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).

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Erdogan’s purge was too big and too organised to be a mere reaction to the failed coup

There is a specific word for the melancholy of Istanbul. The city is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. 

Even at the worst of times Istanbul is a beautiful city, and the Bosphorus is a remarkable stretch of sea. Turks get very irritated if you call it a river. They are right. The Bosphorus has a life and energy that a river could never equal. Spend five minutes watching the Bosphorus and you can understand why Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s Nobel laureate for literature, became fixated by it as he grew up, tracking the movements of the ocean-going vessels, the warships and the freighters as they steamed between Asia and Europe.

I went to an Ottoman palace on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, waiting to interview the former prime minister Ahmet Davu­toglu. He was pushed out of office two months ago by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan when he appeared to be too wedded to the clauses in the Turkish constitution which say that the prime minister is the head of government and the president is a ceremonial head of state. Erdogan was happy with that when he was prime minister. But now he’s president, he wants to change the constitution. If Erdogan can win the vote in parliament he will, in effect, be rubber-stamping the reality he has created since he became president. In the days since the attempted coup, no one has had any doubt about who is the power in the land.

 

City of melancholy

The view from the Ottoman palace was magnificent. Beneath a luscious, pine-shaded garden an oil tanker plied its way towards the Black Sea. Small ferries dodged across the sea lanes. It was not, I hasten to add, Davutoglu’s private residence. It had just been borrowed, for the backdrop. But it reminded a Turkish friend of something she had heard once from the AKP, Erdogan’s ruling party: that they would not rest until they were living in the apartments with balconies and gardens overlooking the Bosphorus that had always been the preserve of the secular elite they wanted to replace.

Pamuk also writes about hüzün, the melancholy that afflicts the citizens of Istanbul. It comes, he says, from the city’s history and its decline, the foghorns on the Bosphorus, from tumbledown walls that have been ruins since the fall of the Byzantine empire, unemployed men in tea houses, covered women waiting for buses that never come, pelting rain and dark evenings: the city’s whole fabric and all the lives within it. “My starting point,” Pamuk wrote, “was the emotion that a child might feel while looking through a steamy window.”

Istanbul is suffering a mighty bout of something like hüzün at the moment. In Pamuk’s work the citizens of Istanbul take a perverse pride in hüzün. No one in Istanbul, or elsewhere in Turkey, can draw comfort from what is happening now. Erdogan’s opponents wonder what kind of future they can have in his Turkey. I think I sensed it, too, in the triumphalist crowds of Erdogan supporters that have been gathering day after day since the coup was defeated.

 

Down with the generals

Erdogan’s opponents are not downcast because the coup failed; a big reason why it did was that it had no public support. Turks know way too much about the authoritarian ways of military rule to want it back. The melancholy is because Erdogan is using the coup to entrench himself even more deeply in power. The purge looks too far-reaching, too organised and too big to have been a quick reaction to the attempt on his power. Instead it seems to be a plan that was waiting to be used.

Turkey is a deeply unhappy country. It is hard to imagine now, but when the Arab uprisings happened in 2011 it seemed to be a model for the Middle East. It had elections and an economy that worked and grew. When I asked Davutoglu around that time whether there would be a new Ottoman sphere of influence for the 21st century, he smiled modestly, denied any such ambition and went on to explain that the 2011 uprisings were the true succession to the Ottoman empire. A century of European, and then American, domination was ending. It had been a false start in Middle Eastern history. Now it was back on track. The people of the region were deciding their futures, and perhaps Turkey would have a role, almost like a big brother.

Turkey’s position – straddling east and west, facing Europe and Asia – is the key to its history and its future. It could be, should be, a rock of stability in a desperately un­stable part of the world. But it isn’t, and that is a problem for all of us.

 

Contagion of war

The coup did not come out of a clear sky. Turkey was in deep crisis before the attempt was made. Part of the problem has come from Erdogan’s divisive policies. He has led the AKP to successive election victories since it first won in 2002. But the policies of his governments have not been inclusive. As long as his supporters are happy, the president seems unconcerned about the resentment and opposition he is generating on the other side of politics.

Perhaps that was inevitable. His mission, as a political Islamist, was to change the country, to end the power of secular elites, including the army, which had been dominant since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk created modern Turkey after the collapse of the Ottoman empire. And there is also the influence of chaos and war in the Middle East. Turkey has borders with Iraq and Syria, and is deeply involved in their wars. The borders do not stop the contagion of violence. Hundreds of people have died in the past year in bomb attacks in Turkish cities, some carried out by the jihadists of so-called Islamic State, and some sent by Kurdish separatists working under the PKK.

It is a horrible mix. Erdogan might be able to deal with it better if he had used the attempted coup to try to unite Turkey. All the parliamentary parties condemned it. But instead, he has turned the power of the state against his opponents. More rough times lie ahead.

Jeremy Bowen is the BBC’s Middle East editor. He tweets @bowenbbc

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue