Neo-Nazi former BNP members launch new far-right party

They hope the new British Democratic Party will kill off the BNP, while security for the launch meeting will be provided by EDL activists.

Andrew Brons, a former Chair of the National Front and until recently one of the British National Party’s MEPs, will launch a new far-right party this weekend – one he and his supporters hope will finally kill off the BNP.

The British Democratic Party (BDP) launches tomorrow in a village hall in Leicestershire, as the hardline alternative for disillusioned BNP members and supporters.

Security for the meeting is being provided by EDL activists, bussed into the area from as far as Newcastle, to provide protection from the possibility of attack – not from antifascists, but from the rival BNP who are meeting in nearby Leicester.

Ageing Brons, who is 66 this year, has positioned himself as the new party’s ideological mentor and president.

The interim chairman of the new party is former BNP organiser Kevin Scott from Newcastle. Scott has maintained a steady line of attack for nearly two years against what he and Brons’ supporters allege is the ongoing corruption and watering down of the BNP.

The new party comes eighteen months after Brons failed to unseat BNP leader and fellow MEP, Nick Griffin, in a bitter leadership election for control of the ailing party. Since the party’s disastrous showing in the 2010 General and Local elections, hundreds of disillusioned BNP members have made their way to smaller parties like the English Democrats. Thousands of others just quit the far-right altogether. Brons however, waited patiently, believing the perilous financial state of the party would eventually account for Nick Griffin.

Brons finally resigned from the BNP in October of last year, claiming that he had been “constructively expelled” by what he considered to be merely the “rump” of what was left of the BNP. Griffin loyalists had already launched a series of claims for unfair dismissal and religious and sexual discrimination against Brons’s European office in anticipation of his departure.

In over fifty years of far-right activity, Brons has maintained an impressive collection of hardline “admirers”. A speaking tour last year drew audiences from such groups as the National Front, British Movement and Combat 18. Many of those attendees were former BNP members who either left or were driven from the BNP during its drastic modernisation in the 2000’s. Brons did not join the BNP himself until 2005. He and Griffin had previously shared a passionate hatred of each other during their time together in the NF during the 1980’s.

Brons began his political career way back in the 1960s when he joined the openly Nazi National Socialist Movement, before going on to become Chairman of the National Front in 1980. Under Brons’s tutelage, the BDP is expected to re-focus efforts on promoting scientific racism, calling for the compulsory repatriation of non-whites and push heavily the notion that the Holocaust is a hoax – core policies that Nick Griffin tried to either disguise or extinguish entirely after taking over the BNP in 1999.

Others backing Brons include London-based Barrister Adrian Davies who registered the party and is a long-term opponent of Griffin. As well as registering the party and writing its constitution, Davies most recently defended (unsuccessfully) a businessman from Northern Ireland convicted and jailed for sending death threats to Griffin and his family.

John Bean, a former Mosleyite who previously edited the BNP’s monthly periodical and was often and openly lauded by Nick Griffin, has also now thrown his weight in with Brons, as has Dr James Lewthwaite, who split from the BNP to form his own, Bradford-based, National Democratic Party in 2010. Andrew Moffat who works for Brons in Brussels, and has previously worked closely with Holocaust Denier David Irving, will be the party’s Deputy Chairman.

Despite claiming it will be a democratic party, the new party has no plans to hold elections for posts. All positions in the party were decided weeks ago.

Nick Lowles of the antifascist campaign group Hope not Hate says the new party will be a serious challenge to Nick Griffin’s BNP. “The BDP brings together all of the hardcore Holocaust deniers and racists that have walked away from the BNP over the last two to three years, plus those previously, who could not stomach the party’s image changes.

“They and the BNP already have a mutual hatred of each other and neither party will stop until they’ve killed the other one off. The gloves will be off and it will be toxic”.

UPDATE 9 February 2013 14:30:

Shortly after nine o'clock this morning members of the British Democratic Party (BDP) arrived at  a small village hall in Leicestershire and began setting up for the party's launch meeting.

Six miles away, in the car park of a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant, neo-Nazis and far-right activists from across the UK were arriving to be redirected to the secret venue.

Despite the secrecy surrounding the meeting, members of the Hope Not Hate research team were able to infiltrate the redirection point and photograph a number of well known far-right activists, many of them disgruntled former BNP members.

Among those providing security for the redirection point was Gary Pudsey from Bridlington, in Yorkshire. A former BNP and C18 activist, Pudsey is one of a number of "former" extremists who made their way into the English Democrats when the BNP began imploding in 2010.

