Author Archives: Searchlight Team

British far right faces up to election catastrophe

In 2023 rival factions lined up to become the new BNP and the new UKIP, each of those parties being obviously on the way to the knackers’ yard, and only remaining registered in the hope of inheritances from some aged nazi or senile Powellite.

At the 2024 local elections the competition is different. Who can claim the wooden spoon for the most embarrassing electoral failure?

It’s very difficult to choose between the hapless leaders of the three factions who used to march in step as part of Britain’s premier nazi outfit Patriotic Alternative.

PA’s Mark Collett desperately twisted arms last month among his wannabe stormtroopers, when he feared that his rival Kenny Smith, having registered his faction as the Homeland Party, would put up a credible slate of candidates.

It was a sad enough spectacle when Collett’s forces could only muster three candidates. But faces were even redder at the führer’s Yorkshire bunker when two of the three cocked up their nomination papers, leaving just one PA candidate (officially an independent due to Collett’s suspicious inability or unwillingness to register his cash cow with the Electoral Commission).

This single candidate, Callum Hewitt in Widnes, managed just 11.3%. Desperately spinning this underwhelming result, Collett and his deputy Laura Towler, in her spare time between prison visits to her criminal racist husband Sam Melia, have constantly repeated that Hewitt was runner-up, while trying to avoid mention of his low vote. And absolutely no-one in PA now mentions the two candidates who got lost on their way to the starting gate.

Callum Hewitt – the only PA candidate who managed to complete his nomination papers

Anything Collett’s PA can do badly, his hated rival Kenny Smith and the Homeland Party can, it seems, do even worse. For weeks Smith and his cadre of organisers, who quit PA to form what they promised would be a more “professional” political machine, boasted on social media about their great candidate Roger Robertson, an old ally of Smith’s in their BNP days.

Robertson cultivates the image of a country gent who has somehow amiably wandered through some of Britain’s most toxic racist parties, the BNP, For Britain, British Democrats, and now Homeland. He convinced Smith that he had a great chance of winning his council ward in the Hampshire village of Hartley Wintney.

Roger Robertson (front, centre) with Homeland A team…

So the obliging Homeland leader focused his entire party’s resources on this single ward and talked up the likelihood of victory. Apparently without thinking about the strange fact that Robertson had reached his advanced age without ever managing to get elected to anything above a parish council.

Was there perhaps some reason for this underachievement? Smith and his smart suited leader guard wouldn’t allow such a negative thought to cross their minds. Until the ballot boxes were opened, and Robertson was found to have won only 13.5% of his fellow villagers’ support.

It’s a measure of the electoral embarrassment suffered by both PA and Homeland that in their post-election analysis both Collett and Smith chose to concentrate not on their own failures, but on the fact that each of them had contributed to the election campaigns of another party, the English Democrats.

Collett “revealed” one of the worst kept secrets in British fascism, that he had been designing leaflets for English Democrat leader Robin Tilbrook and that his members in several southern English regions had leafletted in Tilbrook’s campaign for Essex Police and Crime Commissioner.

Robin Tilbrook – secretly helped by PA nazis

Perhaps this was Tilbrook’s idea of a balanced ticket? After all, he is a veteran solicitor, while PA has more experience of crime than any other political outfit in England. What other English party or group can claim such a high percentage of its senior activists presently in jail, for offences including terrorism?

Not to be outdone, despite his party having slightly fewer activists with experience of standing trial, Smith also boasted of the Homeland Party’s role in supporting the English Democrats’ Police Commissioner candidate in West Mercia, Henry Curteis.

Any member of a normal political party might ask their leader why, if they had so much time to spare to support the candidates of other parties, they didn’t invest this time in building their own party’s campaigns.

But for PA and Homeland, it’s now about seeking whatever crumbs of comfort might fall from a wealthy Essex solicitor’s table.

And these revelations by Collett and Smith surely erase the last shreds of respectability from Tilbrook’s operation, which has always been marketed as a “moderate” and multiracial organisation, but which has an inexplicable habit of jumping into bed with notorious nazis.

Back in the 2000s, Tilbrook eagerly collaborated with the England First Party, then led by Mark Cotterill, who was thrown out of the USA after campaigning for years with the most famous Klansman of the last half century, David Duke, and who for more than twenty years has edited the nazi magazine Heritage and Destiny.

The ED leader then moved on to work with Eddy Butler, former chief electoral strategist of the BNP and a man who once prowled the streets of London with Combat 18’s boot boys.

And now, after a few years of dalliance with eccentric conspiracy theorists on the fascist fringes, and a failed attempt to advise a London-based faction trying to take back control of the BNP, Tilbrook is allied to each of the main factions from Britain’s largest Hitler and Mosley fan club.

