Cameron’s hugely miscalculated EU Referendum saw a knife-edge result that merely succeeded, as Laurie Penny eloquently put it, in widening the divisions in society. As such, the referendum could be described as an abject failure in democracy: seriously flawed and based on lies, it should have been declared invalid. But, as has already been pointed out, Brexit is not legally binding and, if matters spiral completely out of control, there is nothing to stop MPs from refusing to trigger Article 50, or they could even refuse to agree to the election of a new Conservative leader (and, in the worst case scenario, a State of Emergency could be declared). For many on the Leave campaign their decision was simply a vote of protest against the EU, which they were persuaded to identify by the Tory elite as the source of all their woes. As Paul Mason has commented, the Referendum outcome was not due to a rebellion, but of despair by the excluded. The consequence of the vote is now seeing the economy collapsing and so peoples’ finances and prospects will get even worse, with soaring inflation, job losses, rent rises, higher bills, cuts and more cuts. But with the EU on the outer, who will people blame next? The UK political order, of course – though there will be those – in UKIP and of the Far Right – who will endeavour to exploit the misery of the dispossessed by whipping up more fear – fear of the ‘foreigner’, the immigrant, the scroungers and, of course, ethnic minorities. Exaggeration? Well, on last night’s TV news, several vox pop Brexit supporters proudly gave dislike of immigrants and Muslims as the prime reason they voted Leave. And yesterday this writer personally witnessed a Portuguese woman – working in the UK for 10 years as a nurse and saving lives – screamed at by a man, euphoric at the Brexit victory. Examples of hate – but nothing compared to the death threats and assaults that some are experiencing. Seasoned commentator Nafeez Ahmed also argues cogently how Project Fear is not just a UK phenomena but has taken hold in many parts of Europe. When widespread discontent is corralled by the Tory and UKIP far right and the left remains in disarray – that is when fascism becomes mainstream. Make no mistake, Project Fear did not end with the vote: the pitchforks are out and the ‘mob’ is fired up.
“This Britain is not my Britain. I want my country back. I want my scrappy, tolerant, forward-thinking, creative country, the country of David Bowie, not Paul Daniels; the country of Sadiq Khan, not Boris Johnson; the country of J K Rowling, not Enid Blyton; the country not of Nigel Farage, but Jo Cox” extract from article by Laurie Penny.
(Note: here’s one plan – by Paul Mason – to oust the Tories. No doubt there will be many more from others in weeks to come.)
Last week – only days after Jo Cox MP was murdered – Labour MP and shadow frontbencher Yvette Cooper revealed she had been threatened on Twitter. The message said “Hello, Yvette I have received your Stronger In propaganda e-mails 5 times please stop or I will kill your kids and grandkids.”
From Laurie Penny: “Nigel Farage, the rich, racist cartoon demagogue, boasts that this [Referendum] victory was won “without a single shot being fired”. Tell that to the grieving family of Jo Cox, the campaigning Labour MP gunned down last week. Farage promised that unless something was done to halt immigration, “violence will be the next step”. It looks like we’ve got a two-for-one deal on that one.”
Prominent Far Right groups that are active in Britain include Liberty GB – an anti-immigration political party, whose chairman is Paul Weston, the former UKIP parliamentary candidate – Britain First, the National Front, the British National Party, and the EDL. (Note that Liberty GB is fielding a candidate – Jack Buckby, a former BNP politician – at the upcoming byelection that will take place as a result of Jo Cox’s death.) See also ‘Appendix’, below, on the links between the BNP and Britain First. whose slogan, incidentally, is “Taking our country back” – virtually the same slogan the Brexiteers used during the Referendum campaign.
There is also Redwatch, – not an organisation, but a Far Right resource that can be described as a virtual blacklist – not to prevent employment, but to invite violence against those listed. Redwatch publishes hundreds and hundreds of of photographs and personal information relating to alleged far-left and anti-fascist activists, typically targeting officials, advocacy groups, trade unions and what it considers hostile media.
Let’s examine this resource further…
Redwatch was first published in paper form by the neo-Nazi paramilitary group Combat 18, in March 1992. In its current form it was hosted by Simon Sheppard, a former British National Party member, who was expelled from the BNP after circulating a leaflet which the leadership regarded as a prima facie breach of race-discrimination legislation. Kevin Watmough, who then took over the running of ‘Redwatch’, is also the leader of the British Peoples Party.
The Redwatch website has three mirror sites (one in the UK, one in Poland and another in the USA). It’s contents is dvided into mostly geographical sections. On their Liverpool section (as with all the other sections) there are scores of photos of anti-fascists or those of the left – some of whom Redwatch identifies by name. For example, the photo below is of a group of anti-fascists, with the person ringed in red identifed by Redwatch.