The village hall had about sixty far-right activists inside listening to a serious of speeches from people like Andrew Brons MEP and Kevin Scott on why they have quit the BNP. According to Lowles, there is great anger that the details of the meeting have been leaked by Hope Not Hate researchers. "A number of EDL activists [who were there to provide security for the meeting] are currently prowling the inside of the hall to look for hidden cameras, such is their paranoia.

"They're not happy, obviously. But I think people have a right to know that these groups of people are lying and cheating their way onto public property to cultivate their message of hate. There should be no hiding place for hatred."

Matthew Collins is a researcher for Hope Not Hate and author of "Hate: My Life in the British Far Right" (Biteback Books) #

Editor's note: comments on this article are closed. If you want to discuss it, please do so on our Twitter or Facebook pages.

Hope Not Hate understand that after this article was published, Andrew Moffat refused to be confirmed as the BDP's deputy chair. Moffat also disputes the fact that he held the position of political secretary to David Irving. The article has been updated to reflect the fact that he may never have been formally employed by Irving, but has worked closely with him in the past.

Andrew Brons with Nick Griffin in 2009. Photograph: Getty Images

Matthew Collins is a researcher for Hope Not Hate and author of Hate: My Life in the British Far Right (Biteback Books).

Getty Images.
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John McDonnell interview: "We’re going to destroy Osborne’s credibility"

The shadow chancellor on the Spending Review, Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and why trade unions will have to break the law. 

When I interviewed John McDonnell in March, before the general election, he predicted that Labour would be the largest party and confessed to a “sneaking feeling that we could win a small majority – because I think the Tory vote is really soft”. As the long-standing chair of the Socialist Campaign Group, McDonnell anticipated leading the resistance inside Labour to any spending cuts made by Ed Miliband. Eight months later, he is indeed campaigning against austerity – but as shadow chancellor against a Conservative majority government.

I meet McDonnell in his new Westminster office in Norman Shaw South, a short walk down the corridor from that of his close friend and greatest ally, Jeremy Corbyn. The day before George Osborne delivers his Spending Review and Autumn Statement, his desk is cluttered with economic papers in preparation for his response.

“The message we’re trying to get across is that this concept of the Tories’ having a ‘long-term economic plan’ is an absolute myth and they’re in chaos, really in chaos on many fronts,” he tells me. McDonnell points to the revolt against cuts to tax credits and policing, and the social care crisis, as evidence that Osborne’s programme is unravelling. On health, he says: “He’s trying to dig out money as best as he can for the NHS, he’s announced the frontloading of some of it, but that simply covers the deficits that there are. Behind that, he’s looking for £22bn of savings, so this winter the NHS is going to be in crisis again.”

Asked what Labour’s equivalent is to the Tories’ undeniably effective “long-term economic plan” message, he said: “I don’t think we’re going to get into one-liners in that way. We’ll be more sophisticated in the way that we communicate. We’re going to have an intelligent and a mature economic debate. If I hear again that they’re going to ‘fix the roof while the sun shines’ I will throw up. It’s nauseating, isn’t it? It reduces debate, intellectual debate, economic debate, to the lowest level of a slogan. That’s why we’re in the mess we are.”

Having abandoned his original support for the Chancellor’s fiscal charter, which mandated a budget surplus by 2020, McDonnell makes an unashamed case for borrowing to invest. “The biggest failure of the last five years under Osborne is the failure to invest,” he says. “Borrowing at the moment is at its cheapest level, but in addition to that I’m not even sure we’ll need to borrow great amounts, because we can get more efficient spending in terms of government spending. If we can address the tax cuts that have gone ahead, particularly around corporation tax, that will give us the resources to actually start paying again in terms of investment.”

He promises a “line-by-line budget review” when I ask whether there are any areas in which he believes spending should be reduced. “My background is hard-nosed bureaucrat . . . we’ll be looking at where we can shift expenditure into more productive areas.”

From 1982 until 1985, John McDonnell, who is 64, was chair of finance at the Greater London Council under Ken Livingstone. After vowing to defy the Thatcher government’s rate-capping policy he was sacked by Livingstone, who accused him of manipulating figures for political purposes. “We’re going to look like the biggest fucking liars since Goebbels,” the future mayor of London told him. McDonnell, who later described Livingstone’s account as “complete fiction”, has since resolved his differences with the man now co-chairing Labour’s defence review.

After his election as the MP for Hayes and Harlington in 1997, McDonnell achieved renown as one of New Labour’s most vociferous opponents, rebelling with a frequency rivalled only by Corbyn. His appointment as shadow chancellor was the most divisive of the Labour leader’s reshuffle. “People like Jeremy even if they don’t agree with him. People don’t like John,” one MP told me at the time. Mindful of this, McDonnell has sought to transform his image. He has apologised for his past praise of the IRA and for joking about assassinating Margaret Thatcher, rebranding himself as a “boring bank manager”. But there are moments when his more radical side surfaces.