While Collett and Smith competed in obsequious cosying up to the English Democrats, the leader of the third splinter from the former PA is in a world of his own. Alek Yerbury has (unlike Collett) at least managed to register his group as a political party, though for reasons best known to himself the political arm is registered as National Rebirth Party, while his broader organisation is called National Support Detachment.

Yerbury’s party was registered only a few weeks before the elections, but he must know this excuse won’t wash forever. Unabashed, he is already regaling his Telegram readers with grand statements about how local council elections are small beer. His aim is nationwide power, in one fell swoop.

Alek Yerbury – nationwide power, in one fell swoop…

A march on London? A Wakefield beer hall putsch? Judging from the state of Yerbury’s followers at his sparsely attended rallies, the problem would be getting past the beer stage. Though we hear that some of his closest allies prefer other substances.

The only rival group prepared to speak to Yerbury and his eccentric partner Katie Fanning, are the Independent Nationalist Network. This group is mainly based in the West Midlands. In June they will stage a “seminar” on election strategy with none other than Nick Griffin, the man who until a month or so ago was telling his Twitter followers that elections were a waste of time.

Griffin has always seen consistency as an overrated political virtue, especially if it gets in the way of passing the collection bucket.

It really is difficult to choose among Collett, Smith and Yerbury as to which faction leader has most to be ashamed of following 2024’s election cycle.

What of another former rival of Collett’s from the BNP days? Paul Golding preceded Collett as Nick Griffin’s blue-eyed boy. He disappeared for a while into the Essex rave scene, but then reappeared (or according to some suspicious observers was reactivated) as leader of the Islamophobic gang Britain First.

Golding’s pitch was as the thinking yob’s Tommy Robinson, and most of his followers were undeterred even after their leader’s then-partner Jayda Fransen accused him of domestic violence. It seems that the average Britain First foot soldier was if anything proud of being led by someone who beats up women in his spare time.

For a year or two Golding also seemed to have inherited the Midas touch from the far right’s most successful fundraiser Jim Dowson, who helped him create Britain First before moving on to a more lucrative grift with Nick Griffin.

And in the early post-Covid elections it looked as though Britain First had invested at least some of their profits wisely. Golding’s new partner Ashlea Simon won some of the best far right votes of the 2020s, taking 21.6% in Walkden North in 2022, and only slipping back slightly to 18.2% in 2023 even when opposed by a Reform UK candidate.

Then it all started to go wrong. Golding threw money at pointless campaigns in parliamentary by-elections. And when a by-election occurred in Rochdale this year, one of the few constituencies where Britain First’s Islam-bashing might have won more than a negligible audience, Golding’s team failed to nominate.

Worse than that, they sent out fundraising appeals for their Rochdale campaign even after nominations had closed and they knew there was no such campaign!

Stumbling from one embarrassing failure to another, Golding and Simon for some reason abandoned the only borough where they had ever won a decent vote. There were no Britain First candidates in Salford this year. Instead, they scraped together council campaigns in Cokeham (Sussex) and Coventry, managing 12.5% and 9%.

But the headline Britain First campaign was in London, and what an epic disaster it proved to be! Nick Scanlon, a former BNP member who was briefly in charge of the failed effort to create a British version of Generation Identity, stood for both Mayor of London and the GLA. The London Mayoral campaign seemed an ideal vehicle for an Islamophobic party whose followers liked nothing better than to scream about the capital city’s Mayor being a Muslim.

But the voters’ verdict was unmistakeable. Scanlon achieved one of the worst votes in the entire history of Britain’s far right, just 0.8% in the Mayoral contest against Sadiq Khan, and 1.3% in the GLA list section, which is designed to be favourable to smaller parties but couldn’t rescue Britain First from the gutter. Golding and Co were especially riled when taunted that their man was even beaten by comedy candidate Count Binface.

Nick Scanlon and (top) heckling Sadiq Khan at the London Mayoral count

The strange thing is that some fellow fascists are eager to follow Britain First into the fringe of the fringe. Even though he’s a member of a rival party, Welsh football hooligan and PA regional organiser Joe Marsh couldn’t resist tweeting about Britain First’s “cool banner drop”, 24 hours after their entire strategy had met with total disaster.

The problem for Marsh is that like most football yobs, he cares more about posing than about reality. He openly admits that he doesn’t really care about elections and prefers marches and demos, and he is one of the chief architects of PA’s own strategy of banner drops, intimidatory demos outside asylum accommodation, and homophobic thuggery.

