larry o'hara

BREXIT RESISTED? THE HENSHAW/HOPE NOT HATE DOCUMENTARY ON BRITAIN'S NEW FAR RIGHT 9/11/17

BREXIT RESISTED? THE HENSHAW/HOPE NOT HATE ITV DOCUMENTARY ON ‘BRITAIN’S NEW FAR RIGHT’ 9/11/17

LARRY O'HARA 17/12/2017

Discerning viewers will have watched this cobbled-together offering promising to ‘expose’ Britain’s ‘New Far Right’ with both wry amusement and cynical detachment, so poor was it.  A view probably shared by TV schedulers, who put it out at 10.40pm on a Thursday night, hardly peak-time viewing.  When most people are either heading to bed, or if out, at the pub.  Still, as one of the first full-length documentary offerings scripted by the Hope Not Hate (hereafter HNH) crew since they hoped to have consigned their former colleagues at Searchlight into the dustbin of history in 2012 [1], the programme deserves scrutiny.   

Given that David Henshaw’s ‘Hardcash’ production company was responsible for this documentary, and the deficiencies therein raised important issues, I thought it only right, before publishing this article, to raise many of these with Henshaw before publication.   In contrast to virtually everybody featured that he contacted who replied to him, Henshaw (to whom I gave exactly the same length of time as he gave them to respond) decided not to defend himself.  My unanswered email is reproduced as an Appendix below.  Where I raised a matter, but got no response, this is highlighted (bold) in the text. If anybody else wants to try, why not contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Let us know how you get on (or indeed send non-racist responses to this article) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

EMPTY STYLE RIVALS LIMITED SUBSTANCE

Inasmuch as anything new was on offer, it was encapsulated in the sound-bite “the new far right has an unexpected profile.  Its supporters are getting younger, with women involved from the grass roots to the very top”.  We were also promised answers to (good) questions: who are the far right, how big are they, how dangerous are they?  Groups covered included Britain First, the National Front, Generation Identity and UKIP, specifically Anne Marie Waters failed campaign to lead UKIP and subsequent launch of her ‘For Britain’ party.  As I watched the documentary, and deconstructed the content, it became clear the programme wasn’t fundamentally about these things, but two others: an attempt to undermine Brexit by associating it with fascism, and yet another plea for state controls on social media of unauthorised viewpoints.  

Some staples common to this programme form were there, such as references to military-style training camps and ubiquitous sinister music accompanied by a pseudo-authoritative voice over.  There was not, however, the door-stepping formerly used in genre classics, as when pipsqueak Andy Bell nervously confronted Eddie Whicker and Charlie Sargent of Combat 18 in the 1993 MI5 in Action (aka World in Action) show.  For good reason: aside from the location of meetings little conspiratorial (other than the earth-shattering revelation of who designed Anne-Marie Waters’ web-site) was revealed in this programme, hence there was nobody to confront in the flesh, so to speak.  As if to reflect the programme’s intellectual hollowness, selected Twitter images, You-Tube clips and Facebook pages were screened in an empty room, with little dramatic effect.  Rather better was the cover story of ‘Hazel Brown’, who infiltrated both UKIP and Generation Identity: by using a 27-year-old who claimed to be a carer, she was old enough to be away from school/university, in a job others were unlikely to be able to meet her at or outside the office.  Clever.

Two HNH ‘experts’ were interviewed in the same cavernous empty room perhaps intended to provide them with a blank canvas backdrop allowing charismatic expertise to shine through: it didn’t.  The earnest, stuttering and intellectually flabby Nick Lowles OBE, HNH ‘Chief Executive Officer’ displayed all the gravitas of a provincial bank clerk trying to sell a dodgy payment protection policy: truly the “Mr Pooter of institutional anti-extremism” [2]. Lowles is, simply, out of his depth: take for instance his justification for using three women to infiltrate groups, that this “is a deeply anti-feminist world” but contains “a group of strong women”.  Leaving aside that contradiction, which he does not explain, merely grinning hamster-like at the camera as his voice fades, the (fatuous) league-table of ‘Britain’s most influential far right activists’ Hope Not Hate magazine published in January only lists two women in the top 12: Julie Lake at 7 and Jaya Fransen of Britain First at 10 [3]. Anne-Marie Waters, recently failed UKIP candidate and main subject of the show, was not on the list, though he describes her as “in the top two or three anti-Muslim activists in the UK”, letting slip early on a key theme: to label anybody concerned about political Islam (HNH excepted) as ‘far right’.

If Lowles appears a hesitant unconvincing no-mark, HNH ‘Director of Research’ Matthew Collins presents as the rotund bloated thug with difficulty constructing sentences that he really is.  He said nothing memorable, just as well given what I surmise to be his alcohol intake.  Pathetic as these two ‘experts’ certainly are, we should not discount their motives or serious intent, covered below.

DAVID HENSHAW: A CAREER OF VARIABLE QUALITY

If HNH provide the ‘expertise’ what of David Henshaw, the figure behind the TV company—Hardcash--making the show?  He first came to my attention as producer of the 1986 BBC ‘Brass Tacks’ programme which in modern vernacular was a ‘hit-piece’ on the Animal Liberation Front, alleging that they had close links with fascists, as did anarchists Class War.  Both claims were untrue, which did not deter Henshaw from following them up in a 1989 book called ‘Animal Warfare’.  He alleged, completely without evidence because it was not true, that prominent ALF figure Dave Nicholls was previously Essex organiser for the neo-Nazi British Movement [4].  Of Class War, Henshaw stated that while “so far as most observers could see there was no racist content to the Class War invective, but apart from that the collective’s theory and behaviour seemed to owe more to the far right than the left” [5].  These nasty attempts to lump together the far left/the ALF/fascists were no accident, but part of the mid to late 1980’s Zeitgeist, and ultimately sourced back to the political police Special Branch [6].  Fancy that!

In case anybody believes Henshaw reached his evidence-free conclusions after research, not before, ponder this contemporary letter written by Henshaw to Tony Robson of Searchlight magazine (themselves enthusiastic propagators of such specious links) dated 22/1/86, never before published:

“..just to outline the area we are currently interested in.  Basically, anything that links extreme right groups with the ALF and the Animal Rights Militia.  And—in addition—anything that would link these two groups with Class War

So, there you have it: Henshaw started with baseless conclusions then gathered evidence to fit.  Nice.

However, to be fair, among his output (much worthy but dull) three previous programmes stand out as important, even if the second is highly ironic in the light of this current offering.

The first programme of note was in the Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ series, broadcast 16/11/09, when veteran journalist Peter Oborne talked critically about the pro-Israeli lobby’s influence in Britain.  This perfectly legitimate programme [7] unleashed the hounds of media hell on Henshaw [8], although he was exonerated by Ofcom [9].  An interesting aspect of this documentary was highlighting the malevolent and munificent role played in British politics by Finnish citizen Poju Zabludowicz.  He still bank-rolls British politicians, including Hope Not Hate Trustee Ruth Smeeth MP, as first disclosed in NFB issue 11 [10].  

The second Henshaw programme worth mentioning was ‘Undercover Mosque’ first broadcast 15/1/07.  It generated furious controversy because it showed British imams making racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic statements.  This led the Crown Prosecution Service and West Midlands police to complain, resulting in a victorious libel action by Hardcash against them.  Vindicated as Hardcash were, a comment by CPS lawyer Bethan David after considering the whole 56 hours of media footage of which only a small part was used in the programme is insightful, in light of this current show.  She stated “splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying” [11].  Aside from this methodological trait, the ironic aspect to this programme was it uncovered widespread instances of Islamist ideology propagated within mosques, and was hardly approving of such.  Fall-out from the documentary included a highly entertaining filmed exchange between Henshaw and George Galloway in which, to be fair, Henshaw acquitted himself well [12].  More serious is the allegation, which Henshaw hasn’t effectively refuted, that a key person involved in the programme, New Statesman contributing editor and Shia Muslim Mehdi Hasan, sought to deliberately skew the production to criticise Sunni Muslims alone, not Shiites [13].  

Finally, a lesser-known Henshaw programme even more salient: on 18/2/15 in the ‘Exposure’ strand, a documentary featured three charities: the Muslim Global Aid Trust (GAT), the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK and the Steadfast Trust, this latter associated with Robin Tilbrook of the English Democrats. In all three cases reporters filmed undercover.  The then GAT CEO Riznan Husain was captured making anti-Semitic speeches and resigned before broadcast.  HSS knuckles were rapped for not controlling a guest-speaker making anti-Muslim statements [14].  The Steadfast Trust came off worst: footage showed supporters making Nazi salutes, chanting White Power and articulating the neo-Nazi 14 Words slogan [15].  Not surprisingly, Steadfast Trust was removed from the Charities register even before the programme was shown [16].  Maybe this programme was made to show how weak the Charity Commission’s regulatory powers were, thus paving the way for the ‘Protection of Charities’ bill, which finally became law in March 2016.  Which would make Henshaw the hack for hire his company name indicates.

DESPERATE FOR HARD CASH?

Henshaw’s company title being ‘Hardcash’ is faintly amusing, though not for targets.  Accounts for the last three years reveal a deficit of income in relation to expenditure in 2015 of £4,192 was followed by a 2016 surplus of £10,120 and most recently a 2017 deficit of £3,368.  No need for loyal viewers to worry (or begin a crowd funding project) just yet: while annual director remuneration via dividends was a mere £52,000 in 2015, in 2016 and 2017 it has been a more manageable £78,000 [17].  There are only two directors: Henshaw and his wife Lesley Bonner.  Though the accounts do not mention tax being paid on those dividends we can rest assured it was, can’t we?? 

If Hardcash Productions is as skint as these accounts imply, how can they undertake investigations up to a year long?  The answer is astounding, and indicates Hardcash have friends in high places.  A routine funding source is repeated loans from Coutts Bank: in late 2016 a loan facility was granted by Coutts to make one recent programme [18], and Coutts granted another loan on the same terms for the Undercover documentary in May 2017 [19], indeed Companies House records show currently eight undischarged instruments (unpaid loans) owing to Coutts by Hardcash [20].  While no amounts are disclosed, the sums are clearly substantial, otherwise arranging them wouldn’t be worth the effort.  And here’s the thing: Coutts (established 1692) are no ordinary bank, not just because account holders include the Royal Family, but because they normally demand of customers at least £500,000 in liquid assets or £5 million in fixed assets [21].  There is no way based on published accounts Hardcash satisfy either criteria, and in any event, are borrowers, not normal account holders.  The whole situation is extraordinary: at the very least something here does not signify genuinely independent (of the Establishment) journalism.

WHAT WAS WEAK ABOUT THE PROGRAMME

Having briefly looked at those involved, before considering why this programme was made, it is worth noting its deficiencies as serious investigative reporting, supposedly a year in the making:

DEFICIENCY (1)--GROSSLY EXAGGERATING FAR RIGHT STRENGTH

Early on we were promised three things, the last two certainly not delivered.  These were answers to the questions: who are the far right, how big are they, how dangerous are they? Instead, we were treated to footage of a few demonstrations without mentioning the far-right street political presence and membership is much reduced from even a few years ago.  There are now no fascist MEPs in Britain, or elected representatives in anything other than low-level mostly uncontested constituencies. 

BRITAIN FIRST

Britain First was talked up, with reference to their demonstration in Rochdale 22/7/17: attended by a maximum 200, nowhere near even the smallest Waffen SS Division size (2,199 23rd Division if you must know) [22].  To distract attention from this meagre turnout, infiltrator Mary reportedly “found far more supporters than I expected”, and we hear 1,500 leaflets were given out that day.  Yet this does not mean Britain First (BF) has support.  A cursory glance at BF’s membership figures revealed in their 2016 accounts shows that, even if you ignore the fact some members pay far more, a membership income of £45,425 at £59 a throw means 871 members at most.  Even that figure is most likely exaggeration: consider the testimony of reporter William Morgan, who went undercover inside BF in November 2015.  He recounts that attending their Party Conference were “what I can only describe as Islamophobes Anonymous, a gathering of about 30 people with greying hair and loose polo shirts talking about how much they hate and/or fear Islam”. More tellingly, he stated (in May 2016) that “it consists of only about 30 to 40 real members, many of whom I recognise from the conference in this week’s video of them invading a halal slaughterhouse” [23].

Much is made in the documentary of the huge numbers ‘liking’ Britain First’s Facebook posts after the 22/5/2017 Manchester bombing, with supposedly 1.7 million Facebook followers.  However, the significance of this in the real (as opposed to virtual) world has yet to be ascertained. I have commented elsewhere on this site [24] that an earlier post by leader Paul Golding boasting about 1.4 million Facebook followers received a mere 9 ‘Likes’ indicating these large numbers are virtually meaningless in terms of signifying actual support.  More recently, following Donald Trump retweeting three Britain First videos, the organisation has come under renewed scrutiny, and for once I agree with a Guardian journalist--“behind the 1.9m Facebook Likes, the 27,000 Twitter followers and the countless videos of speeches, stands a party with a minute membership, incoherent policies and a negligible chance of electoral success” [25].

All this you would not expect Hope Not Hate to understand, graphically illustrated when they published on 28/11/16 a report which claimed that after Jo Cox MP was murdered in June 2016 at least 25,000 people sent more than 50,000 tweets celebrating her death or praising her murderer.  In fact, as a detailed investigation by the Economist [note to Collins, this is not neo-Nazi but does use big words] found “the number that celebrated her death was at most 1,500, and probably much lower” [26].  Speaking of the figure 1,500 this was the number of members Matthew Collins claimed BF had in 2014, both in the HNH publication ‘Army of the Right’ and in a Twitter exchange with my colleague Dr Paul Stott 25/6/14.  Paul raised the number at the time because we thought it implausibly high, and lo and behold if you look at BF’s accounts for 2014 submitted to the Electoral Commission you find a total 2014 membership income of £15,072.  Given the cheapest 2014 membership (online/unwaged) cost £15 [27], there could have been 1,000 members at most.  However, factoring in the two other possible types of membership: Standard at £30, Platinum at £50, it is probable even the figure of 1,000 is a significant overestimate.  No surprise then, that with this calibre of research input neither Lowles or Collins knew, or cared to inform Henshaw, that the Electoral Commission de-registered Britain First as a political party a week before the documentary, on 2/11/17.  Since the documentary, Collins said of the publicity boost following Donald Trump’s retweet “there’ll be no political gain and they won’t be standing in more elections, they’ll just intimidate more people and beg for more money” [28].  Does this idiot still not know they can’t currently stand in any elections?  That aside, a rather more downbeat appraisal (if you could call it that) than in the programme.  Can Hardcash ask for their (or rather Coutts’) money back?  That would be fun!