He told me that he supports workers breaking the law if the trade union bill, which would limit the right to strike, is passed. “It’s inevitable, I think it’s inevitable. If the bill is introduced in its existing form and is used against any particular trade unionist or trade union, I think it’s inevitable that people will resist. We established our rights by campaigning against unjust laws and taking the risk if necessary. I think that’s inevitable and I’ll support them.”

“Chaos” might be how McDonnell describes Osborne’s position but the same term is now daily applied to Labour. The party is riven over air strikes in Syria and the renewal of Trident and MPs are ever more scornful of Corbyn’s leadership.

While Corbyn has so far refused to offer Labour MPs a free vote on Syria, McDonnell says that he favours one and would oppose military action. “My position on wars has always been that it’s a moral issue and therefore I veer towards free votes . . . We’re waiting for Cameron’s statement; we’ll analyse that, there’ll be a discussion in shadow cabinet and in the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] and then we’ll make a decision. I’m still in a situation where I’ve expressed the view that I’m opposed to the bombing campaign or engagement. I think the history of the UK involvement in the Middle East has been a disaster, to say the least . . .This isn’t like the Second World War where you have a military campaign – you defeat the enemy, you sign a peace agreement and that’s it – this is asymmetric warfare. In addition to the risks that are in the battlefield there’s a risk in every community in our land as a result of it.”

Would he want any of the 14 former shadow cabinet members who refused to serve under Corbyn to return? “All of them, we’re trying to get them all back. We’ve got Yvette [Cooper] helping us on a review we’re doing about the economy and women . . . It’s an open door policy, I’m trying to meet them all over these next few weeks.”

Livingstone, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee, recently called for Simon Danczuk, who revealed details of a private meeting with Corbyn in the Mail on Sunday, and Frank Field, who told me that MPs should run as independents if deselected, to be disciplined. But McDonnell takes a more conciliatory line. “With Simon [Danczuk] in particular and the others, it’s just a matter of saying look at the long-term interests of the party. People don’t vote for a divided party. They’ll accept, though, that within a party you can have democratic debate. As I said time and time again, don’t mistake democracy for division. It’s the way in which you express those different views that are important. All I’m saying is let people express their views, let’s have democratic engagement but please don’t personalise this. I think there’s a reaction within the community, not just the party, against personalised politics. It’s not Jeremy’s style, he never responds in that way. It’s unfortunate but we’ll get through it. It’s just minor elements of it, that’s all.”

McDonnell disavows moves by some in Momentum, the Corbyn-aligned group, to deselect critical MPs. “What we’re not into is deselecting people, what we want to try and do is make sure that everyone’s involved in a democratic engagement process, simple as that.

“So I’ve said time and time again, this isn’t about deselection or whatever. But at the same what we’re trying to say to everybody is even if you disagree, treat each other with respect. At the height of the debates around tuition fees and the Iraq war, even though we had heated disagreements we always treated each other with mutual respect and I think we’ve got to adhere to that. Anyone who’s not doing that just lets themselves down, that’s not the culture of the Labour Party.”

In private, the 90 per cent of MPs who did not support Corbyn’s leadership bid speak often of how and when he could be removed. One point of debate is whether, under the current rules, the Labour leader would automatically make the ballot if challenged or be forced to re-seek nominations. McDonnell is emphatic that the former is the case: “Oh yeah, that’s the rule, yeah.”

McDonnell’s recent media performances have been praised by MPs, and he is spoken of by some on the left as a possible replacement if Corbyn is removed or stands down before 2020. His speech to the PLP on 23 November was described to me by one shadow minister as a “leadership bid”. But McDonnell rules out standing in any future contest. “No, no, I’ve tried twice [in 2007 and 2010], I’m not going to try again, there’s no way I would.”

Despite opinion polls showing Labour as much as 15 points behind the Conservatives, McDonnell insists that the party can win in 2020. “Oh definitely, yeah, you’ll see that. I think this next year’s going to be pivotal for us. We’re going to destroy Osborne’s credibility over the next six months. But more importantly than that, we can’t just be a negative party . . . we’re going to present a positive view of what Labour’s future will be and the future of the economy.

“Over the next 18 months, we’ll be in a situation where we’ve destroyed the Tories’ economic reputation and we’ve built up our own but we’ll do it in a visionary way that presents people with a real alternative.”  

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.