Marsh and his fellow PA organisers are addicted to failure, which helps justify their preferred strategy of giving up on their fellow Britons and retreating into “nationalist communities”. This approach of creating White enclaves has been tried several times in the USA. PA’s activists spend most of their time online, so it’s not surprising that they have been influenced by American examples. Judging from the number of PA activists doing jail time, it seems that some of them are also influenced by the terroristic strategy often followed by those who go down this route. Withdrawing from society all too often means being at war with society.

Just when Searchlight’s judging panel was thinking about awarding the wooden spoon to Britain First, along came an undisputed winner. No one in fringe politics is more expert at making a fool of himself than Laurence Fox, whose entire acting career seems to have been a rehearsal for his present role as the ultimate delusional conspiracy theorist.

Lozza (or Looza?) Fox….

A month ago, Fox failed to nominate in the Mayoral election, thus missing out on the chance to compete with Britain First’s Nick Scanlon in the sub-1% fascist fringe category, Nevertheless, he grabbed his share of the limelight by persuading just 0.6% of Londoners to vote for him on the GLA ballot paper. His epic Twitter tantrum after the results were published, in which Fox announced he was moving out of London, presumably in search of a town where he might at least poll 1%, seals his victory as the far right’s biggest embarrassment of 2024.

Two parties on the far right achieved what superficially might seem more credible results, but when looked at in context even their supporters will surely be disappointed.

Three of the four British Democrat council candidates polled over 10%, the exception being party chairman Jim Lewthwaite who managed only 6.8% in Wyke ward, Bradford, where voters were unimpressed by his past as a BNP councillor.

Another ex-BNP councillor standing for the British Democrats was Julian Leppert, who polled 21.9% in Waltham Abbey North, Epping Forest. Boundary changes gave Leppert a real chance of getting back onto the council, since the new ward incorporated the area he used to represent as a For Britain councillor, and he had no opposition from Reform UK.

Epic fail Julian Leppert, left, at the count in Epping Forest

As Leppert was quick to complain later on social media, if the big talkers of the London far right scene had given him some practical help on the ground, he could have won. Recriminations are sure to follow, especially because the British Democrats, though few in number, are known for their factional splits.

One of the bitterest faction fighters in British fascism, ex-BNP activist Lawrence Rustem, took 17.8% in Maidstone, while yet another former BNP organiser Chris Bateman polled 14.3% in Basildon. Neither of them had Reform UK opposition.

Smiling Lawrence Rustem – before the count, that is

The verdict on the British Democrats must be that they avoided embarrassment, but after more than a decade of attempting to rebuild a BNP Mk II, they have clearly failed. The party’s septuagenarian leaders Lewthwaite and Brons are likely to retire from active politics soon. Are the likes of Leppert, Rustem and Bateman truly capable of leading a national party?

And what of the UK’s main far right force, the expert dog whistlers of Reform UK?

Nigel Farage, who effectively owns Reform UK already, is strongly rumoured to be coming out of retirement to take the leadership from his lacklustre substitute Richard Tice. The party had one electoral performance to boast about last Thursday, when they finished a strong third in the Blackpool South parliamentary by-election with 16.9%.

But elsewhere Reform UK’s results were pathetic, for a party that is endlessly boosted by the right-wing press and especially by the GB News channel.

They lost all three of the council wards they were defending, admittedly in seats that had been won in the first place by Conservatives who had defected to Reform.

They did manage to scrape onto the GLA with a single seat after polling 5.9% across the capital. But this was below the 6.5% that UKIP managed in the equivalent election in 2016, and the 8.4% that UKIP took in 2004. At each of these elections UKIP won two GLA seats.

This is not a performance that comes close to matching Reform’s opinion poll ratings. Does Farage have the stomach for the fight that will be needed to knock the party into fighting shape?

Outside London, Reform did manage to gain two seats in the Hampshire borough of Havant. But this seemed to owe more to Tory unpopularity, and Labour’s failure to field full slates of

candidates, than to any genuine advance by Reform. One of their winning councillors was elected with only 18% of the vote.

Only 21 Reform candidates in the whole of England managed to poll above 20%. More than 140 of their candidates finished below 10% of the vote, including notable failures in mayoral campaigns in London (3.1%), the West Midlands (5.8%), and Greater Manchester (7.5%).

The latter failure was especially notable, after Tice’s gloating about his success in persuading Dan Barker, originally selected as the Tory mayoral candidate, to defect to Reform.

Three strong Reform council results (between 27.7% and 30.1%) were in Barnsley, a borough that once had a strong BNP branch and which went on to elect councillors from the UKIP splinter group “Democrats & Veterans” in 2019. Unsurprisingly it was in one of these Barnsley wards, Darfield, that Reform polled 30.1% last week. The best Reform result was in Sunderland, which has one of the party’s few strong branches. In Redhill ward (which elected a UKIP councillor in 2019) Reform’s candidate polled 32.3%.