The threats made by Redwatch and others on the Far Right against their targets are real with names and addresses of targets are provided via an email group called the Mole Intelligence Bureau. Alec McFadden, the president of Merseyside TUC, was one such target. He was followed home after his name and details appeared on the Redwatch website. Mr McFadden was stabbed as he opened the door to his house one night: he believes the assailants were fascists. McFadden also received a letter and a phone call warning him that if Redwatch is closed down his children will be shot. Angela Eagle, who is the MP for Wallasey, McFadden’s home constituency, is also featured on Redwatch.
In 2003 the MP for Reading West, Martin Salter, received a death threat from a BNP supporter. Another MP who is reportedly still listed on Redwatch’s target list is Jon Trickett. And there are also numerous councillors listed.
According to the National Union of Journalists, reporters who have published “fair, accurate and professional stories” on the BNP and other Far Right organisations have been targeted in Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Sunderland, Birmingham and Cardiff. The Redwatch website even has a new section dedicated to “red journalists”.
The day after Jo Cox’s assassination, a man was arrested for allegedly making a death threat to another Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw.
And so it continues, with ethnic minorities, refugees, migrants and the left generally targeted…
According to the Institute of Race Relations in 2013/14 there were 47,571 ‘racist incidents’ recorded by the police in England and Wales. On average, that is about 130 incidents per day. In 2013/14, there were 44,480 hate crimes recorded by police in England and Wales. Of these, 37,484 were recorded as race hate crime and 2,273 as religious hate crimes.
According to Home Office statistics, from 2012-2015 there has been, on average, 106,000 racially motivated ‘hate crimes’ per year. Both the 2012/13 and 2014/15 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) highlight that victims of hate crime are less likely to think the police had treated them fairly or with respect, compared with victims of CSEW crime overall.
Of hate crime incidents (not exclusively those motivated by ‘race’) reported to the police, 59 per cent of victims believed the police treated them fairly, compared with 81 per cent of CSEW crime overall. In 2013/14, the number of defendants who were referred by the police to the CPS for a charging decision for racially and religiously aggravated crimes rose 14.7 per cent from the previous year, to 12,184. The number of prosecutions completed during this year increased by 9 per cent to 12,368. The number of convictions for racist or religious hate crime rose from 9,415 to 10,532 and the proportion of ‘successful outcomes’ was 85.2 per cent.
The Institute of Race Relations monitors deaths with a known or suspected racial element in the UK. Research indicates that in the twenty years after April 1993 that there were at least 105 such deaths in the UK. Of these, the vast majority (eighty-five) were in England, with five in Wales, twelve in Scotland and three in Northern Ireland. Within England, twenty-eight murders took place in London. Twenty people were killed whilst at work as taxi-drivers, as shopkeepers and at pubs or clubs. Whilst the majority of the murders that we recorded involved attacks in the street, eight came from attacks on people in their homes. Of these, several were arson attacks.
Appendix: Britain First (courtesy of Hope not Hate)
Britain First (BF) was the brainchild of James Dowson, the man who was dubbed ‘the person who owned the BNP’.A shadowy figure in the world of evangelical Protestantism and anti-abortion activity,
Dowson made contact with the BNP in 2007, offering his services as a man with a record of get-rich-quick schemes. Originally from Scotland, he set himself up in Belfast, where he took advantage of the religious fervour there. Dowson’s anti-abortion activities and close relationship with Loyalist paramilitaries were seen as positive attributes by the BNP’s leadership, who were dazzled by his patter and promises of riches.
Nick Griffin eventually moved the entire BNP operation to Belfast – under Dowson’s control – with Griffin’s daughter, Jennifer, entrusted to Dowson’s care. Meanwhile, as the party faltered after the 2010 local and government elections, anti-Griffin factions within the BNP saw Dowson as Griffin’s Achilles’ heel and began campaigning against him.
Dowson and the BNP parted company in October 2010, but it was another six months before Britain First was formed. In the intervening time Dowson preoccupied himself with trying to undermine the BNP at every opportunity.
In May 2011, Dowson, along with Paul Golding, a former BNP councillor and editor of the BNP’s flagship magazine, announced the formation of a campaign group to protect “British and Christian morality” and sent an internet and glossy mail shot to some 40,000 names that Dowson had allegedly acquired from his time with the BNP.
Hoping to gain an invitation to join rebel BNP MEP, Andrew Brons, in a new venture, Dowson also sent another glossy brochure attacking a number of high profile BNP officials during the BNP’s July 2011 leadership election.
Close to a thousand people responded to BF’s launch with either cash or membership, though very quickly, aside from a few regional meetings, it became apparent that the organisation was not interested in being the alternative to Griffin’s party.
In 2013 the BF began to pick up a lot of disaffected former EDL supporters, attracted by a hearty mixture of confrontation, harassment and the apparent distribution of free alcohol on demonstrations.
The party eventually registered itself with the Electoral Commission in early 2014, with the intention of unseating Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP and an MEP for the North West region.