collett (above) remains isolated, with PA continuing to lose members

Bitter rivals

When Smith and Collett got together, Searchlight knew it was only a matter of time before they came to blows. They had, after all, been bitter rivals when the BNP split in December 2007. Smith’s faction in those days described Collett as one of “the three scumbags” who made it impossible for “good honest” people to remain in the BNP.

It came as no surprise last year when Smith led another breakaway hostile to Collett, this time splitting from PA to form the Homeland Party. He took with him several of the most committed young PA activists who were unafraid to show their faces and who were exasperated by some of their “comrades”.

The new factor is that on 31 January this year Homeland succeeded in registering as a political party. Although its officially registered HQ is in Scotland, Smith has since moved to the West Midlands and several of his main activists are in Black Country boroughs such as Dudley, and around Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and Cheshire.

After an early surge of defections, Homeland and PA settled down into a trench war of attrition. Smith was disappointed not to be joined by his former factional ally Steve Blake, PA’s Eastern England organiser, who instead chose to become even closer to Collett and Towler.

For at least another year, Smith has plans to chip away at PA, building credibility and hoping to recruit defectors from civic nationalist movements such as Reform UK and UKIP, as well as from explicitly racist groups. He was especially pleased to recruit Roger Robertson, a former BNP regional organiser and parish councillor, who jumped ship to Homeland from the British Democrats.

Robertson will be one of Homeland’s very few borough council candidates at the local elections on 2 May.

Although he criticises Collett for existing mainly online, Smith has himself been increasingly active on Twitter, but he argues that there is an important difference. Collett preaches almost exclusively to his own fringe cultists. Smith tries to build bridges both with older nationalists who have dropped out of partisan activity, and with the increasing number of members expelled by Reform UK as too extreme, or those who have fallen out with UKIP and its splinters.

Homeland’s successful registration was bad enough. But on 28 February, just days before Melia was jailed, Collett suffered another blow when yet another faction of ex-PA activists succeeded in registering as a political party where PA had failed.

Low-quality yobs

Alek Yerbury seems like a joke even among many fellow fascists, with his paramilitary style National Support Detachment and his very strange girlfriend Katie Fanning, a former UKIP official. But he has managed to create his own appropriately stunted and feeble political front: the National Rebirth Party.

He immediately goaded Collett: “When various prominent nationalists said to me, ‘it is impossible to register political parties’, all they really told me is that THEY couldn’t do it.”

Yerbury maintains that activists need to summon up the courage to take off their masks, use their real names and attend public events. So far most of his recruits seem to be among the lowest quality yobs on the far right, although one exception is Antony Flowers, owner of landscape gardening businesses that operate as Tadcaster Stonework & Patios, and Towton Home & Garden Services. Several fellow nazis including Melia and Yerbury have worked for Flowers.

Yerbury and Fanning believe it is quite a coup to have recruited Flowers, who was a BNP member before joining PA. He has become the new party’s nominating officer.

Yerbury and Smith agree that elections and other forms of “real politics” are the way forward. They condemn Collett and PA for reliance on video streams and an adolescent obsession with the gaming fraternity. Where Collett’s two rivals fall out is partly a matter of personality, partly strategy.

Some of Yerbury’s biggest fans are those who most hated and distrusted Smith, in some cases for reasons dating back to the anti-Griffin splits in 2007. It is already obvious that Yerbury’s is the only one of the three post-PA factions which is on good terms with Griffin, and they might become even closer in the coming months, if Griffin can see any opportunity to make a fast buck from Yerbury’s new party.

‘Ladder strategy’

Beyond these personality factors, Yerbury and Smith take opposite views on the so-called “ladder strategy”, as developed years ago by one of Britain’s few nazi intellectuals, Steve Brady.

Now writing for Heritage & Destiny under the pseudonym Ian Freeman, and retired from his job with Mercedes Benz in Milton Keynes, Brady updated his “ladder strategy”’ for the 2020s, and Smith mostly agreed with him. Rather than making a grand and eye-catching assault on Westminster through general elections and parliamentary by-elections, Brady and Smith argue that the far right should build credibility at local level.

Smith interprets this as meaning parish councils, which is convenient for him and his fledgling party, because seats at this level are “low-hanging fruit”, quite often elected unopposed and giving his activists the chance to obtain “councillor” status, sometimes by stealth without at first putting the party’s name forward.

In Smith’s view, it then becomes more difficult for anti-fascists to campaign against a Homeland councillor who has already to some extent become known in their local community, perhaps for work that is not obviously partisan or overtly racist. Smith also believes that this can counter defeatism.

Yerbury’s strategic vision is very different. He argues that the lower rungs of the ladder are irrelevant to what he sees as his manifest destiny, the racist transformation of Britain. So, right from the start, he sets out his mission in the grandest possible terms. Nothing less than the seizure of nationwide power will do.

Mates of sorts Kenny Smith’s (top left) Homeland Party has scored against PA, poaching former BNP organiser Roger Robertson (top right), while Alek Yerbury (bottom right) is the only one of the three PA rumps to be on good terms with BNP leader Nick Griffin (bottom left), who is keeping an eye on Yerbury’s new National Rebirth Party

Not so amiable

Any other activity, according to Yerbury, is subordinate to this overall objective. And naturally, unlike Brady and Smith, Yerbury is fully committed to the führer principle. No prizes for guessing who Yerbury has in mind as Britain’s führer for the 2020s, nor which historical model he has in mind. If you need reminding, take a look at Yerbury’s moustache and trench coat.

As so often, the big problem is the dismal quality of Yerbury’s recruits. The leader himself sometimes comes across as an amiable nutter, until you listen or read closely and realise that he is a nazi. His followers are even more obviously off putting.

Perhaps the worst is the one who in theory has the best political CV. Fanning, Yerbury’s girlfriend, used to work for UKIP and was considered respectable enough to address Gregory Lauder-Frost’s Traditional Britain Group, the most upmarket forum of the UK fascist scene.

But even hardened anti-fascists are frequently shocked by the vicious tone of Fanning’s attacks on her factional rivals. She reserves a special hatred for Towler, whom she derides in such spiteful language that even moderators of far-right Telegram channels sometimes intervene.

In late March, Fanning pushed some of her enemies too far and they began circulating news reports from 2018, when prosecutors agreed to drop charges of racially and religiously aggravated harassment, despite Fanning having threatened to kill two witnesses as well as police officers, in addition to making repeated racial slurs.

Prosecutors said Fanning attempted to bite police officers, then shouted: “Do you have kids? I’m going to kill all of them. … I’m going to get the guys of Manchester to firebomb all the police stations in Manchester … I’m going to send the worst paedo for your kids.”

Fanning escaped further proceedings only because a consultant psychiatrist advised that it was not appropriate for her to attend court.

At the end of March the rival factions began taping each other’s threatening phone calls, and issuing “letters before action”, though no one really believes any of these characters would dare to expose themselves to further ridicule by taking each other to court. More’s the pity.

What anti-fascists can probably expect is that a small number of Britain’s more serious extremists will stand for election and hope to position themselves for what they believe is the coming collapse of both the Tories and Reform UK.

A larger faction will continue to spend their time exchanging obscenities on Telegram. As has often been the case, the challenge for anti-fascists is to identify which individuals and groups represent a serious threat, both in terms of electioneering and potential violence.

This article first appeared in the Spring issue of Searchlight published ahead of the 2 May 2024 elections