None of this is to say (even if Donald Trump likes their video-stream) Britain First is a ‘nice’ organisation: the retard shown in audio promising to hang various victims on the end of a rope probably doesn’t play badminton.  However, what was needed, but we didn’t get, was rigorous threat assessment of BF, or indeed much else.  

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why they exaggerated the strength and influence of Britain First, and whether they knew or did not know BF was deregistered as a political party a week before the programme (see Appendix). 

They did not reply.

THE NATIONAL FRONT

Another group of miniscule significance talked up by the documentary was the National Front, now a pale shadow of its former self, whose 2016 accounts show a membership income of £2,145, which means at £10 per member a maximum of 214.  Agent Sarah was shown on TV attending a truly tiny NF demonstration in Grantham 19/8/17, and we were ludicrously expected to find this rump sinister.  At this point, the show plumbed new depths, wheeling in Collins to tell us Julie Lake, South West NF Regional Organiser was in the “NF, who are extreme hard-line hard-core neo-Nazis”. No shit, Sherlock: or maybe Collins was being nostalgic about his leisure activities? Despite their public propaganda having few references to Nazism (unlike say the British Movement or National Action) they may well be Nazi cultists; indeed, many are individually, however the subsequent sub-text parodying the film ‘Finding Nemo’ whereby Mary is shown embarking on a long quest, replete with subtly sinister music (no Wagner sadly) to actually meet Lake is something else.  When we eventually hear Lake speak, at the Heritage & Destiny meeting in Preston 6/10/17, it is tame: “as the first female to speak…come on ladies get your finger out please” and “we’ve got to get behind established parties and co-operate with each other”.  Hardly Hitler at Nuremberg (or even John Tyndall at Northampton). True, she admits corresponding with jailed members of neo-Nazi group National Action, but if operationally involved would hardly do that, would she?  The most damaging thing concerning Lake was after her reminiscing in a car she had been attacked by anti-fascists two other passengers said “they want shooting them fuckers” and “want guillotining the lot of them” (whether before or after shooting wasn’t clear).  According to Lake herself, this discussion (including one man boasting of “lamping” a “Negress”) happened after the NF protected the undercover reporter because Unite Against Fascism had “broke [n] through the police cordon” [29].  That, I cannot verify, but even so if such macho bravado by these (un-named) individuals is the best they can get on Lake, a woman known on the far right as Hattie Jacques, the barrel is not so much being scraped, as splintered.

GENERATION IDENTITY

Exaggerating the influence of far-right groups extends beyond the indigenous far right to an extensive plug for overseas import Generation Identity (hereafter GI), one of two groups focussed on by the eponymous ‘Hazel Brown’ of Holloway Road.  There is no doubt GI are an intriguing and internationally well-organised group, with organisational flair, new media savviness and photogenic appeal.  Domestically GI, who first attempted to set up shop in the UK in 2013, are currently of very little significance.  This foray was not, to my knowledge, mentioned by Hope Not Hate but was (amusingly) by their former Searchlight colleagues, on three occasions in 2013.  On the last occasion, in December 2013, Gerry Gable engaged in rare self-criticism stating that “in 2012 we picked up warnings about a new organisation…Generation Identity had certainly escaped our notice, it was only after we put together bits of information…that we realised it was a growing force”.  Gable name-checks their key ideologist Markus Willinger (whose books unlike Martin Sellner’s have been translated into English) and concludes by stating “we intend to fight back and expose and confront them” [30].  Yet of GI, Hope Not Hate’s ‘State of Hate’ feature in January 2014 [31] mentions not a word, even about Willinger speaking at the 2013 IONA conference.  The reasons for this are neither here nor there, but suffice to say being out-researched by an old goat like Gable is embarrassing, to put it mildly.  As for GI themselves, their only tangible action was a one-off You-Tube video in late 2013, a racist Jeremiad narrated by someone who appears to have overdosed on Mogadon [32].

Things changed when GI launched their international ‘Defend Europe’ campaign in May 2017, crowd-funding a boat crewed by GI activists and sympathisers to travel to Libya and disrupt the refugee flow to Italy.  This alerted the international media, and Hope Not Hate, who got on the case, it being a fantastic opportunity for both virtue-signalling and fund-raising[33].  This is a paradox of the internet: the initiative would not have gained support (or captured the collective far right imagination) without international ‘crowd-funding’, but that very publicity meant arousing opponents too, and moves to block funding and scupper the whole enterprise, which eventually succeeded.

Coverage of ‘Defend Europe’, both supportive and otherwise, had a clear effect in the UK, leading to an attempt to revive GI here.   You would be forgiven for thinking ‘Hazel’ scored a goal, by infiltrating a recent GI meeting, but all is not what it seems.  Indeed, it can be argued her shot on goal was not a result of her own work, but an invitation (assist) to move into GI’s orbit facilitated by the garrulous Jordan Diamond, Liverpool UKIP member.  That GI are a joke security-wise is shown by her ‘rigorous vetting process’ consisting of a 30-minute video call from a Norwegian bloke called Tore who seemed captivated by his own voice.  Proper vetting procedure this certainly wasn’t.  If this is the calibre of people ‘Defending Europe’ things are even worse than they seem.

Anyway, Hazel also attended a Traditional Britain Group conference where GI poster-boy Martin Sellner spoke, and a subsequent informal GI meeting, at which (unfortunately for the show) Sellner is recorded saying that while the Jews were a real problem in the 1920’s, now the problem is Islam.  How inconvenient: he should have said that Jews are the problem today, so he could be labelled neo-Nazi, but he didn’t.  He certainly came out with sentiments about Pakis and the ‘Great Replacement’ most would see as racist, but nothing neo-Nazi.  I suspect this was why Hazel fled and didn’t return in the afternoon, not fear about being unmasked as the (un-named) Julia Ebner (on whom more elsewhere) had been at another GI meeting the previous day.  The hurried exit, complete with sinister music, was most likely a cheap theatrical device staged to give viewers an air of danger where none existed.  Even before the show was screened, Sellner himself was dismissive, arguing that “since we have a clear theory and strategy that is the same on the inside and outside we are immune to those sort of infiltrators” and that GI “clearly reject anti-Semitism racism and nationalism” [34].

As it happens, had the programme-makers any knowledge of the British far right, they would have recognised a parallel between GI’s ethno-cultural racism and the (failed) Race Campaign of the old political soldier National Front between 1987-89, which sought to move away from notions of racial superiority and instead emphasise (as does GI) the notion of difference.  A campaign famous (or infamous?) for the NF claim about Louis Farrakhan ‘He Speaks For His People, We Speak for Ours’ [35].  Highly unlikely in the first case, untrue in the second.  Indeed, there is an intellectual case to be made (from an international not domestic perspective) for seriously analysing and deconstructing GI’s ideas.  In particular, they rage against the spirit of 1968, when revolts by students and others (especially in France during the May events) led to the birth of the modern ‘New Left’ [36].  Yet GI’s street political methods: subverting theatrical performances, decorating statues, infiltrating opposing demonstrations and appearing to echo their demands to the point of absurdity [37] profoundly echo the spirit of 1968, and its fringes such as Situationism, by practising what is in effect detournement [38].  The pivotal question therefore, to open a Pandora’s Box, is why has the far left declined in intellectual and political vitality to such an extent that the enemy has been able to appropriate its armoury this way.  But covering these topics would be hallmarks of a serious programme, light years away from this shallow documentary, so apologies for the digression.

Anyway, returning to GI UK, they were launched in October 2017 by a handful of supporters from these Isles plus Sellner and his partner the wonderfully-named Brittany Pettibone [39].  To the extent GI have any significance, or UK audience, it will have been immeasurably enhanced by this film.  Was that the purpose?  Probably not, as neither Lowles or Collins are clever enough to dream of such a thing.  In any event, for GI (as with the NF and Britain First) the programme failed to properly answer its own questions about their strength and prospects with proper evidence. Indeed, we can go further, the initial statement by Lowles that the far right is increasingly younger and involving more women was not, based on these groups, borne out: and no, filming virtually the entire microscopic UK GI membership undercover in a pub isn’t credible evidence.  Lest I be misinterpreted, given the fractured nature of the far right it was perfectly appropriate to look at the National Front and Britain First as two larger fragments.  I object not to that, but the misleading impression given that these groups (and Generation Identity) have more support than a handful of acolytes.  The dishonesty involved here makes me think looking at the far right was not the documentary’s real purpose, but such groups were a pretext for the real motives behind the show.  An impression not dispelled by the ‘military style’ camps both covered and not covered.

DEFICIENCY (2)--TALK ABOUT MILITARY-STYLE CAMPS: BUT NOT THE RELEVANT ONES!

Connoisseurs of this sensationalist programme type know the script demands talk of military camps, organising for ‘race war’ and such like.  Such tropes are especially in vogue currently due to media/state reports about far-right terrorism mentioned below.  First, some historical perspective.  Back in the 1970s, via Special Branch informants Peter Marriner (not Germany but Whitehall calling!) and Dave Roberts, HNH’s direct predecessor Searchlight had a hand in organising them [40].  If you can’t organise camps, a fall-back is inventing them, as Searchlight did for the Channel 4 1988 Dispatches programme on the National Front, ‘Disciples of Chaos’. That can be risky: the land-owner where the camp was supposedly held successfully sued Channel 4 for £30,000 and they were forced to admit “there was no truth whatever in the allegation” [41].  Ouch!  Another variation (expensive too) is using agent provocateurs to lure fascists into attending camps you have set up, such as when the Cook Report tried (unsuccessfully) to get Nick Griffin to a paramilitary camp in France for their 1997 documentary [42].

Coming bang up to date, what did we learn about ‘military-style camps’ in the UK from the show?  Nothing! This could hardly be otherwise, as the only group referred to having them was GI, which formally got off the ground in October 2017, a month before the screening.  We were shown (a couple of times) footage from GI’s own web-site of group calisthenics, a mass running race, mass press-ups and individuals energetically practising kick-boxing in a gym.  The narrator intoned “as their footage shows Generation Identity organise what looks like military style training for members”.  Not in the UK, but France.  One intrepid British drinker was recorded saying “we would train for two hours in the morning.  At the end of the week we had like a mock demonstration, really realistic because they had like pepper-spray and everything”.  Certainly not magnifique, nor even la petit guerre!  As ‘military-style’ training laughable: no weapons, no night drills, and barely any physical activity.  Let’s also get a sense of perspective here: kick-boxing training, with far more bite, goes on the length and breadth of the country in hundreds of classes every night! 

Happily, (if that’s the word) advances in modern technology including microscopic hidden cameras and recording equipment mean those infiltrating such camps now have a far greater prospect of proving their existence: and there is also the fact those organising such and recruiting for them often post online.  Which again (as with GI’s ‘Defend Europe’ initiative) means opponents can pick up on such too. For those who care to look, there have indeed been several low-level but undoubtedly serious ‘military-style’ camps organised by the British far right in recent years, not in France but the UK.

THE SIGGURD LEGION

The first Siggurd Legion camp took place in the Brecon Beacons (Wales) August 2014, organised by Craig Fraser, keep-fit fanatic and author of ‘The Centurion Method’, a mix of esoteric far right philosophy and strenuous exercises, including structured violence.  This book (no longer available in hard copy to my knowledge) co-written by Fraser and his wife Lucy is no mere keep-fit manual.  It argues “we should be training like desperate soldiers gripped in an eternal war with an enemy that neither knows us or hates us, but wants to control, demoralise and eventually exterminate us nevertheless” [43]—so no slacking at the back then, methinks.  In 2013, speaking to fitness site ‘Health Gauge’ about his Centurion Method Fraser described one aspect as being “the English Gangster Method which is very simply the Silent Killing System devised by WE Fairbairn and used by the British armed forces in World War 2” [44].  That system was indeed about killing, in various ungentlemanly ways [45]

Just before the first camp Fraser posted on-line the abbreviated version of his credo, including the inimitable phrase “fuck your plan for growth we want knives and guns” [46].  Also in 2014 he gave a talk in Oxford, later put on-line [47], explaining his philosophy, indicating he comes from far-right field.  Fraser denounced ‘race-mixing’ and said the role of Siggurd (named after a mythical Norse warrior also the inspiration for Wagner’s Siegfried in the Ring Cycle) was to “give British man his identity back”.  Usefully, Fraser described four stages in the mythic process Siggurd was to replicate: an individual discovering his ancient heritage, and proceeding to find vengeance and seek out justice, but losing his first battle and becoming an outcast.  Second, while in the woods/wilderness facing himself and undergoing a religious (non-Christian) conversion.  Third, returning to his original community as a hero, striking fear into the enemy.  Finally, leading a band of brothers to destroy that enemy.  Fraser mentions he had come across members of the neo-Nazi National Action (not banned at that point), still at stage one, having been victimised and outcast. 

Some may think this philosophical stuff absurd.  I don’t, as it addresses the search for meaning in modern life, and indicates the camps purpose cannot be reduced to the physical, or military.  As with the jihadist model, effective camps have three aspects: the physical/military, the spiritual and political indoctrination.  Indeed, looking at the ‘Health Gauge’ interview cited earlier, such camps may appeal to some with no prior political affiliation.  The itinerary of this camp has been published on-line, and it included street fighting, grappling, archery and “knife fighting defence and attack” [48].  He was assisted by Russian Dennis Nikitin of the White Rex group, and Matt Tait formerly of the BNP.

Given the philosophy behind this camp, you might expect media interest, and it ensued.  First up a Daily Star story complete with group photo (showing 27 attendees with masks).  They reported both that “National Action has sent all of its members to the camps” (how do they know?) and that “anti-terror police are monitoring the Sigurd Legion mob amid fears they are using the camps to prepare for a wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks” [49].  Less than two weeks later, one journalist involved, Colin Cortbus, co-wrote another article using footage from the August 2014 camp, and photos of Craig Fraser brandishing a machete and his wife Lucy a rifle.  This clearly spooked (pun intended) Fraser who claimed to have disbanded the group “after a crisis of conscience”, declaring “I’m not a racist anymore. I’ve joined the Army…I can’t have all this stuff come out now because it might ruin things for me”, and, hilariously: “Yes, I’ve got a machete, but I’m not a violent person” [50].  By his own yardstick, Fraser was now stuck at stage one of his mythic process.  Whether that really happened, or he was engaging in ‘heavenly deception’, is another matter.