But the failure to win either of these target wards (or to win anywhere else apart from those two Havant seats) means that potential Tory defectors will be thinking very carefully.

As has so often been the case, Tice can take comfort in the total failure of the rump UKIP and the rival UKIP splinter party Heritage. The other parties that broke away from UKIP in past years seem to have disappeared completely.

UKIP had only three results above 10%, two of them in Tamworth, while the Heritage Party’s best vote was 9.7% in Broadfield ward, Crawley.

Half of UKIP’s candidates and the vast majority of Heritage candidates polled below 5%: in fact, twelve of the Heritage candidates were below 2%. As Searchlight and quite a few former UKIP members themselves have commented, the party’s chairman/owner now seems interested solely in controlling its bank accounts and future legacies. There is no expectation that UKIP will ever again be a serious electoral force.

Nor can Heritage have any such hopes. Its leader David Kurten increasingly focuses on conspiracy theories about Covid vaccines and other topics that interest the tiny online cult that constitutes his party.

How should anti-fascists sum up these elections?

As the far right themselves admit, this year was a new low for the British fascist movement. But we have seen similar low points before, and there should be no complacency.

In particular, the strong votes for Reform in certain areas are cause for concern. They might be nowhere near the level that would give Reform an electoral breakthrough, but they add up to a disturbingly large pool of long-term discontent and even despair.

Political disengagement, especially in working class communities, is also reflected in low turnouts and votes for independents and local pressure groups. Searchlight has seen before how this disengagement and despair can be exploited by the far right. While Britain’s defeated nazis lick their wounds and regroup, we must be ready for the next battle.

Laurence Fox is unwell

Poor Laurence Fox, whom some regard as the Basil Brush of right-wing British politics – fond of posing in front of TV cameras and laughing incessantly at his own 70s-style humour – has clearly been traumatised by his humiliation in the London elections, where he was massively overshadowed by, among others, the Animal Welfare Party. It seems that Londoners who yearn to hug a fox are much keener on the lower case type than the ones with capital letters.

So badly did Laurence perform that some people have already suggested that he change his preferred handle of ‘Lozza’ to ‘Looza’. It’s only one letter change, and so much more descriptive. And appropriate, granted that he stood purely under his own name, and so cannot pretend that it was ‘The Reclaim Party’ that put off punters in the polling booth. He put himself out there as Laurence Fox and he lost as Laurence Fox.

The spurned candidate has lashed out with a spluttering tweet pointing out that Sadiq Khan is (this will shock everyone, we know) a Muslim. And so, he says, are another eight English mayors. And his point is? Well, exploring the canyons of this man’s mind is probably a job best left to Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, but we feel confident that Looza is reaching out to ‘the fash’ with a message calculated to enrage them. ‘The bastards,’ mister bigoted tweet-reader will be saying, ‘Coming over here, nicking our mayoral chains and leaving the robes smelling of curry…’

Perhaps misled by his own surname, Fox imagined that he was being cunning. He desperately wanted to get the response from sane people that he was being racist. And he succeeded, giving his over-excited fanboys the opportunity to shout back ‘Muslims ain’t a race, you lefty snowflakes. So how can it be racist, eh? Got you there!’

Where the plan starts to break down – from Professor of Cunning at Sly College Oxford level to something more like Temporary Lecturer in Window-licking at Concreton Tech – is that his claque has further chimed in with ‘So, telling the TRUTH is now “racist” in woke Britain is it?’ Unfortunately for lazy Loz, he didn’t do his homework, so when the Reclaimistas claim that his tweet is truthful, it doesn’t really deserve that label even if you strap the qualifier ‘relatively’ to it.

You see, as far as we know, four of the eight ceremonial mayors that he points the finger at aren’t Muslims at all. Oops!

The newly re-elected Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is indeed a Muslim. He’s never made any secret of it, and why should he? He got the job by (a) not being so stupid that he failed to fill in his nomination form correctly – unlike a certain Fox we could mention – and (b) receiving more votes than any other candidate. But we guess democracy is something The Looz is a touch disenchanted with right now.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Chaman Lal, is actually a Sikh, not a Muslim. But as we can all guess that what Fox really means when he types ‘Muslim’ is ‘a bit brownish’, he probably doesn’t care that there’s a difference. It’s a purely ceremonial post which tends to alternate between Con, Lab and LibDem. He’ll leave office in about a fortnight, and the next man or woman in line will take up the post for the next 12 months.