Whatever Fraser’s own individual journey (or retreat in the military sense), you’d think the documentary would mention these camps?  Not so, even though in late December 2014 Nick Lowles was clearly aware of the Siggurd Legion as he commented in the just-mentioned newspaper article, but it took until their review of the year in January 2016 before any mention of the camps in passing [51]

WHAT’S IN A NAME? FROM SIGGURD TO LEGION

Since then, Siggurd Legion camps have rebranded as Legion camps, using the web-site legionmac.org, ultimate ownership untraceable, masked by a registration service in Phoenix Arizona.  Though it is reasonable to surmise those involved include Matt Tait (aka Max Legion) and Larry Nunn (aka Max Musson).  At the 2015 American Renaissance Conference, Matt Tait confirmed his involvement along with two others in running the show [52]--the third might conceivably still be Craig Fraser but is possibly Jimmy Hay, who owns a gym in Lancashire.  Legion held two camps in both 2015 and 2016, though only one in March 2017, all the same format as previously. 

This last camp, despite only 15 attending, triggered a major media response from ITV News ‘Security Editor’ Rohit Kachroo, along with his producer Becky Kelly.  Yet again, somebody infiltrated the camp and filmed undercover [53], focussing on remarks by former National Action (NA) member, Garron Helm, and alleged sympathiser, ‘James Mac’.  Helm, who has already served time for sending 2,500 anti-Semitic tweets in three days to MP Luciana Berger in 2014 stated about the murder of Jo Cox MP, “it’s not our fault she was killed, she did have it coming…if you’re committing an act of treason against, you know, your own ethnic group then by right you should be put to death”. James Mac was shown at an NA demonstration in Newcastle 21/3/15, and the programme claimed “four of the 15 people who attended the three-day camp have links with National Action”.  Mac himself subsequently denied ever having been an NA member, and claimed he attended that demonstration to help the organisers out [54].  To paraphrase the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies he would say that, wouldn’t he?  The other two were not named.  

The questions posed by this camp are: first, what does the phrase ‘linked with’ actually mean?  Not really answered. Second, did attendance by (for the sake of argument) even four former NA members at this camp mean NA as such was/is still going, after it was formally banned in December 2016?  ITV argued it did, by implication, Matthew Collins of HNH quoted as saying NA have not ceased to exist and “are still incredibly active”, appearing (as you might expect) to contradict himself when stating “whether they use the name National Action or not, we believe their activities could encourage others to engage in terrorist acts”.  The contradiction is you can encourage others to do things even if the parent organisation is no more: a famous instance being Savitri Devi (and indeed John Gaster) wandering around post-1945 Germany distributing pro-Nazi leaflets. 

HNH were more forthcoming than ITN about their own role in the programme.  Infiltrator ‘Vlad’ was described as a “disaffected former far right activist who had agreed to pass information to HNH”, indeed the “object of the operation was to catch NA and its secret backers together in defiance of the government’s proscription” [55].  If so, and considering the fact this annual [not actually LOH] “event is where NA had previously made dramatic, show-stopping entrances” [56], they did not do so in 2017.  So HNH/ITV had to fall back on the general association between Legion camp and the NA instead.

I am not saying NA haven’t re-grouped, merely that this footage and these camps do not prove this, or show NA and Legion/Siggurd are identical.  In that respect, Larry Nunn’s response to the ITV report ‘Legion MAC Events—A Rebuttal’ is strictly correct [57].  He is disingenuous in a broader sense though: many NA members/former NA members will have been attracted to these camps precisely because of the militaristic confrontational activity integral to them.  While it may be true that “several leading members of National Action intensely disliked Western Spring” (Nunn’s web-site/outfit) patently not all did. There is also the claim that until 2016 Larry Nunn financed NA to some extent [58].  That there is an overlapping ideological pool has also been shown by Scottish NA, who in November 2016 held a camp featuring the Siggurd Legion logo [59].  Given nobody running the camps/organising them such as Fraser, Nunn or Tait has been charged raises an interesting conundrum: HNH have alleged in print that NA has “held a series of ‘camps’ where ideology is discussed and violence/self-defence is taught” [60], where and when were these camps held, and who organised them?  If not Ian Anderson, maybe Hans Christian Andersen?  I hope they don’t mean the June 2016 Britain First camp in Wales, when ‘self-defence’ classes were conducted with the tiny numbers present using wooden rulers as weapons [61].

On the broader question of NA re-groupment under false ‘flags of convenience’ a joint Scottish Daily Record/The Ferret web-site investigation in June 2017 tantalisingly indicated that may be so.  Scottish Dawn member Ruaidhri McKim told an undercover reporter “NA were a good organisation and the stuff we (Scottish Dawn) do is very similar.  Basically, there are some members of the group who were in National Action.  It’s kind of hard to talk about it because they’re a proscribed terrorist organisation” [62].  I’ll say it’s hard: a 10-year sentence for membership hard! Clearly the Home Office thinks Scottish Dawn the NA under another name: to quote from the current list of proscribed organisations updated 28/9/17 “the Government laid an Order in September 2017 which provides that ‘Scottish Dawn’ and ‘NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action)’ should be treated as alternative names for the organisation which is already proscribed as National Action”.  So now you know, and without pre-judging pending court cases, Helm is one of seven people currently awaiting trial charged with NA membership. Two NA members, de facto leader Christopher Lythgoe plus one other (not Helm) are facing trial on a charge of plotting to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper [63].

The programme omitting the Siggurd/Legion camps was not simply due to sub judice laws: to my knowledge nobody organising camps has been charged with anything, including NA membership.  NA themselves were not absent from the screen: footage of them marching was shown twice, and both Richard Walton (ex-Scotland Yard Counter-terrorism Command) and Matthew Collins opined about NA, even aside from the speech by Peter Rushton at the Heritage & Destiny meeting (see below).  The bottom line is this: irrelevant French camps were shown, relevant British ones (which have even featured on national ITV News) were not.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why they made a big thing of Generation Identity camps, but made no mention of Siggurd/Legion camps (see Appendix). 

They did not reply.

 DEFICIENCY (3)--DERAILING BREXIT: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

Having disposed of the notion this was a serious programme about the organised far right, the question arises, what was it about?  One answer was Brexit, or more strictly opposing it.  That would explain both concentration on UKIP and the prominence given to claims Brexit fits a racist agenda.  A substantial assertion, but once you see where Hope Not Hate are coming from, this makes perfect sense.  While the programme-makers patently wouldn't see this as a deficiency, more of an 'angle', I certainly would.  After all, the airwaves are awash with anti-Brexit propaganda: there clearly was (and is) space for the occasional programme examining the Far Right: but this was not it, and by masquerading as such deprived viewers of the chance to see such a programme.

HOPE NOT HATE AND BREXIT: THE FACTS

Elsewhere on this site, ‘The EU Referendum and After: Hope Not Hate’s More in Common Campaign’ article outlines overt and covert HNH support for the Remain side in the 2016 Referendum. Check it out to be apprised of Lowles’ track-record as a pro-EU propagandist, the heavily-biased ‘Face the Facts’ initiative, and the involvement of three other HNH Trustees in pro-EU propaganda outfit ‘Best For Our Future Limited [64].  That article is also worth checking out, I suggest, because it outlines how irrelevant organised fascists were in the anti-EU campaign.

HNH’s public stance was “Hope Not Hate does not take a position on the forthcoming referendum on EU membership” [65].  An untruth worthy of Jesuits.  Analysing ‘Best For Our Future’ (BFF) expenditure on the Electoral Commission web-site, no less than six HNH personnel/associates received money from BFF, dates in brackets are when money was received.  Erstwhile graphic artist Andy Vine got £2,000 (13/6/16), Nick Ryan £1,500 (14/6/16), Owen Jones (no, not that one!) £1,299.19 (27/6/16), Elisabeth Pop £1,257 (27/6/16), Paul Mezaros of Bradford £3,000 (28/6/16).  Lowles received £5,860.56 (13/6/16), £826.55 (22/6/16) and £8,500 (12/7/16).  Furthermore, he got £2,176.76 (22/6/16) and £4,009.23 (23/6/16) for advertising.  Lowles was also a BFF ‘bag man’: for instance (despite not being a Trustee) receiving on their behalf an invoice from Creative Nerds Ltd (111 Charterhouse Street London EC1) totalling £118,000 dated 15/6/16.  The main BFF donor also puts the lie to any claim HNH are progressive: Lord Sainsbury, until recently main funder of the hard-right Blairite Labour Party faction Progress (and which key HNH personnel support), gave £419,000. 

Clear as day follows night therefore, HNH were not ‘neutral’ in the Referendum campaign.  Hardly a surprise that the day after the vote Lowles issued two rather plaintive emails.  The first at 7am rather implausibly argued “there is a real danger that the bitterly-fought contest could leave a lasting legacy of division in our country.  We cannot allow this to happen” [66].  By 4pm, having no doubt discussed it with others in the metropolitan bubble, his attitude hardened and the mask of neutrality slipped.  Now “many of you are angry about the Referendum vote.  Many are scared about what this vote says about the country we live in”.   All it actually says, technically, is that 52% of people voted to leave the EU, nothing else.  The racist interpretation of this result isn’t borne out by detailed polling [67], but that doesn’t deter HNH.  That HNH were/are clearly engaged in an anti-Brexit project is borne out by these sentiments--“we need to get organised in every town and city around the country.  We also need to engage with the communities that voted heavily for Brexit, because we write them off at our peril” [68].  Quite clearly, the ‘we’ to get organised are not those who voted for Brexit, who are the ‘other’ to be engaged with.  What the top-down ‘More In Common’ campaign was all about.

Extensive and intensive HNH involvement at all levels in the EU Referendum provides essential context for this programme.  Apparently casual asides regarding Brexit take on a new light considering the politics of those involved.   Lowles’ remark fascists have “been emboldened by Brexit” isn’t fact but propaganda, as too the narrator intoning “as levels of hate crime increase in the wake of Brexit and multiple terror attacks”.  I have already disposed (in the article on this site referred to earlier [69]) of initial ‘fake news’ reports about hate crime following Brexit.

TARGET UKIP: THE ANNE-MARIE WATERS SHOW

Anne-Marie Waters was a UKIP leadership contender in the 2017 election precipitated by Paul Nuttall’s resignation in June.  A former Labour Party member, concern about Islam earlier led her to form Shariawatch, and launch (unsuccessfully) an English version of the anti-Islamic German Pegida movement, in association with Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League. 

In Waters concern about Islam, she cares little about who she associates with, and did not distance herself from people on the far right.  She must have been aware, for example, of GI attendance at the October Traditional Britain Group conference.  At the very least, such insouciance shows her lacking political judgement, hardly good for a potential leader.  She also seems rather isolated, her circle prone to infiltration, as the programme illustrated. 

Waters evokes determined opposition even within UKIP: partly due to her views on Islam, but that isn’t the whole story.  Early leadership favourite Peter Whittle, for example, was himself associated with the ‘integration agenda’ focussing on Islam in the 2017 manifesto but did not face such hostility.  The fact is, while no Nazi, her lack of political differentiation from fascists means Waters was/is politically susceptible to criticism such as the Nazi epithet eventual winner Henry Bolton hurled in her direction [70].  The third reason Waters got a hostile reception was one the programme should have covered if  serious about looking at the role of women in politics—animosity because she was a woman.  There is a precedent: while clearly acceptable to most members, Diane James MEP resigned as Leader-elect after only three weeks in 2016 because she did not “have sufficient authority, nor the full support of MEP colleagues and party officers to implement the changes I believe are necessary and upon which I based my campaign” [71].  It would be wrong to reduce the resignation of James to sexism within UKIP, because she won after having barely canvassed during the contest and was also shaken by being spat at and verbally abused a couple of weeks after her victory at Waterloo station [72].  Nonetheless it’s a hypothesis worth mentioning, as in Waters’ case, but this was not a serious investigative production, so the subject was not broached.

The programme makers hope, evidently, was that Waters would become UKIP leader (she failed with 21% of the votes, coming second to Henry Bolton by 8%) at which point the documentary would have ‘exposed’ her secret agenda, they hoped, further accentuating UKIP’s current downward spiral.  A spiral important not because of UKIP themselves, but the bigger issue of sabotaging Brexit, which, to anticipate myself, was one key motive for the documentary.  In that sense, portrayals of Waters (and UKIP) were means to an end—hence the cursory nature of the coverage, not even hinting at sexism as an issue. 

The documentary had two lines of attack, one partly successful, another a dismal failure.  Partial success was showing Waters has far right connections.  One was to Jack Buckby, former BNP and Liberty GB activist.  There is no doubt, as shown, that Buckby was not only Campaign Manager for Waters, including designing her web-site, but chose to conceal the fact because he at least knew this would not look good politically for her, and it didn’t.  In that respect, the programme had a valid point, which I freely acknowledge.  However, I note Buckby’s claim to have told ‘Hazel’ he had been criticised in the BNP for being a Jewish ‘shill’ and is thus no neo-Nazi, with several non-white friends, who Hazel met, equally concerned about Islam.  In his exchange of letters with Henshaw, these claims by Buckby about scenes we have to presume Hazel filmed, but the final version did not feature, were not answered by Henshaw.  Leading me to believe Buckby had a point, especially when you recall what CPS lawyer Bethan David said about the unscreened ‘Undercover Mosque’ footage [73]

Another element of that partial success was the use of Jordan Diamond, UK co-leader of Generation Identity, UKIP member since June 2017.  He is repeatedly described as an “activist who appears to be a close friend of Anne-Marie Waters”, and introduced Hazel to GI.  An interesting scene in the documentary shows him asking Hazel in a pub 23/9/17 whether she would be happy if whites didn’t exist, while Waters is further up the table and not necessarily listening: though in a side-angle camera shot, thereby ‘implicated’ in his utterances.  Frankly, Diamond, with a finger in every far-right pie, has all the hallmarks of an infiltrator.  One background shot is shown of him attending what looks like a Justice for Marine A (Alexander Blackman) march (two were held in October 2015 and October 2016).  Footage not on his own You-Tube channel, strange to say…

Diamond attended the Pegida demonstration in Rotherham back on 4/6/16 (and up-loaded Tommy Robinson’s speech to his You-Tube channel).  In June 2017, according to HNH, he attended a Britain First rally (probably Birmingham 24/6/17) where he was pictured alongside co-leaders Paul Golding and Jaya Fransen.  In the same month, they claim he joined UKIP [74]. What looks like a screen shot from her deleted account shows ‘Hazel Brown’ joined UKIP in June too, on the 23rd [75].  In her email exchange with Henshaw prior to the broadcast, Waters denied close association with Diamond, however the sheer number of political occasions Diamond attended involving Waters between July and October 2017 (seven), and him inviting Hazel to the 15/10/17 launch of Waters’ new party ‘For Britain’ makes this claim ridiculous [76]

Had Jordan Diamond not joined UKIP and insinuated himself into Waters’ inner circle, there would have not even been a superficial excuse to feature GI in the programme.  Diamond doing this, and then involving Hazel, was the glue that held together the flimsy story-line.  As Henshaw put it in his email to Waters “the programme will report that through her interactions with you, Hazel met Mr Diamond who then recruited her to join Generation Identity” [77].  The Guardian plug for the programme was even stronger: “the documentary establishes a link between Generation Identity and Waters…a UKIP member, Jordan Diamond, who regularly attended Waters’ events, is also a member of Generation Identity” [78].  The chronology is interesting here: the first reported instance of Diamond attending anything organised by Waters in UKIP was 1/7/17, by which time he could only have been a UKIP member for 30 days at most, indeed on the basis HNH have the month right, probably only three weeks because it was 11/6/17 that she announced her leadership candidature (in Manchester) and he allegedly joined to support her.  It does not seem credible therefore to see him as a pre-existing close associate of Waters given he joined UKIP only shortly before Hazel.  Maybe Diamond is just an infectiously enthusiastic follower of far-right groups: however, in this business if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a mole…   

Waters allowing Buckby, Diamond and for that matter Hazel to get close points to political naivety, gullibility and isolation.  Isolation underlined by her being barred from standing as a UKIP candidate in the 2017 General Election.  Only one UKIP MEP supported her leadership campaign--Stuart Agnew--and perhaps only because Waters offered him the Deputy Leadership should she win.  Denying after the fact Hazel was “close to me” as Waters did [79], is foolish: Hazel driving Waters to hear the leadership election result at UKIP Conference is close in anybody’s book.  Showing Waters’ far right connections was no end in itself: the deeper message is that ordinary people with concerns about Islam are thereby far right, and by extension only the far right have such concerns: this from the people who brought us ‘Undercover Mosque’!  There is a parallel (and paradoxical) discourse, whereby establishment stooges like HNH can criticise aspects of Islam—but under the rubric of ‘anti-extremism’, a concept as bogus as it is officially popular [80].

Showing Waters has connections to people beyond the political pale as the programme did wasn’t new, but had some currency, as we have seen.  However, the second Hardcash line of attack barely hit home at all, presentation of Waters ‘extreme’ views about Islam.  It didn’t hit the target because Waters says little in private different from in public, other than using expletives, hardly significant.  A point eloquently proven when the programme showed a public speech by Waters in Manchester 11/6/17, with Tommy Robinson alongside, where she said “Islam is a killing machine” and Muslims “want to kill us, to enslave us, they want to subjugate us”.  Speaking of Robinson, the programme preposterously tried to make something of Waters saying in a car (28/9) that she was open to him joining UKIP: they could have used footage of her on BBC 2’s Newsnight 4/9/17 saying exactly the same thing!

She was also shown (in private) saying “I can’t bear the idea of girls being treated like shit, the way they are in Muslim countries”—surely a sentiment many reasonable people would agree with?  After all, ‘Undercover Mosque’ revealed more shocking things being said, such as “by the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab we hit her” or that homosexuals should be thrown “off the mountain”.  Not my sentiments, or those of Waters, but from the very programme Hardcash is so proud of.  Not double-standards but treble!

While I don’t agree with Waters’ de facto conflation between Islam and political Islamism, there is some linkage, but that is not the same as equivalence, a vital point.  However, I fear my nuanced interpretation is not widely shared.  Many who viewed the programme (or didn’t) don’t really make that distinction.  Some will, frankly, have been heartened by Waters saying in private what she says in public, and in that respect, it could be argued the show did Waters no real harm.  For example, horror is expressed at Waters saying in private “we have to stop all Muslim immigration now”. Yet a recent Chatham House survey of 10,000 people from 10 European States (conducted before President Trump made Muslim immigration a global political issue by issuing his executive order banning citizens from some Muslim states) found that “55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed” [81].  Should Hardcash want to door-step the evil racists behind this report, or HNH want to send out yet another begging email disguised as a petition to get them sacked, organising it shouldn’t be too difficult: lead author Matthew Goodwin co-wrote a 2012 HNH publication ‘From Voting to Violence’, to which Lowles contributed the foreword…

Confidence HNH understand public attitudes towards Islam is hardly increased when Lowles is shown on screen quoting from their own flawed ‘Fear & Hope’ research as though it explains anything other than the inadequacy of HNH research capabilities.  Having already critiqued the methodological inadequacies of its predecessor, which their latest study does not transcend, there is no need for repetition [82].

While I wouldn’t agree with Tommy Robinson’s Tweet the day after transmission that “last night showed the British public what a class act @ AMD Waters is”, there is a grain of truth in Waters’ parting shot to Henshaw that “I can only finish by thanking you both for the publicity and for confirming to the public that the only ammunition you can fire at me, despite months of deception on your part, is to ‘expose’ what I continually and repeatedly state in public” [83].  Not the whole story of course: as stated above the show revealed unsavoury associations and foolish naivety marking Waters as not cut out for leadership.  The speed with which she left UKIP showed she had no stomach for an internal party struggle, and suffice to say was not missed by the leadership, interim Chairman Paul Oakden stating the day after the programme “Ms Waters is no longer a member of our party, having discovered that her extreme views have no place in UKIP” [84].  Not strictly true, because for Waters to come second when virtually all the party hierarchy and MEPs, plus Nigel Farage, opposed her shows a significant bedrock of support, albeit within a shrinking party, even if up to 1,000 of her supporters may have joined in two weeks during June in order to vote for Waters [85].  Though we should not overestimate that support either—had it been extensive she would surely have been inside the conference networking, not hanging about outside with a bunch of racists and infiltrators.  In that respect the programme played a slightly clever trick, showing one delegate punching the air with delight when her vote percentage was announced.  Though he may have been a supporter, inasmuch as results were read out in reverse order he could equally have been celebrating the fact Waters hadn’t won, because the final name to be announced was the winner.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash whether Jordan Diamond was directly (or indirectly via Hope Not Hate) in the pay of the programme.  I also asked why they presented Anne Marie Waters private views as though different from public ones, when there is little or no difference (see Appendix). 

They did not reply to either question.

It might seem paradoxical, that a documentary ostensibly devoted to damaging a political group may end up helping it, but there are precedents: one Lowles himself played a key part in, when working for Searchlight.  This was the BBC ‘Secret Agent’ programme, transmitted 15/7/04, which showed extensive footage of then BNP Leader Nick Griffin denouncing the grooming of white children for sex by some Asian men in Keighley, Yorkshire before it was politically fashionable to do so (apart from redoubtable Labour MP Anne Cryer).  This whole episode was extensively analysed in a previous Notes From the Borderland, suffice to say that after it was shown Griffin abandoned his decision to stand as a 2005 General Election candidate in Sheffield but switched to Keighley instead, so little damaged was he by the coverage.  As I commented at the time “the BBC’s grasp of the BNP’s nature and support is so poor that Nick Griffin is not standing in Keighley at the General Election despite Secret Agent, but in large part because of it” [86].  True, the BNP came a poor fourth in Keighley with 9.2% of the votes—but that Griffin stood there in the first place was directly attributable to the programme, not something Lowles has ever had the honesty to admit [87]

A PROGRAMME TOO FAR: PETER RUSHTON OVERREACHES HIMSELF

References to Brexit by programme makers are one thing: fascist utterances were needed for them to hit home.  Here the sound-bite from Peter Rushton, Assistant Editor of Heritage & Destiny at the Preston John Tyndall Memorial meeting 6/10/17 was crucial.  The programme-makers liked it so much the quote was used both near the beginning and towards the end.  Using the quote twice shows its importance, the second time he was bringing the programme’s core point to a crescendo.  Rushton stated the current situation called to mind that “Brexit was the ultimate expression of the will of fellow Britons to enforce what was the most famous BNP slogan: Brexit was about Rights for Whites”, cue applause and Lowles immediately remarking fascists have “been emboldened by Brexit”.  A propaganda point not lost on Mike Hartman, of HNH satellite Tyne & Wear Anti-Fascist Association, who tweeted immediately afterwards on the night “Brexit was about ‘Rights for Whites’: Peter Rushton, long-time Nazi”.  In his response to Hardcash before the programme was screened, Rushton parroted the line HNH and other Remainers would be delighted with— “there can be little doubt that concerns over immigration were the main motivation for many (arguably most) pro-Brexit voters” [88].  I disagree.

Here’s the rub: the programme did not even name Rushton, the most recent HNH web-site mention of him is over two and a half years old [89].  He recently appeared in Hope Not Hate magazine, but in terms that downplayed his importance, reportedly (at a closed conference in September 2016) giving a “rambling analysis of Jewish big business interests and his own growing detachment not just from the British far right but from reality in general” [90].  A conference not alluded to by Searchlight, indicating he may have been attending on somebody else’s behalf.  The documentary even incorrectly describes him as Chair of the meeting: yet that supreme accolade fell to Steptoe impersonator Keith Axon. Not naming Rushton caught the attention of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), who commented in a passable critique of the programme next day “we heard the voice of…ex BNP organiser, Peter Rushton, talking of ‘Rights for Whites’, but sadly, no analysis of the role Rushton looks to play conjoining various, far right splinter groups” [91].

The reason for that missing analysis bemoaned by the UAF, and what the programme did not say, is that Rushton is a long-term Searchlight/state mole, and as the former’s star is waning, it is entirely plausible he has hooked up with HNH too.  In 2002 the Nick Griffin-led BNP expelled him because of cumulative evidence: which the late John Tyndall ignored, as I commented at the time, with sagacity unrivalled since Emperor Caligula chose his horse as a Consul.  Well, actually, rather less.  To quote (for the first time anywhere) a contemporary (22/10/02) intelligence report by one of Rushton's handlers:

"has been at the centre of an ongoing war between various factions within and outside of the BNP.  He appears to have Tyndall on side and has set up a NWBNP site to put the case of his supporters.  He has also on my advice gone down the Data Protection path to ask to see what they hold on him......He has some heavy people behind him.  It could run and run". 

It certainly has 'run and run', but maybe has now finally run its course.  My concerns, from an anti-fascist perspective, date back to 1994 (when he first tried to get me beaten up!) [92].  Following the expulsion NFB conducted our own investigation into Rushton’s career, published in Notes From the Borderland [93]Luckily for Rushton, our magazine is not obligatory reading in neo-Nazi counter-intelligence circles, including new kids on the block National Action.  Rather than embarrass Rushton further I merely say this: is it not time, honestly, that Captain slung his Hook?

Rushton didn’t necessarily concoct his sound-bite to misrepresent Brexit as intrinsically racist in conjunction with the programme-makers.  I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, however, with both Lowles and Collins aware of his status as a long-term plant.  And what a busy little bee Rushton is.  One key platform is his position of Assistant Editor (to Mark Cotterill) of Heritage & Destiny magazine.  With other publications such as Spearhead and Identity having long fallen by the wayside, it is unique as a meeting point and bi-monthly journal of far-right record.  Nowhere else, realistically, would veteran (former NF Chairman/BNP MEP) Andrew Brons’ recent cry of anguish about the (poor) state of the far right have commanded a larger audience.  Indeed, as a corrective to ridiculously talking-up fascist prospects in this programme, ponder Brons’ opening words, worth highlighting:

British Nationalism has never previously been as fragmented.  There is no credible, electable, Nationalist political party.  The majority of paid-up and/or active British Nationalists have disappeared from the scene and most are not even in contact with other nationalists[94].

Rushton himself writes a column every issue (Movement News) that admirably summarises fascist (and UKIP) performance in elections plus reports of marches and such like.  He uses his status to travel across Europe and beyond, enthusiastically supporting Holocaust deniers like the late Ernst Zundel [95].  On 19/8/17 Rushton addressed a thousand neo-Nazis at Spandau calling for release of documents concerning the death of Rudolf Hess [96], and has appeared both on (Iranian) Press TV and Russia Today.  It takes no imagination at all to surmise that reports from these overseas trips, including especially encounters with Far Right opinion-formers, make their way to MI6 and the likes of the Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz (BFV=Germany Domestic Security Service).

Knowing where Rushton is coming from makes his columns fascinating.  He loses no opportunity to twist the knife in Nick Griffin’s back, and dislikes Tommy Robinson (who has consistently rebuffed attempts by the state to recruit him) too, commenting in 2015 about Robinson’s claim “we have to save our culture”, that “in this context ‘our culture’ presumably means mortgage fraud and cocaine abuse: given Robinson’s record it certainly has nothing to do with racial integrity or British heritage” [97]

Rushton has always covered National Action sympathetically.  For example, he said in 2015 regarding their deliberately confrontational approach “those who argue that they would be better off leafletting for a political party ignore one obvious fact: there is little or no mainstream nationalist electoral activity taking place, so which party are these young nationalists supposed to join?” [98].  Following the December 2016 ban, Rushton displayed undoubted erudition in a two-page article putting the ban in historic perspective, commending their strategy (“not all that dissimilar to the so-called ‘alt-right’”) and feeding their sense of victimhood [99].  Hinting some in NA’s periphery at least value Rushton as a respected movement ‘elder statesman’, consider this elliptical aside regarding the alleged plot to kill Rosie Cooper MP some NA activists have been charged with--“this murder plot sounds very far-fetched and H&D is aware of a very different story, which we cannot yet publish for legal reasons” [100].  Intriguing.  As is footage broadcast showing Rushton attending an NA march before the ban, and at the meeting stating “these young men in National Action are not terrorist”, to say they are “makes a mockery of the English language”. 