Birmingham Lord Mayor Chaman Lal. You’d think the rather unmissable turban would be taken as a clue, by any intelligent person, that the man is a Sikh rather than a Muslim. But the difference seems to have Laurence… er… foxed.

Lord Mayor of Leeds is also ceremonial. We suppose that if you are of limited intelligence (or just paranoid) you might assume that the ‘Al’ in the name of the incumbent, Al Garthwaite, could sound suspiciously Arabic, but Fox can relax – this mayor is white. Though considering the contempt in which he seems to hold women, he’ll probably tense up again when he finds out that the ‘Al’ is short not for Alan or Algernon (we feel convinced that he will know one of those) but Alison.

Parwaiz Akhtar, Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council (do keep up, Mr Brush) is definitely a Muslim, though he did send out a nice ‘Happy Easter’ video message to his townsfolk. In any case, don’t panic. This one-year appointment is organised a long way in advance, so we already know that there will be a white Mayor taking over in a couple of weeks’ time. Though she is (dammit!) female. Perhaps Basil can greet her to office with one of his charming ‘Who would want to shag that?’ quips. Arf arf arf!

Lord Mayor of Sheffield is another of those ceremonial posts. That his name is Colin Ross and that his Yorkshire roots go back centuries doesn’t guarantee that he’s not a Muslim, but we suspect that you’re chasing a red herring here, Looza. You’ll just have to hate on him for being a LibDem. Or a geologist. Whichever floats your boat.

The Lord Mayor of Oxford, Lubna Arshad, is self-described as the “first woman of colour” to hold the ceremonial post. And she’s a Muslim. That’s kind of a trifecta for you, isn’t it, Loz? But like most of the mayors that you’re having a tizz about, she’ll be replaced later this month, so chill out a bit and cross your fingers about the next one.

We feel pretty confident that the ceremonial Mayor of Luton, Mohammed Yaqub Hanif, is a Muslim. It would, we suggest, be an odd name for an Irish Catholic – though one never knows. He, too, leaves office later this month. You could perhaps breathe in and out of a paper bag while you wait for all of these terrible people to make way for someone more to your tastes, Laurence.

Zahid Chauhan, the one-year Mayor of Oldham, is a Muslim. He’s also honorary warden of Oldham Parish Church and eagerly accepted an invitation to perform the official opening of the Victory Christian International Ministries new church premises a couple of weeks into his tenure as Mayor. He seems to have a very open and inclusive mind. Unlike some people we could mention.

Zahid Chauhan, Mayor of Oldham. A Muslim but also a warden of Oldham Parish Church – the venue where he chose to be sworn in as Mayor, as seen here.

The ceremonial Mayor of Rochdale is the handsomely turned-out, be-robed and be-chained chap pictured below – Conservative councillor Mike Holly. We have absolutely no idea what his religious persuasion is, but if Laurence Fox is quite sure that he’s a Muslim, then we have no doubt that he will get back to us with some evidence.

And the ceremonial Mayor of Rochdale is this chap – Conservative councillor Mike Holly

Fox has just announced (though he claims to have made the decision “earlier this year”) that he is moving out of London, stating that Sadiq Khan has “turned this once great city into a violent ghetto”. All rather odd, that, because it’s only a few weeks since he attempted to sign up as a candidate for Mayor of Ghettoland (and was prevented only by his own ineptitude at filing nomination papers).

“I look forward to spending my days in what remains of this green and pleasant land from July,” he sighs, theatrically. “I’d rather spend the rest of my days with people I have something in common with.” Granted his capacity for stumbling into the brown stuff, we suppose we’ll have to think of it as his pied-à-turd.

That election result seems to have left the cracked actor in a hallucinatory fever, so we trust that this leafy out-of-London new home is situated in an area where he can get the rest and other medical support that he apparently needs. Yes, do retreat to the sticks, put your feet up and slap a wet flannel on your forehead, Looza. You’ll feel better in a week or two.

Inshallah…

Is Russia using the extreme right to carry out operations in Europe? By Roger Pearce

As Searchlight has previously reported, the British far-right is bitterly divided over whether to support Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. For the past two years this has caused splits among nazis and other extremist groups around the world. Recent events in the UK – including arrests for terror offences allegedly carried out on behalf of Russia – raise again the question of whether Russian intelligence might use its connections on the far right to carry out violent attacks and other subversive activity.

One of the few precedents for this was during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia thirty years ago, when Serbian military intelligence exploited contacts with Charlie Sargent’s violent gang Combat 18, while some other British nazis with a paramilitary inclination signed up to fight for Croatia.

At the end of 2022 several European police and intelligence services suspected that far-right networks were behind a series of letter bomb attacks against Ukrainian targets, including the Ukrainian Embassy, in Spain. They had good reasons for these suspicions, because Spanish fascists including some who explicitly identify themselves as “National Bolsheviks” had built close connections with the Russian Imperial Movement, which acts as a bridge between Putin’s intelligence services and the European right.

The emblem of the Russian Imperial Movement

Eventually the trail led to a retired local government grave digger, Pompeyo Gonzalez Pascual, who is now facing terrorism charges. He is passionately pro-Russian but his political connections are strange. He seems also to have been influenced by ‘anti-imperialist’ journals and online channels that support the Venezuelan government and other Latin American populist movements, sometimes linked to the European left but also backed by far-right conspiracy theorists. He had the Russia Today and Sputnik apps installed on his mobile phone as well as the Sputnik VPN application, to conceal his geolocation. 

Pompeyo under arrest

Pompeyo’s targets also included the US Embassy in Madrid, which led to a much-increased focus by US intelligence on the activities of Russia-supporting right-wing extremists. His other targets included the Spanish President, Pedro Sánchez; Serhii Pohoreltsev, director of the Instalaza company which manufactures C-90 rocket launchers for the Ukrainian army; the director of the Satellite Centre at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base in Madrid; and Margarita Robles, the Spanish Minister of Defence. Pompeyo’s intention, according to prosecutors, was to force a change in Spain’s pro-Ukraine policy.

Police said that “Although it is presumed that the detainee made and sent the explosive devices by himself, (we) do not rule out the participation or influence of other persons in the events.”

Elsewhere in Europe, anti-Ukrainian terrorism has been very clearly linked to prominent far-right individuals working for Moscow. The most blatant case dates back more than three years before Putin’s invasion, when Russian intelligence was using terrorist networks as part of a plan to sow discord between Ukraine and its neighbours.

The leading far-right German journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter (above, with ‘Putin’s philosopher’ Alexander Dugin) paid a Polish extremist to firebomb a Hungarian cultural centre in the western Ukrainian border city of Uzhhorod. The idea was to blame the attack on “Ukrainian nazis”, in line with Putin’s regular strategy of highlighting the wartime role of many Ukrainian nationalists such as the notorious antisemite Stepan Bandera.

At the time Ochsenreiter was employed in the parliamentary office of an AfD Bundestag member, Markus Frohnmeier. He was also known to have close connections to Russian intelligence agents, including another far-right Pole, Mateusz Piskorski.

Mateusz Piskorski

Though he at first protested his innocence, Ochsenreiter quickly fled to Moscow, where he conveniently died in 2021 aged 45. Anti-fascists had for years seen Ochsenreiter as one of the leaders of the German far right’s younger generation. He stood at the interface between the semi-respectable parliamentary extremism of AfD, the German and European neo-nazi movement, and pro-Moscow circles.

At the age of 18 Ochsenreiter began writing for Junge Freiheit, a weekly paper that appeals mainly to well-heeled young conservatives, but via the Burschenschaften student fraternities also has some overlap with the extra-parliamentary right.

In 2011 Ochsenreiter became editor of the monthly nationalist magazine Zuerst. This had more overt ties to neo-nazis, but was expensively produced and unlike most fringe publications had wide distribution.

The most interesting aspect is that Zuerst was and is part of Dietmar Munier’s publishing empire and grew out of a much older German extremist journal, Nation und Europa (originally known as Nation Europa and dating back to the earliest efforts to rehabilitate Nazism in post-war Germany).

Under its several guises, the Nation Europa project tried to unite German nationalist factions and also to build a pan-European fascist network, at times linked to the “Europe a Nation” schemes of Sir Oswald Mosley.

But after it was taken over by Munier in 2009 and transformed into Zuerst, this idea of European unity took on a more explicitly anti-American, and implicitly pro-Moscow slant. Munier had previously been known as the main sponsor of efforts to resettle ethnic Germans in the Kaliningrad region of the former East Prussia, which was taken over by the old Soviet Union in 1945 and remains part of Russia.

And editorial board meeting of Zuesrt, shortly after Munier’s takeover

Beginning in the mid-1990s both Munier and the convicted nazi terrorist Manfred Roeder were involved with these projects. Former BNP deputy leader Richard Edmonds and several other leading British nazis visited Kaliningrad in 1993 in connection with Roeder’s efforts, and in 1999 Edmonds returned to the region, this time working for several years teaching as part of Munier’s project in a settlement known as Trakehnen.

Kaliningrad (known for centuries as Königsberg and still regarded by German nationalists as a German city) is today a potential flashpoint for confrontation between NATO and Russia.