NA, beleaguered on all sides, might be forgiven for thinking him a wise head to turn to, based like many of them in the North West. Immediately before those quotes, the narrator spoke about meetings where “support is declared for far-right terrorists by people who believe their time has come”.  The thought crossed my mind, knowing where Rushton is coming from, that this clip was shown to facilitate such an outcome.  Just a thought: and no need for Henshaw to know anything about it were that the case.  Indeed, no need for Rushton to necessarily know either, as he anticipated the speech (like all others) would be broadcast on You-Tube anyway, where NA members could pick it up.  If anyone from the NA is so stupid as to allow Rushton anywhere near their defence case, that will exponentially increase their chances of being found guilty.  In which eventuality they would end up getting the maximum sentences possible.  The folly of (neo-Nazi) youth eh? His response after the programme that he did not express support for ‘terrorism’ because the term is applied too broadly is fair enough [101].  However, as I have argued, he is not commenting on 'terrorism' as a disinterested party, but an asset.

In case you think it fanciful a TV programme might be scripted to further a secret state agenda, consider this admission by Lowles in September 2017: “as Hope Not Hate goes to press, the police have announced that six alleged members of National Action have been charged with a variety of offences, including two with a plot to kill a Labour MP.  The information that led to the arrests and subsequent charging of these men originated from Hope Not Hate” [102].  Some may not be bothered by this: anybody concerned about a free media and non-state-compromised anti-fascism should be.  Returned to below.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash (see Appendix) whether

--they were aware Peter Rushton is a long-term infiltrator into the far right, for Searchlight/Hope Not Hate

--Rushton was in the pay of the programme, whether directly or via Hope Not Hate

--Rushton’s comments about National Action and/or Brexit were sound-bites designed by Hope Not Hate and/or Hardcash in collusion with Rushton

--why, given Rushton’s prominent role, they did not name him.

They did not reply to any of these questions.

DEFICIENCY (4)--CRYING FOUL ABOUT THE INTERNET

As with the anti-Brexit agenda, the programme-makers might not see this as a deficiency.  I demur: there is a battle going on for the soul of the internet and this show comes down very much on the censors side.  Indeed, the anti-Brexit agenda and desire to curb the internet are today inextricably linked, one scary thing about the current situation is that those liberal/Left circles who historically you might expect to be wary of censorship are so annoyed by the plebs voting for Brexit most are actually cheer-leading for 'controls' on the internet and in the process exhibiting a degree of Russophobia not seen since the Cold War: from the Hard Right.  Our political class (and secret state) are terrified by the way traditional information monopolies have been undermined by the world-wide web.  What is sneeringly referred to as ‘populism’, whether of Left or Right, is code for opinions not sufficiently controlled from above.  As such, the Brexit referendum, where a majority of the British people effectively told most of the political class to ‘do one’ was a seismic shock. The establishment have not given up but are planning to refight the EU Referendum and/or annul it (by using parliamentary/media Quislings).  In terms of undermining Brexit, this is where this type of programme comes in.  The methodology is simple:

  • Show racists coming out with racist views (hardly difficult).
  • Point out how they have used the internet to organise (even if like the National Front they barely do).  Here we see the significance of focussing on GI: little actual UK support but an undoubtedly sophisticated internet presence. 
  • Then, having disgusted your audience sufficiently with a pre-prepared script, soften viewers up so they support more controls on the internet to ban ‘nasty’ views (rather than engage with or even refute them of course).

This propaganda offensive is far larger than this programme of course: conspiracy theories peddled by the Guardian/Observer about Brexit (Carole Cadwalladr) and by most media outlets about Russian interference in the democratic process via the internet all make up the bigger picture. Russia does fight the ‘information war’ using the internet, and seeks to influence protagonists on all parts of the spectrum by building personal and professional relationships—but so do US and UK intelligence, something the likes of Cadwalladr conveniently forget.  It just goes to show how cynical, and shallow, was the pretence by the Guardian they took Edward Snowden's revelations seriously.  In all this debate concentrating on Russia (and China), what Snowden uncovered about US/UK state surveillance and dirty tricks seems to have been swept aside, dumped in the memory hole.  Ironically, seeking to reduce the outcome of elections/referenda to sinister manipulation by one side is crass conspiracism that previously (when things were going their way), most mainstream media outlets would have ridiculed.  That an agency or interest group should seek to produce a certain outcome is not the same as proving they actually have.  All this for another day however.

A parallel but ultimately converging agenda to the ‘Russkies under the Mouse Mat’ claim is the pre-existing ‘anti-extremism’ discourse that like a virus has corrupted important areas of academia (e.g.  Matthew Goodwin, Paul Stocker, Matthew Feldman, Nigel Copsey and others of that ilk: most published by Routledge, interestingly enough) and energetically promoted by often competing but sinister think-tanks such as the Quilliam Foundation, Institute for Strategic Dialogue and of course Hope Not Hate.

A lot of often small bricks are needed to construct a wall (of censorship).  This programme was one: in case any viewer missed the point, it was made three times at the end.  First, narrator Caroline Catz described the far right (ludicrously based on what had gone before) as “a confident and ambitious movement with the potential to gather more far-reaching support than ever before”.  Next up was Lowles, Professor Hamster, intoning that “politicians and the government need to have a far greater understanding of social media and the far-right interaction on social media”.  Fact is, the organised far right are weaker today than at any point in the last 30 years, therefore the real concern is not the far right but the desire to control social media: which of course means the Left/Greens/anti-EU activists. 

Richard Walton (former Head of Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command) told us the murder of Jo Cox MP “was a wakeup call as to what can happen if you allow these narratives to flourish and to grow”.  As it happens, her killer, Thomas Mair, appears to have bought bomb-making manuals and such like from the (US) National Alliance as far back as 1999 by mail-order.  Therefore, while in the days before the murder he used the internet in his local library to research information on serial killers, the Waffen SS, Ku Klux Klan and .22 ammunition, it would be wrong to attribute his developing murderous intent to the internet as such [103].  Police would have been better addressing, which they never have, who supplied him with the Weihrauch .22 bolt-action rifle stolen nearly a year before the murder in August 2015 from a car in Keighley.  Somehow, I don’t think he bought it on Ebay. As the Economist piece quoted earlier shows, claims about far-right influence on the internet are vastly exaggerated, but the likes of Walton/HNH as you will have already gathered don’t deal in facts.

Walton is a disturbing choice to appear on this programme, but it shows HNH/Henshaw’s true colours.   He took early retirement in January 2016 to avoid an Independent Police Complaints Commission Inquiry into his role concerning police spies who infiltrated the campaign for justice following the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 [104].  It is most concerning therefore, that Walton is shown arguing the internet has “turbo-charged far right and far left extremism”.  I highlight the far-left aspect in case anybody (such as naïve crowd-funders of Hope Not Hate) missed it.  Given the collapse/implosion of most far left groups today, and the way Momentum has hoovered up so many Left activists, it is obvious that he must be including Corbyn supporters in this.  I must ask, what legitimate reason has a former Head of Counter-Terrorism Command got for targeting Leftists, given any association between the UK Left and activity remotely resembling ‘terrorism’ is non-existent?  HNH’s concern is clear: we have previously [105] outlined how the bulk of their leadership clique are associated with the Labour Right, specifically the Progress faction, and as such anti-Corbyn.  Henshaw’s motives? For him to explain.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash whether they were comfortable about using Richard Walton given he resigned from the police in disgrace because of his role in spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign (see Appendix). 

They did not reply.

The final comment, unfortunately for coherence (and overall narrative) came from Collins who spoke of a “small group of lunatics”—a description not applicable to GI for instance, and in any event this use of mental health terminology is both inaccurate, inappropriate, and intellectually shallow—which I suppose sums Collins up.

It is interesting too that what presented itself as a legitimate investigative programme should go to such lengths to delete all the infiltrators historic Twitter posts: Hazel Brown @Ldngirl_south, Mary McShane @MissBrit_Lady and Sarah @yorks_babex (also using the screen name Mary M).  It is one thing to not keep an account active (because of abuse) another to delete all historic posts.  Something to hide? I rather think so.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why they deleted all the historic Twitter posts of these three agents (see Appendix).

They did not reply.

CONCLUSION

Having laid into the programme somewhat, they at least got something right. Before transmission emails were sent to all featured, outlining what was seen as the evidence against them.  Far preferable to the normal tactic: door-stepping people at inopportune times.  In that respect, they differ from others, though only drew critical attention to one practitioner: Tommy Robinson.  As part of his Troll-watch series he confronted a Guardian journalist at home, as unacceptable to me as ITV journalist Rohit Kachroo door-stepping Garron Helm at home in March 2017.  Difference is the former is criticised, the latter not.

Sadly, qualified praise for one aspect of the programme does not make it adequate, in particular it didn’t even attempt to prove the early proposition that “the new far-right has an unexpected profile.  Its supporters are getting younger, with women involved from the grass roots to the very top”.  Concerning this claim about women, not true for the National Front: only Julie Lake was featured, nor Britain First: Jaya Fransen was mentioned but that’s it.  As for National Action, no women mentioned, not even Bryony Burton.  Coming to Generation Identity, however photogenically alluring Brittany Pettibone (and for that matter Laura Southern) undoubtedly are, they are not female British activists, and none were shown.  At the Traditional Britain Group Conference, approximately 20 out of 135 attendees were women, and many not exactly young.

No credible evidence was given regarding women and the British far-right, and the far-right’s strength and significance exaggerated, with heterogenous groups lumped together when they have fundamental differences.  Further, no mention of a potential far right recruiting pool that dwarfs all these small groups: the Football Lads Alliance, which held a very well attended march (estimates between 10,000-30,000) against ‘extremism’ and terror attacks in London 7/10/17, at which both Tommy Robinson and Anne Marie Waters turned up, as (apparently) Frank Portinari, English UDA commander and sometime gun-runner did to an earlier march in June [106].  It would be wrong to see this march as far right in itself, but it was certainly worth a mention.

Weaknesses in coverage of the far right indicates the programme’s purpose was not as stated but something else.  That ‘something else’ had two parts: resisting Brexit and building a case for restrictions on social media. A slight paradox is much was made of undercover filming (accompanied by sinister music and quirky camera angles) at meetings where speeches were shortly after put on-line anyway, as with both the Traditional Britain Group and Heritage & Destiny.  As stated earlier, I don’t disagree in principle with undercover filming, which captured some idiotic racist comments and showed certain attendees at meetings (e.g. the eternally shifty ex-BNP Youth leader and cartoon racist Mark Collett replete with ill-fitting suit) conventional open filming wouldn’t have revealed.   Yet the sub-text to this documentary is these groups should be banned from putting speeches on-line: which would give such mostly irrelevant ‘under-hand’ filming a validity it doesn’t entirely have, on this showing.  I say mostly irrelevant because if undercover filming, supposedly over a year, had revealed more, we would have been shown the results.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why, given the programme was billed as being about Women and the Far Right it was so poor regarding not just the far right, but the role of women within it (see Appendix).

They did not reply.

All this raises a thought-provoking question about the relative contributions of Henshaw and producer Joanna Potts on the one hand, and Lowles/Collins on the other.  Were the production company complicit in the HNH-inspired agenda, or willing dupes?  Difficult question, though you might think people as experienced as Hardcash should know better.  In another respect, though, standards of investigative journalism are so low probably not.  I am not positing, note, a conspiracy theory as to how the programme came about.  It is entirely possible that Henshaw's original intention was (as the funding proposal to Coutts stated) a programme about 'Women and the Far Right'.  It is plausible too that as the bigger operation he should have turned to HNH and not Searchlight for 'research assistance'.  At this point, HNH may well have said (or suggested) keep the idea of having three acknowledged female infiltrators, but why not focus on social media and the internet instead?  At which point their anti-Brexit/pro-censorship agenda would then have predominated.  Not that I think Hardcash would have put up much resistance to this hijack: after all, as Henshaw's programme/book smearing the ALF and Class War shows, he's certainly one for tuning in to the Zeitgeist.  Whatever HNH had to say, there is also the need to please commissioning editors.  Piranhas Hardcash undoubtedly are, but their hand-to-mouth finances show they are swimming in a pool of media sharks.  They have to turn in shows that are 'sexy' and resonate with those handing out commissions: and Brexit plus internet censorship certainly fit the bill.  

The previous paragraph is speculative, certainly.  What isn't is the astonishing fact that the show did not mention actual British ‘military-style’ camps.  There is one explanation, potentially hinted at by Lowles, recently speaking of the arrests of alleged NA members— “while we cannot say anything more at this time, given that we will be providing evidence to the trial, the full story will come out in due course” [107].  Being charitable, the programme might have been so bad, and implausible, because properly covering what it should have might have compromised a forthcoming trial.  As stated, given nobody organising the camps has been charged with anything, this hardly adds up.  However, Henshaw and Potts might not know that, or maybe do but don’t care. 

Speaking of the far right’s potential for organised violence, and (leaving aside the 1999 London bombings by David Copeland NFB has covered extensively elsewhere [108]) it is likely that (as did neo-fascist Anders Brevik who killed 77 people in Norway 22/7/11) sooner or later someone else will get through and do something similar in the UK.  Sad but true.  However, this should not blind us to the fact that the terrorist potential of far-right groups is currently far less than that of Islamists.  Looking at recent Home Office statistics for arrests, between 9/11/01 and 2017 79% of arrests have been for ‘International Terrorism’, i.e. ‘Islamist’ terrorism/plots, the other three categories being Northern Ireland, Domestic and Unclassified [109].  In a narrower time-frame, the year ending 31/3/17, ‘International Terrorism’ accounted for 75% of arrests and ‘Domestic Terrorism’ 16% [110].  Dry these statistics may be, they are essential background to understand what is certainly a media/state ploy to exaggerate the threat from ‘fascist terrorists’/potential ‘terrorists’ in the UK, which might go a long way to explaining why a minuscule group like National Action, who have not, as yet, murdered anybody, receive such extensive media coverage, and whose members/alleged members risk heavy sentences in forthcoming trials if found guilty.  For analysis of overall spook strategy currently, look elsewhere [111].

The trick is this: to look not so much at the numbers of specific plots/attacks (the overwhelming majority Islamist) but referrals to preventative programmes such as the Home Office’s Channel.  Thus, in February 2017 David Anderson QC revealed that a quarter of referrals are now ‘far right’ sympathisers.  He stated “extreme Right-wing ideology can be just as murderous as its Islamist equivalent” [112].  Now, he is certainly correct that they can be: but the real question is whether the far-right currently actually are.  My view, and that of NFB colleagues, is that rumours of fascist bomb plots in general are just that.  To put it all in historic perspective, read this article by my colleague Dave Hughes on this web-site written 7 years ago [113].  To reiterate, sooner rather than later a UK fascist is going to commit mass murder: yet in very recent times some Islamists militants actually have.  An unfortunate fact, but a fact nonetheless.  One the programme itself can hardly argue with, for the opening scenes showing the aftermath of the Manchester bombing 22/5/17 were not chronicling a fascist attack, were they?

Another statistical gambit is covering arrests for domestic terrorism separately from those for ‘international terrorism’.  Take, for example, this Daily Telegraph piece headlined ‘Far right and neo-Nazi terror arrests double’.   Not forgetting the caveat most people arrested are released without charge (or found innocent), it is striking nonetheless that the first three sentences read:

Terror arrests of suspected Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis more than doubled last year amid fears of a growing threat of political violence from far-Right groups, new Home Office figures show.  A total of 35 people were arrested on suspicion of ‘domestic’ terrorism in 2016, which security sources said was dominated by threats from the far-Right.  The arrests followed only 15 for domestic terrorism the previous year and come after a warning from the Government’s terrorism watchdog that far-Right extremists now account for one-in-four of those reported to counter-radicalisation schemes[114]

While the article goes on to mention arrests for ‘International Terrorism’ these are described as “falling slightly”.  Now, it is of some interest far-right referrals have increased, but that should not blind us to the bigger picture.  An imbalanced impression of relative threat is conveyed not in accordance with the facts, but consonant with a media strategy aimed at much as the Muslim community as anywhere else, intended to present the state as being even-handed in such matters.  Suspicion there is statistical massage going on is not dispelled by the most recently released statistics, which mention that in the year ended 30/9/17 the largest increase in arrests was for those of White ethnic appearance, up by 77% from the previous year (81 to 143) [115].  The earlier report’s detailed breakdown of arrests by offence category is not in the report’s main body this time, despite being promised.  Burrowing into the statistical annexe you find that ‘Domestic Terrorism’ arrests numbered 73 out of 400 (18.25%), still dwarfed by ‘International Terrorism’ 292 out of 400 (73%) [116].  On that basis, while a superficial impression might be that Whites are arrested for (unspecified) Far right sympathising offences, the actual figure of 73 indicates just over half were arrested for non-domestic terrorism offences.  This would include White converts to Islamism, Kurdish and others fighting Islamic State, animal liberation activists and so forth.  There is also an interesting anomaly, or potential anomaly, concerning offence classification.  Whereas all paramilitary related arrests to do with Northern Ireland are classed as Northern Ireland related, we cannot be sure this applies to offences elsewhere.  Thus, Darren Osborne, who drove a van at worshippers outside Finsbury Park mosque in June 2017 was later charged with ‘terrorism-related murder’ [117].  Given he has no known far right connections, how is this offence categorised?  Given that it was apparently a response to ‘International Terrorism’ (Islamism) will it be put in that category, analogous to Northern Ireland precedent?  Or will it be classed as ‘Domestic’, or indeed far right (because he is White?).  Who knows?

Perhaps the most useful statistic putting things in perspective for the time being is that of 213 persons in custody for ‘terrorism’ offences 30/9/17, 88% held “Islamist extremist views”, 8% “far right-wing ideologies” and 5% beliefs related to other ideologies [118].  Statistics only tell you so much, but although indicating a murderous far right potential, also tell us this should not be exaggerated.

Returning to the documentary, a precise term describes the debasement of proper research this sort of thing constitutes, which I coined after the BBC Secret Agent programme Lowles was involved in.  The term is SPIJ: standing for State-compromised Pseudo-Investigative Journalism. A concept adequately defined elsewhere on this site, I suggest interested parties start there.  One sentence in the summary fits this documentary like a glove: “At times, and without any ethical discussion, so-called investigative documentaries function as secret state information outlets, enmeshed in spook agendas while retaining a crucial, and misleading, semblance of independence” [119].

All this matters because if journalism is reduced to serving the interests of one or other secret state faction or acting as police agents then freedom of the press becomes a hollow memory.  Resulting in programmes as poor as this one.

Another reason I am concerned about the activities of HNH, and Searchlight before them, is that so many of their infiltrators: Dave Roberts, Ray Hill, Tim Hepple, Matthew Collins etc. turn out to be agents provocateurs and/or thugs delighting in attacking anti-fascists.  While those involved in NA are mostly (though not all) deluded thugs, this does not mean some may not have been set up.  If so, any infiltrators working for HNH will be in the parlance ‘prime suspects’.  For this reason, I will watch the trials of alleged NA members, and HNH evidence, closely.  Fact is, infiltrators run by HNH and Searchlight can do things on behalf of the state free from proper scrutiny and regulatory control, which is why they are so useful.  Consider therefore the begging email below, sent by Lowles to HNH supporters 31/10/16:

“Research is at the heart of HOPE not hate’s work. We monitor and expose the activities of extremists at home and abroad, we provide vital intelligence and analysis to our campaign teams…Running almost 20 people inside extremist groups is now costing us £2,500 a month in expenses…Our research team is busier than ever before. We monitor thousands of extremists, photograph every demonstration and meeting and trawl through social media looking for trends and connections”

This email raises questions, as does the documentary, that need answering:

  1. What action do HNH take to ensure these people do not act as agents provocateurs?
  2. The term used here is extremist, not far right. Does that mean HNH have informants in Islamist groups like Al-Muhajiroun or Hizb ut Tahrir? And in far-left groups? 
  3. If HNH do not have informants in Islamist groups, when they clearly publish about them, why does their Modus Operandi differ here, to that concerning the far-right?
  4. Do they run informants in UKIP, which is a legal political party opposed to violence?
  5. Did they run informants in any organisations during the EU referendum, a referendum where they claimed to be neutral?
  6. Peter Rushton was an informant for Searchlight. Does he now work for HNH? If so, was he working for HNH when he tried to link the Brexit vote to ‘Rights for Whites’?

I do not expect HNH to answer these questions, but they are certainly relevant.  In the meantime, I invite readers, researchers and journalists to put these questions to HNH at every opportunity.

As for Hardcash, I will almost give them the last word.  They tweeted just after the show “the far right seems confused that we investigate both political and religious fascism: it’s called journalism”.  Well, coming from the far left not the far right, I am not confused but amused that Hardcash think this programme worthy of the term journalism. 

Nonetheless, nobody is beyond redemption.  Following the Mexican stand-off in their libel action against Nigel Farage, and basking in the establishment/uncritical media support and massive funding (including from George Soros) they enjoy, HNH are getting more cocky, and aggressive, by the minute.  We have remarked before HNH’s preferred method of resolving political disputes is issuing legal threats [120] and now they have serious money behind them no doubt will try more of the same.  The bullying tone of Nick Lowles after the case is an implied threat to all critics: “Hope not Hate is putting purveyors of fake news on notice: no more.  There needs to be a line in the sand for those who blithely, and without fear or concern for the consequences, throw out falsity” and so on [121].  That Lowles, neither here nor elsewhere, has had the honesty to admit HNH (or rather the mugs crowd-funding the action) had to pay their own costs is as expected.  However, overweening pride and arrogance such as the ever-expanding HNH now display always comes before a fall.  So, a suggestion for Henshaw/Potts, especially if (unlikely as that is) they only now realise what a load of cold dog-poop this documentary served up to viewers.  Why not (as with Undercover Mosque: The Return) a follow-up programme to Charities Behaving Badly, indeed specifically one spook-connected charity behaving badly, Hope Not Hate.  Call me psychic if you want, but somehow (despite ample subject material), we won’t see this on our screens anytime soon, and even if we do, Coutts won’t be financing it…

APPENDIX: EMAIL SENT TO HARDCASH

BY EMAIL

7/12/2017

Exposure: Undercover inside Britain’s Far Right Transmitted 9/11/17

Dear Mr Henshaw

I am an independent investigative researcher specialising in the Far Right and critiques of investigative journalism, in print and on-line at www.borderland.co.uk

I am writing to inform you that I am planning to write about the above programme.

In the interests of fairness I am writing to give you the opportunity to respond to criticisms I intend to make and issues I intend to raise.  These are enumerated in questions below.

I ask that you provide a written statement by 5pm 14/12/2017 so that your response can be included.  I will edit any such statement to ensure that your comments are fairly and accurately reflected.

 

  1. Why did your programme exaggerate the strength and influence of Britain First?
  2. Did you not know Britain First were deregistered as a political party a week before the programme (2/11/17), or did you know and decide not to mention it?
  3. Why did you cover (and make a big thing of) Generation Identity camps, but make no mention of the Siggurd/Legion camps organised on British soil?
  4. Was Jordan Diamond in the pay of your programme, whether directly or indirectly via Hope Not Hate?
  5. Why did you try and present the private views of Anne Marie Waters as though they were different from her public ones, when on virtually all matters such as Tommy Robinson, Islam, and Muslim immigration there is little or no difference?
  6. Are you aware that Peter Rushton is a long-term infiltrator into the far right, using the name Captain/Captain Hook, working for Searchlight and now Hope Not Hate?
  7. Was Rushton in the pay of your programme, whether directly or indirectly via Hope Not Hate?
  8. Following on from Question 7, were his comments about National Action and/or Brexit being about ‘Rights For Whites’ sound-bites designed by Hope Not Hate and/or Hardcash in collusion with Rushton?
  9. Why, given the prominent role accorded to Rushton, did you not name him?
  10. While I understand your three female agents do not deserve abuse, why have you deleted all their historic Twitter posts?  What have you to hide?
  11. Given Richard Walton had to resign from the police in disgrace because of his role in spying on the Steven Lawrence campaign, are you comfortable about using him on the show, especially given he referred to ‘far left extremists’?
  12. Given the programme was billed as being about Women and the Far Right, why was it so poor regarding not just the far right, but the role of women within it?

 

I look forward to hearing from you

 

Dr Larry O’Hara

Editor,  Notes From the Borderland

 

FOOTNOTES

 

[1] For full analysis (and documentation) concerning the split see Notes From the Borderland issue 10 2012 p.34-80, and the various extracts on this web-site for an outline.  For reference, if you visit the shop on this site, all NFB back issues are available either as hard copy (most) or PDF (all). 

[2] Notes From the Borderland magazine issue 10 p.47, see also NFB 11 p.9-10 for further detail

[3] Hope Not Hate magazine 30 January-February 2017 p.11.  This list is ludicrous for among other things putting their own informant Jim Dowson at number 1!

[4] ‘Animal Warfare’ Fontana 1989 p.91

[5] Ibid. p.190

[6] For references see my ‘Searchlight for Beginners’ available from this site

[7] See full transcript ‘The Israeli Lobby in Britain’ Peter Oborne and James Jones opendemocracy.net 13/11/09

[8] For example, see the article by Martin Bright (who else!) in the Jewish Chronicle 19/11/09, Community Security Trust statement ‘Dispatches; Where is the evidence?’ 23/11/09, and Henshaw’s defence in the Guardian ‘An insidious argument for censorship’ 23/11/09

[9] See reproduction of Ofcom ruling on Opendemocracy.net 23/3/10

[10] See Notes From the Borderland issue 11 2016 ‘Hope Not Hate versus Searchlight Civil War: the Fall Out Continues’ Heidi Svenson and Dr Paul Stott p.9

[11] http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/pressreleases/archive/2007/153_07.html, on the programme see Wikipedia entry on ‘Undercover Mosque’—ignore the asinine commentary, but there is a good list of sources.

[12] ‘How Did George Galloway Squeeze the Producer of Undercover Mosque?’ Press TV 9/9/08

[13] ‘Mehdi Hasan—The Undercover Mole’ hurryupharry.org 17/6/14

[14] See Charity Commission Inquiry Report into Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK) 2/9/16, and the HSS Press Release that same day

[15] First coined by the Order’s David Lane (with an echo of Mein Kampf) ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children’

[16] See entry for The Steadfast Trust on Charity Commission web-site, also Susannah Birkwood ‘We took too long to remove Steadfast Trust from the register, Charity Commission admits’ thirdsector.org.uk 24/2/15

[17] See Accounts for Hardcash Productions Limited Company number 02695415 submitted 27/5/15, 31/5/16 and 15/3/17

[18] Form MR01 registered 14/11/16

[19] Form MR01 dated 5/5/17

[20] Also, instruments (MR01s) registered 18/6/14 (2), 14/1/15 (2), 30/9/15 and 11/3/16

[21] Daily Telegraph 4/5/08 Richard Northedge

[22] See Sunday Mirror (Stephen Johns) 23/7/17 on Rochdale.

[23] Independent on-line 5/5/16

[24] http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/124-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[25] guardian.com 1/12/17 (Ian Cobain)

[26] Economist 17/12/16

[27] Something that can be checked via the inestimably useful wayback.org

[28] The Observer 3/12/17 (Mark Townsend)

[29] Julie Lake comment on ‘Exposing the Exposers #1’ thread on westernspring.co.uk 15/11/17

[30] Searchlight 457 December 2013 p.5, see also Searchlight 455 August 2013 ‘Identity: the new nationalist idea’ p.12-13, Searchlight 456 October 2013 p.6-10

[31] Hope Not Hate 12 January 2014 p.24-31

[32] Generation Identity UK ‘A Declaration of War from The Students of Britain’ You-Tube 27/12/13

[33] For a relatively coherent account see Chris York ‘I Met Defend Europe’ huffpost.com 6/8/17 and for a time line Joe Mulhall ‘Failed Europe Mission Comes to An End’ hopenothate.org 17/8/17, as well as Defend Europe’s own multi-lingual Twitter-feed

[34] ‘The ITV Exposure of Nothing’ Martin Sellner, You-Tube 8/11/17

[35] For a detailed analysis of which see Chapter 3 p.101-119 of my (as yet unpublished) PhD thesis ‘Creating Political Soldiers? The National Front 1986-90’ Birkbeck College London University 2001

[36] Indeed, the key Identitarian manifesto by Marcus Willinger ‘Generation Identity’ (Arktos 2013 in English) is sub-titled ‘A Declaration of War Against the ‘68ers’

[37] See for a useful descriptive summary of these actions Martin Sellner in ‘GI Presentation in London’ published by Amorpha Media on You-Tube 9/11/17

[38] See the original formulation by Guy Debord & Gil J Wolman ‘A Users Guide to Detournement’ [1956] accessible via bopsecrets.org, and Guy Debord ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ [1967], various editions (mine is Black & Red Detroit 1977).  Intriguingly, Willinger even copies the form (a numeric list of theses).  I say this not to detract from Debord, but to make a provisional observation about GI along the lines of Samuel Johnson, that however adequate their presentational skills (Sellner is certainly adequate) their work (including stunts) is both original and interesting, though what is interesting is not original and what is original is not interesting….