Both antifascists and European intelligence agencies have been concerned by developing ties between the German far-right and Russia. During Putin’s early years in power, he seemed to be hostile to Munier, who after being banned from travelling to the Kaliningrad region eventually sold the Trakehnen settlement to a Russian businessman.

But during the past decade Munier and Zuerst have built more cordial ties to Moscow, especially with the ultra-nationalist ‘philosopher’ and anti-Ukrainian propagandist Alexander Dugin. The magazine has also published articles by pro-Moscow AfD activists such as Björn Höcke, leader of the party’s extremist Flügel faction.

Another European nazi group with suspicious ties to Moscow is the Nordic Resistance Movement, which operates in several countries and was banned by the Finnish authorities in 2019 for terrorism. Former NRM member Mikko Vehvilainen (half-Finnish) joined the British Army but also signed up to the nazi terror group National Action and was jailed for eight years under the Terrorism Act.

National Action terrorist Mikko Vehvilainen

Yan Petrovsky, second in command of the Russian militia Rusich and a veteran of Wagner Group atrocities in Ukraine, Syria and Africa, spent several years in Scandinavia where he built ties both to the NRM and to the more openly terroristic and pro-Moscow Soldiers of Odin. Petrovsky is wanted in Ukraine for war crimes, and while Finnish courts have refused his extradition, he is facing trial for other offences in Finland.

Petrovsky’s activities are one of the reasons for bitter arguments within the neo-nazi scene between pro-Ukraine and pro-Russia factions. These disputes have already disrupted plans to revive the Holocaust denial publishing scene. Convicted Holocaust denier Germar Rudolf is so hostile to Moscow that he has broken off contact with many of his former friends, as have his fellow nazis at the British neo-Nazi magazine Heritage & Destiny, Peter Rushton and Isabel Peralta.

A few days earlier in Germany, AfD’s number one candidate at this year’s European elections, Maximilian Krah, was embarrassed by the arrest of his parliamentary aide on charges of spying for China. Krah has long been known as one of the most pro-Chinese and pro-Russian officials of AfD. But again, he is a divisive character in far-right circles. A few years ago, Catholic extremists linked to the Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson (including at least one former National Front directorate member) accused Krah of acting as an agent of – you might have guessed! – mysterious global Zionist forces, looking to undermine Williamson’s defence.

Several British and German nazis have now revived these old allegations to add to Krah’s troubles. For it’s guaranteed that any discussion in these circles, whether of Ukraine or China or global warming, will eventually develop into an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Why is Ofcom letting GB News off the hook? By Dorothy Byrne

As former Head of News at Channel Four, Dorothy Byrne has
enormous experience in broadcasting – and she is worried.
She thinks Ofcom’s repeated refusal to punish GB News for
serious breaches of impartiality poses a threat to UK democracy

The UK Government is much exercised by the need to protect us all against extremism.  A new definition of extremism has been unveiled which, we are told, ‘adds to the tools to tackle this ever-evolving threat’. A specific threat the government is concerned about is the attempt to ‘undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights’.

But right in front of our eyes, a tool which protects our democratic system is itself being undermined. You might not have realised this was happening because when stories about it pop up, they seem to be about misbehaviour at the relatively obscure television news channel GB News.  

Last month, the regulator Ofcom found that GB News had broken broadcasting rules on due impartiality across no fewer than five episodes by allowing three Conservative MPs to act as newsreaders. GB News has now been found to be in breach of Ofcom rules on 11 occasions. Another eight investigations are open.

I was Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel Four Television for seventeen years. If I had allowed our programmes to breach the rules on 11 occasions, I would have been out of a job. And Channel Four would have expected a major fine for such flagrancy. Seventeen years ago, Channel Four was fined £1.5 million by Ofcom for a breach of the regulations over a television phone-in. How much more important is it to uphold political impartiality when an election is looming than to ensure a phone-in is fair?

The powers of the regulator are mighty. Ofcom revoked the licence to broadcast of the Iranian Government news channel Press TV in 2012 for flagrant breaches. Two years ago, it revoked Russia Today’s right to broadcast. Yet the regulator has taken no action whatsoever against GB News for 11 breaches other than a ticking off. Why are they being so cowardly and why does it matter so much?

In the UK, the public has great trust in television news and current affairs. Around 70% of the public say they trust television news. They also get their news from social media but their trust in those sources is much lower – 40%. Their trust in politicians is even lower.

The foundation of that public trust in television is our system of broadcast regulation – a system which is the envy of the world. I have been asked to lecture journalists in countries as far apart as Brazil and Pakistan about the way it works. They were jealous. In the UK, television and radio news and current affairs programmes must be fair, accurate and duly impartial. Due impartiality does not require that equal weight is given to a silly argument and a serious argument; however, when a matter of public importance is discussed, different views of significance should be included so that the viewer and listeners can reach an informed opinion of their own. Regulation does not prevent powerful investigative journalism. I oversaw many programmes in which we investigated and even secretly filmed major politicians, all without breaching the regulations.