[39] See ‘Generation Identity Launch in UK’ You-Tube 24/10/17

[40] For references and detail see my ‘Searchlight for Beginners’ (1996)

[41] See East Anglian Daily Times 6/10/88, Searchlight April 1984 p.3 and High Court Queen’s Bench Division Statement in Open Court (Edwin Nye v Channel 4) Ref 1989 N-N0 282.  Chapter 7 of my PhD (cited above) p.171-215 considers the evidence for and against an NF turn towards ‘terrorism’ in theory and practice.

[42] See Notes From the Borderland 4 2001 p.17, Nick Griffin Press Release 11/4/97, Time Out 16/4/97

[43] Craig and Lucy Fraser ‘The Centurion Method’ Abalawutaz Books 2014 p.60

[44] ‘Centurion Method: Outdoor fitness, guerrilla style’ Craig Fraser on healthgauge.com 26/4/13

[45] ‘SOE Syllabus, Lessons in Ungentlemanly Warfare World War II’ Public Record Office 2001

[46] Extract from Craig Fraser ‘A Paean to Joy, Action & Truth’ Radical-traditionalism.tumbir.com 25/7/14

[47] See ‘Craig Fraser: 2015 Jonathan Bowden Oratory Prize Nominee’ on westernspring.co.uk 14/3/15.

[48] See the thread commenced 19/8/14 ‘UK Training Camps’ on the US-based Lumine Boreali (Northern Light) web-site.

[49] Daily Star Sunday 9/11/14 (Scott Hesketh & Colin Cortbus)

[50] Sunday Mirror 21/12/14 (Simon Wright & Colin Cortbus)

[51] Sunday Mirror 21/12/14 (Simon Wright & Colin Cortbus), Hope Not Hate January-February 2015 does not mention Siggurd Legion, Hope Not Hate January-February 2016 p.11-12 does.

[52] Matt Tait ‘Tragedy and Hope: Lessons from the Plight of British Nationalism’ You-Tube 13/5/15

[53] See itv.com/news/2017-03-20/exclusive-former-members-of-banned-terror-group-meet-at-far-right-training-camp

[54] ‘Response to Fake News Hatchet Job’ James Mac on You-Tube 22/3/17

[55] Hope Not Hate 31 March-April 2017 p.38, the whole article p.36-39 apparently written by Collins.

[56] Hope Not Hate 31 March-April 2017 p.38

[57] On-line 21/3/17 at westernspring.co.uk

[58] Daily Mail 9/9/17 (Richard Price)

[59] See ‘This Autumn, Neo-Nazis Held A ‘Training Camp’ in Scotland’ athousandflowers.net 20/11/16

[60] Hope Not Hate 29 November-December 2016 p,23 (no by-line)

[61] Wales on-line 15/6/16 (Philip Dewey)

[62] Scottish Daily Record 12/6/17 (Billy Briggs & Jamie Mann), also on Scottish Dawn see Mail on-line 2/4/17 (James Dunn)

[63] See Independent on-line (Lizzie Dearden) 26/10/17, Manchester Evening News (Kim Pilling) 27/10/17 and The Guardian (Jamie Grierson) 3/11/17

[64] http://www.borderland.co.uk/2-uncategorised/133-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[65] Hope Not Hate 23 Jan-Feb 2016 p.23

[66] Nick Lowles ‘Stand Together’ hopenothate.org 24/6/17 7:07am

[67] See my analysis at http://www.borderland.co.uk/2-uncategorised/133-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[68] Nick Lowles ‘Let’s use this anger!’ bopenothate.org 24/6/17 4:07pm

[69] http://www.borderland.co.uk/2-uncategorised/133-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[70] See Evening Standard 29/9/17 (Tom Powell) also Nigel Farage in the Daily Telegraph 30/9/17

[71] Quoted in The Guardian 5/10/16 (Rowena Mason/Peter Walker)

[72] Daily Express 1/10/16 (David Maddox)

[73] See Henshaw letter to Buckby 26/10/17, Buckby reply and Henshaw’s further response dated 4/11/17, all on jackbuckby.co.uk ‘My Full Response to ITV Hardcash Fake News’ 9/11/17

[74] ‘Generation Identity’ on hopenothate.org.uk put on-line 9/11/17

[75] Put on Twitter 30/10/17 by Nikolashvili@ViniKako

[76] See Henshaw letter to Waters 26/10/17 and her response 30/10/17

[77] Henshaw to Waters 26/10/17

[78] ‘UK far-right activists attend military-style camps with anti-Islam group’ The Guardian 8/11/17 (Jamie Grierson)

[79] Twitter response to Huffington Post article 10/11/17

[80] See Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.58-59/64 for an exploratory critique of HNH’s ‘anti-extremism’

[81] Matthew Goodwin, Thomas Raines & David Cutts ‘What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?’ chathamhouse.org 7/2/17

[82] Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.52-68, but especially p.52-55

[83] Waters email to Henshaw 30/10/17

[84] ‘Update from Interim Chairman Paul Oakden’ (UKIP) 10/11/17

[85] ‘Large influx of new UKIP members prompts fears of far-right takeover’ The Guardian 3/7/17 (Peter Walker)

[86] Notes From the Borderland 6 2005 p.34: the article (p.11-39) deconstructs the whole template of TV ‘investigative journalism’ and as such is still of contemporary relevance.  See also ‘The BBC Secret Agent documentary revisited’ Notes From the Borderland 7 2006 p.34-36 which retrospectively analyses (among other things) the initial ‘pitch’ for the programme which fell into our hands as these things do….

[87] See Nick Lowles ‘Hope’ Hope Not Hate 2014 p.70 when Griffin standing in Keighley is bizarrely attributed to success in Bradford! Mind you, the foreword to the book is by an unfunny comedian so what can you expect?

[88] ‘Why not just buy the magazine and watch the You-Tube videos?’ [no by-line but Peter Rushton] heritageanddestiny.com 8/11/17

[89] Hopenothate.org ‘Jew-Hating Jew Forced to Quit Nazi Rally’ Matthew Collins 29/5/15

[90] Matthew Collins Hope Not Hate 29 November-December 2016 p.27

[91] ‘far right and fascists looking to rebuild in the UK’ uaf.org.uk 10/11/17

[92] ‘Turning up the Heat: MI5 after the Cold War’ Phoenix 1994 p.77

[93] ‘The British National Party and the Secret State: Some observations’ Notes From the Borderland 5 2003 p.58-62

[94] Andrew Brons ‘Where Does British Nationalism Go From Here?’ Heritage & Destiny 79 July-August 2017 p.3

[95] See Rushton’s obituary of Zundel Heritage & Destiny 81 November-December 2017 p.14-15

[96] Heritage & Destiny 80 September-October 2017 p.23

[97] Heritage & Destiny 69 November-December 2015 p.23

[98] Heritage & Destiny 68 September-October 2015 p.23

[99] Peter Rushton ‘Establishment panic—Political repression intensified’ Heritage & Destiny 77 March-April 2017 p.4-5

[100] Heritage & Destiny 81 November-December 2017 p.3

[101] ‘Why not just buy the magazine and watch the You-Tube videos?’ [no by-line but Peter Rushton] heritageanddestiny.com 8/11/17

[102] Hope Not Hate 33 September-October 2017 Editorial p.3

[103] ‘The slow-burning hatred that led Thomas Mair to murder Jo Cox’ The Guardian 23/11/16 (Ian Cobain/Nazia Parveen/Matthew Taylor)

[104] Powerbase.info Richard Walton (accessed 30/11/17)

[105] Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.59-60/75

[106] See Independent on-line (Will Worley) and (London) Evening Standard, both 7/10/17, also ‘The Football Lad’s Alliance: Report From the March’ Tash Shifrin, Martin Smith and James dreamdeferred.org 8/10/17

[107] Hope Not Hate 33 September-October 2017 p.3

[108] See my colleague Heidi Svenson’s spirited exchange with Linda Bellos on this (Notes From the Borderland 11 2016 p.55) which contains full references, and for an introduction to our take on those bombings: http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/19-the-copeland-scandal-summarised-updated.html

[109] Grahame Allen & Noel Dempsey ‘Terrorism in Great Britain: The Statistics’ Briefing Paper CBP7613 6/10/17 p.12

[110] ‘The Operation of Police Powers Under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Subsequent Legislation for year ending 31/3/17’ Home Office Statistical Bulletin 8.17 June 2017 p.4

[111] See ‘Spook Update: The Secret State We’re In’ Larry O’Hara & Dave Hughes Notes From the Borderland 11 2016 p.30-36

[112] Quoted in the (London) Evening Standard 15/2/17 (Martin Bentham)

[113] http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/36-uk-fascist-bomb-plots.html

[114]  Daily Telegraph 10/3/17 (Ben Farmer)

[115] The Operation of Police Powers Under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Subsequent Legislation for year ending 30/9/17’ Home Office Statistical Bulletin 24.17 December 2017 p.13

[116] Ibid: see p.12 for the promise regarding arrests, which is not lived up to there, however Annex A.13 provides the detail on offence, Annex A.11 on ethnicity

[117] Independent on-line 23/6/17 (Katie Forster)

[118] Ibid, p.16

[119] http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/49-spij-defined-deconstructed.html

[120] Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.73 gives some details

[121] Nick Lowles ‘My charity’s libel action against Nigel Farage marks a defeat for fake news’ theguardian.com 16/11/17.

 

 

 

 

BREXIT RESISTED? THE HENSHAW/HOPE NOT HATE DOCUMENTARY ON BRITAIN'S NEW FAR RIGHT 9/11/17

  • BREXIT RESISTED? THE HENSHAW/HOPE NOT HATE ITV DOCUMENTARY ON ‘BRITAIN’S NEW FAR RIGHT’ 9/11/17

LARRY O'HARA 17/12/2017

Discerning viewers will have watched this cobbled-together offering promising to ‘expose’ Britain’s ‘New Far Right’ with both wry amusement and cynical detachment, so poor was it.  A view probably shared by TV schedulers, who put it out at 10.40pm on a Thursday night, hardly peak-time viewing.  When most people are either heading to bed, or if out, at the pub.  Still, as one of the first full-length documentary offerings scripted by the Hope Not Hate (hereafter HNH) crew since they hoped to have consigned their former colleagues at Searchlight into the dustbin of history in 2012 [1], the programme deserves scrutiny.   

Given that David Henshaw’s ‘Hardcash’ production company was responsible for this documentary, and the deficiencies therein raised important issues, I thought it only right, before publishing this article, to raise many of these with Henshaw before publication.   In contrast to virtually everybody featured that he contacted who replied to him, Henshaw (to whom I gave exactly the same length of time as he gave them to respond) decided not to defend himself.  My unanswered email is reproduced as an Appendix below.  Where I raised a matter, but got no response, this is highlighted (bold/purple) in the text. If anybody else wants to try, why not contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Let us know how you get on (or indeed send non-racist responses to this article) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

EMPTY STYLE RIVALS LIMITED SUBSTANCE

Inasmuch as anything new was on offer, it was encapsulated in the sound-bite “the new far right has an unexpected profile.  Its supporters are getting younger, with women involved from the grass roots to the very top”.  We were also promised answers to (good) questions: who are the far right, how big are they, how dangerous are they?  Groups covered included Britain First, the National Front, Generation Identity and UKIP, specifically Anne Marie Waters failed campaign to lead UKIP and subsequent launch of her ‘For Britain’ party.  As I watched the documentary, and deconstructed the content, it became clear the programme wasn’t fundamentally about these things, but two others: an attempt to undermine Brexit by associating it with fascism, and yet another plea for state controls on social media of unauthorised viewpoints.  

Some staples common to this programme form were there, such as references to military-style training camps and ubiquitous sinister music accompanied by a pseudo-authoritative voice over.  There was not, however, the door-stepping formerly used in genre classics, as when pipsqueak Andy Bell nervously confronted Eddie Whicker and Charlie Sargent of Combat 18 in the 1993 MI5 in Action (aka World in Action) show.  For good reason: aside from the location of meetings little conspiratorial (other than the earth-shattering revelation of who designed Anne-Marie Waters’ web-site) was revealed in this programme, hence there was nobody to confront in the flesh, so to speak.  As if to reflect the programme’s intellectual hollowness, selected Twitter images, You-Tube clips and Facebook pages were screened in an empty room, with little dramatic effect.  Rather better was the cover story of ‘Hazel Brown’, who infiltrated both UKIP and Generation Identity: by using a 27-year-old who claimed to be a carer, she was old enough to be away from school/university, in a job others were unlikely to be able to meet her at or outside the office.  Clever.

Two HNH ‘experts’ were interviewed in the same cavernous empty room perhaps intended to provide them with a blank canvas backdrop allowing charismatic expertise to shine through: it didn’t.  The earnest, stuttering and intellectually flabby Nick Lowles OBE, HNH ‘Chief Executive Officer’ displayed all the gravitas of a provincial bank clerk trying to sell a dodgy payment protection policy: truly the “Mr Pooter of institutional anti-extremism” [2]. Lowles is, simply, out of his depth: take for instance his justification for using three women to infiltrate groups, that this “is a deeply anti-feminist world” but contains “a group of strong women”.  Leaving aside that contradiction, which he does not explain, merely grinning hamster-like at the camera as his voice fades, the (fatuous) league-table of ‘Britain’s most influential far right activists’ Hope Not Hate magazine published in January only lists two women in the top 12: Julie Lake at 7 and Jaya Fransen of Britain First at 10 [3]. Anne-Marie Waters, recently failed UKIP candidate and main subject of the show, was not on the list, though he describes her as “in the top two or three anti-Muslim activists in the UK”, letting slip early on a key theme: to label anybody concerned about political Islam (HNH excepted) as ‘far right’.