A specific requirement of the regulatory system is that news programmes must be presented by figures who are not politically partial. The recent breaches by GB News occurred when the channel allowed former House of Commons Leader Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former Secretary of State Esther McVey and backbencher Philip Davies – all Conservative MPs – to present news. Rees-Mogg talked about a verdict in one of Donald Trump’s court cases, McVey and Davies presented news about a number of matters including train strikes, the UK economy, an anti-Ulez protest rally and the doctors’ strike. These are all clearly matters of significant public policy and all controversial matters.

Ofcom said the politicians, ‘acted as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters in sequences which clearly constituted news – including reporting breaking news events without exceptional justification. News was therefore not presented with due impartiality. Politicians have an inherently partial role in society and news content presented by them is likely to be viewed by audiences in light of that perceived bias. In our view, the use of politicians to present the news risks undermining the integrity and credibility of regulated broadcast news.’

 This is a serious criticism indeed. Ofcom does not mince its words. Yet there was no sanction handed down. I cannot understand why. Although I do note that since the rules breaches Rishi Sunak has shown his approval of McVey by appointing her to a ministerial post and of Davies by awarding him with a knighthood. Is Ofcom cowed by the Conservative Government? It is supposed to act independently.

Earlier last month, Ofcom also found that GB News breached the rules when former actor, now right-wing campaigner, Laurence Fox launched what Ofcom described as a ‘degrading’, ‘demeaning’ and ‘clearly and unambiguously misogynistic’ attack on a female journalist. In December, the channel’s Don’t Kill Cash campaign was found to have broken the requirement to be duly impartial. The campaign urged the government to introduce legislation but, bizarrely, GB News claimed it was not political. Other breaches include a programme in which McVey and Davies interviewed the Conservative Chancellor Jeremy Hunt about the Budget without being duly impartial. Common sense would tell you that two Tories interviewing a Tory was not likely to result in a duly impartial interview.

The eight open Ofcom investigations include a special, the People’s Forum, in which the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was questioned live, and an episode of the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s programme.

GB News may not be regular viewing for Searchlight readers but its viewing figures are not to be scoffed at. According to the ratings agency Barb, the channel reached an average of 2.7 million a month last year. That was only a 0.45 share of linear television and it loses money. But its online page views rose 431% to 51.9 million views.

All these figures are likely to go up markedly when Boris Johnson joins GB News in the run-up to the next General Election. We will then have Johnson, a known liar, as the most important presenter on a right-wing television channel which has flagrantly breached regulations that protect the fairness, accuracy and due impartiality of political coverage.

So what happens when a democracy no longer requires news channels to be truthful and politically impartial? Look across the waters at the USA. It used to have rules not dissimilar to our own enshrined in what was known as the fairness doctrine. Broadcasters had to present controversial matters of public importance in a way that fairly reflected differing viewpoints. The doctrine was abolished in 1987 in the Reagan era. Critics argued it was restricting freedom of speech.

GB News used similar arguments to protest against Ofcom’s recent rulings. It says it was ‘deeply concerned’ by Ofcom’s rulings and that they constituted a ‘chilling development’. GB News said that Ofcom had arbitrarily changed its rules and that ‘Ofcom is obliged by law to promote free speech and media plurality and to ensure that alternative voices are heard.’

Judge for yourselves whether two Tories interviewing a Tory, or Tory politicians presenting the news, ensures that ‘alternative voices are heard.’ But look across the Atlantic to see what happens when the public is fed lies on television and radio.

The people who attacked Capitol Hill after the results of the last US election were driven into a frenzy of rage after being fed the lie by Fox News and others that Donald Trump had been cheated of his rightful victory. Democracy itself was put at risk in a nation where people had thought democracy was unassailable.

Television regulation is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. If this government wants to protect us against extremists who threaten democracy, it should be asking the regulator why it is being so weak about GB News breaking the rules. And so should we all.

Vile UKIP racism on open display

Content warning: this post concerns and shows highly offensive racist propaganda.

This particularly nauseous post appeared recently on the Berkshire UKIP Facebook page run by Gary Johnson, Director of UKIP Ltd, NEC member, South East Regional Chair and apparently Chair of any number of fantasy UKIP branches in Berkshire and at least six other counties. 

Gary Johnson – who runs the Facebook page on which this appeared

If you thought that this was just a party of harmless old anti-EU duffers, you would be quite wrong. UKIP’s lurch to the racist and conspiracist right continues apace…