If Lowles appears a hesitant unconvincing no-mark, HNH ‘Director of Research’ Matthew Collins presents as the rotund bloated thug with difficulty constructing sentences that he really is.  He said nothing memorable, just as well given what I surmise to be his alcohol intake.  Pathetic as these two ‘experts’ certainly are, we should not discount their motives or serious intent, covered below.

DAVID HENSHAW: A CAREER OF VARIABLE QUALITY

If HNH provide the ‘expertise’ what of David Henshaw, the figure behind the TV company—Hardcash--making the show?  He first came to my attention as producer of the 1986 BBC ‘Brass Tacks’ programme which in modern vernacular was a ‘hit-piece’ on the Animal Liberation Front, alleging that they had close links with fascists, as did anarchists Class War.  Both claims were untrue, which did not deter Henshaw from following them up in a 1989 book called ‘Animal Warfare’.  He alleged, completely without evidence because it was not true, that prominent ALF figure Dave Nicholls was previously Essex organiser for the neo-Nazi British Movement [4].  Of Class War, Henshaw stated that while “so far as most observers could see there was no racist content to the Class War invective, but apart from that the collective’s theory and behaviour seemed to owe more to the far right than the left” [5].  These nasty attempts to lump together the far left/the ALF/fascists were no accident, but part of the mid to late 1980’s Zeitgeist, and ultimately sourced back to the political police Special Branch [6].  Fancy that!

In case anybody believes Henshaw reached his evidence-free conclusions after research, not before, ponder this contemporary letter written by Henshaw to Tony Robson of Searchlight magazine (themselves enthusiastic propagators of such specious links) dated 22/1/86, never before published:

“..just to outline the area we are currently interested in.  Basically, anything that links extreme right groups with the ALF and the Animal Rights Militia.  And—in addition—anything that would link these two groups with Class War

So, there you have it: Henshaw started with baseless conclusions then gathered evidence to fit.  Nice.

However, to be fair, among his output (much worthy but dull) three previous programmes stand out as important, even if the second is highly ironic in the light of this current offering.

The first programme of note was in the Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ series, broadcast 16/11/09, when veteran journalist Peter Oborne talked critically about the pro-Israeli lobby’s influence in Britain.  This perfectly legitimate programme [7] unleashed the hounds of media hell on Henshaw [8], although he was exonerated by Ofcom [9].  An interesting aspect of this documentary was highlighting the malevolent and munificent role played in British politics by Finnish citizen Poju Zabludowicz.  He still bank-rolls British politicians, including Hope Not Hate Trustee Ruth Smeeth MP, as first disclosed in NFB issue 11 [10].  

The second Henshaw programme worth mentioning was ‘Undercover Mosque’ first broadcast 15/1/07.  It generated furious controversy because it showed British imams making racist, anti-Semitic and misogynistic statements.  This led the Crown Prosecution Service and West Midlands police to complain, resulting in a victorious libel action by Hardcash against them.  Vindicated as Hardcash were, a comment by CPS lawyer Bethan David after considering the whole 56 hours of media footage of which only a small part was used in the programme is insightful, in light of this current show.  She stated “splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying” [11].  Aside from this methodological trait, the ironic aspect to this programme was it uncovered widespread instances of Islamist ideology propagated within mosques, and was hardly approving of such.  Fall-out from the documentary included a highly entertaining filmed exchange between Henshaw and George Galloway in which, to be fair, Henshaw acquitted himself well [12].  More serious is the allegation, which Henshaw hasn’t effectively refuted, that a key person involved in the programme, New Statesman contributing editor and Shia Muslim Mehdi Hasan, sought to deliberately skew the production to criticise Sunni Muslims alone, not Shiites [13].  

Finally, a lesser-known Henshaw programme even more salient: on 18/2/15 in the ‘Exposure’ strand, a documentary featured three charities: the Muslim Global Aid Trust (GAT), the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh UK and the Steadfast Trust, this latter associated with Robin Tilbrook of the English Democrats. In all three cases reporters filmed undercover.  The then GAT CEO Riznan Husain was captured making anti-Semitic speeches and resigned before broadcast.  HSS knuckles were rapped for not controlling a guest-speaker making anti-Muslim statements [14].  The Steadfast Trust came off worst: footage showed supporters making Nazi salutes, chanting White Power and articulating the neo-Nazi 14 Words slogan [15].  Not surprisingly, Steadfast Trust was removed from the Charities register even before the programme was shown [16].  Maybe this programme was made to show how weak the Charity Commission’s regulatory powers were, thus paving the way for the ‘Protection of Charities’ bill, which finally became law in March 2016.  Which would make Henshaw the hack for hire his company name indicates.

DESPERATE FOR HARD CASH?

Henshaw’s company title being ‘Hardcash’ is faintly amusing, though not for targets.  Accounts for the last three years reveal a deficit of income in relation to expenditure in 2015 of £4,192 was followed by a 2016 surplus of £10,120 and most recently a 2017 deficit of £3,368.  No need for loyal viewers to worry (or begin a crowd funding project) just yet: while annual director remuneration via dividends was a mere £52,000 in 2015, in 2016 and 2017 it has been a more manageable £78,000 [17].  There are only two directors: Henshaw and his wife Lesley Bonner.  Though the accounts do not mention tax being paid on those dividends we can rest assured it was, can’t we?? 

If Hardcash Productions is as skint as these accounts imply, how can they undertake investigations up to a year long?  The answer is astounding, and indicates Hardcash have friends in high places.  A routine funding source is repeated loans from Coutts Bank: in late 2016 a loan facility was granted by Coutts to make one recent programme [18], and Coutts granted another loan on the same terms for the Undercover documentary in May 2017 [19], indeed Companies House records show currently eight undischarged instruments (unpaid loans) owing to Coutts by Hardcash [20].  While no amounts are disclosed, the sums are clearly substantial, otherwise arranging them wouldn’t be worth the effort.  And here’s the thing: Coutts (established 1692) are no ordinary bank, not just because account holders include the Royal Family, but because they normally demand of customers at least £500,000 in liquid assets or £5 million in fixed assets [21].  There is no way based on published accounts Hardcash satisfy either criteria, and in any event, are borrowers, not normal account holders.  The whole situation is extraordinary: at the very least something here does not signify genuinely independent (of the Establishment) journalism.

WHAT WAS WEAK ABOUT THE PROGRAMME

DEFICIENCY (1)--GROSSLY EXAGGERATING FAR RIGHT STRENGTH

Early on we were promised three things, the last two certainly not delivered.  These were answers to the questions: who are the far right, how big are they, how dangerous are they? Instead, we were treated to footage of a few demonstrations without mentioning the far-right street political presence and membership is much reduced from even a few years ago.  There are now no fascist MEPs in Britain, or elected representatives in anything other than low-level mostly uncontested constituencies. 

BRITAIN FIRST

Britain First was talked up, with reference to their demonstration in Rochdale 22/7/17: attended by a maximum 200, nowhere near even the smallest Waffen SS Division size (2,199 23rd Division if you must know) [22].  To distract attention from this meagre turnout, infiltrator Mary reportedly “found far more supporters than I expected”, and we hear 1,500 leaflets were given out that day.  Yet this does not mean Britain First (BF) has support.  A cursory glance at BF’s membership figures revealed in their 2016 accounts shows that, even if you ignore the fact some members pay far more, a membership income of £45,425 at £59 a throw means 871 members at most.  Even that figure is most likely exaggeration: consider the testimony of reporter William Morgan, who went undercover inside BF in November 2015.  He recounts that attending their Party Conference were “what I can only describe as Islamophobes Anonymous, a gathering of about 30 people with greying hair and loose polo shirts talking about how much they hate and/or fear Islam”. More tellingly, he stated (in May 2016) that “it consists of only about 30 to 40 real members, many of whom I recognise from the conference in this week’s video of them invading a halal slaughterhouse” [23].

Much is made in the documentary of the huge numbers ‘liking’ Britain First’s Facebook posts after the 22/5/2017 Manchester bombing, with supposedly 1.7 million Facebook followers.  However, the significance of this in the real (as opposed to virtual) world has yet to be ascertained. I have commented elsewhere on this site [24] that an earlier post by leader Paul Golding boasting about 1.4 million Facebook followers received a mere 9 ‘Likes’ indicating these large numbers are virtually meaningless in terms of signifying actual support.  More recently, following Donald Trump retweeting three Britain First videos, the organisation has come under renewed scrutiny, and for once I agree with a Guardian journalist--“behind the 1.9m Facebook Likes, the 27,000 Twitter followers and the countless videos of speeches, stands a party with a minute membership, incoherent policies and a negligible chance of electoral success” [25].

All this you would not expect Hope Not Hate to understand, graphically illustrated when they published on 28/11/16 a report which claimed that after Jo Cox MP was murdered in June 2016 at least 25,000 people sent more than 50,000 tweets celebrating her death or praising her murderer.  In fact, as a detailed investigation by the Economist [note to Collins, this is not neo-Nazi but does use big words] found “the number that celebrated her death was at most 1,500, and probably much lower” [26].  Speaking of the figure 1,500 this was the number of members Matthew Collins claimed BF had in 2014, both in the HNH publication ‘Army of the Right’ and in a Twitter exchange with my colleague Dr Paul Stott 25/6/14.  Paul raised the number at the time because we thought it implausibly high, and lo and behold if you look at BF’s accounts for 2014 submitted to the Electoral Commission you find a total 2014 membership income of £15,072.  Given the cheapest 2014 membership (online/unwaged) cost £15 [27], there could have been 1,000 members at most.  However, factoring in the two other possible types of membership: Standard at £30, Platinum at £50, it is probable even the figure of 1,000 is a significant overestimate.  No surprise then, that with this calibre of research input neither Lowles or Collins knew, or cared to inform Henshaw, that the Electoral Commission de-registered Britain First as a political party a week before the documentary, on 2/11/17.  Since the documentary, Collins said of the publicity boost following Donald Trump’s retweet “there’ll be no political gain and they won’t be standing in more elections, they’ll just intimidate more people and beg for more money” [28].  Does this idiot still not know they can’t currently stand in any elections?  That aside, a rather more downbeat appraisal (if you could call it that) than in the programme.  Can Hardcash ask for their (or rather Coutts’) money back?  That would be fun!

None of this is to say (even if Donald Trump likes their video-stream) Britain First is a ‘nice’ organisation: the retard shown in audio promising to hang various victims on the end of a rope probably doesn’t play badminton.  However, what was needed, but we didn’t get, was rigorous threat assessment of BF, or indeed much else.  

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why they exaggerated the strength and influence of Britain First, and whether they knew or did not know BF was deregistered as a political party a week before the programme (see Appendix). 

They did not reply.

THE NATIONAL FRONT

Another group of miniscule significance talked up by the documentary was the National Front, now a pale shadow of its former self, whose 2016 accounts show a membership income of £2,145, which means at £10 per member a maximum of 214.  Agent Sarah was shown on TV attending a truly tiny NF demonstration in Grantham 19/8/17, and we were ludicrously expected to find this rump sinister.  At this point, the show plumbed new depths, wheeling in Collins to tell us Julie Lake, South West NF Regional Organiser was in the “NF, who are extreme hard-line hard-core neo-Nazis”. No shit, Sherlock: or maybe Collins was being nostalgic about his leisure activities? Despite their public propaganda having few references to Nazism (unlike say the British Movement or National Action) they may well be Nazi cultists; indeed, many are individually, however the subsequent sub-text parodying the film ‘Finding Nemo’ whereby Mary is shown embarking on a long quest, replete with subtly sinister music (no Wagner sadly) to actually meet Lake is something else.  When we eventually hear Lake speak, at the Heritage & Destiny meeting in Preston 6/10/17, it is tame: “as the first female to speak…come on ladies get your finger out please” and “we’ve got to get behind established parties and co-operate with each other”.  Hardly Hitler at Nuremberg (or even John Tyndall at Northampton). True, she admits corresponding with jailed members of neo-Nazi group National Action, but if operationally involved would hardly do that, would she?  The most damaging thing concerning Lake was after her reminiscing in a car she had been attacked by anti-fascists two other passengers said “they want shooting them fuckers” and “want guillotining the lot of them” (whether before or after shooting wasn’t clear).  According to Lake herself, this discussion (including one man boasting of “lamping” a “Negress”) happened after the NF protected the undercover reporter because Unite Against Fascism had “broke [n] through the police cordon” [29].  That, I cannot verify, but even so if such macho bravado by these (un-named) individuals is the best they can get on Lake, a woman known on the far right as Hattie Jacques, the barrel is not so much being scraped, as splintered.

GENERATION IDENTITY

Exaggerating the influence of far-right groups extends beyond the indigenous far right to an extensive plug for overseas import Generation Identity (hereafter GI), one of two groups focussed on by the eponymous ‘Hazel Brown’ of Holloway Road.  There is no doubt GI are an intriguing and internationally well-organised group, with organisational flair, new media savviness and photogenic appeal.  Domestically GI, who first attempted to set up shop in the UK in 2013, are currently of very little significance.  This foray was not, to my knowledge, mentioned by Hope Not Hate but was (amusingly) by their former Searchlight colleagues, on three occasions in 2013.  On the last occasion, in December 2013, Gerry Gable engaged in rare self-criticism stating that “in 2012 we picked up warnings about a new organisation…Generation Identity had certainly escaped our notice, it was only after we put together bits of information…that we realised it was a growing force”.  Gable name-checks their key ideologist Markus Willinger (whose books unlike Martin Sellner’s have been translated into English) and concludes by stating “we intend to fight back and expose and confront them” [30].  Yet of GI, Hope Not Hate’s ‘State of Hate’ feature in January 2014 [31] mentions not a word, even about Willinger speaking at the 2013 IONA conference.  The reasons for this are neither here nor there, but suffice to say being out-researched by an old goat like Gable is embarrassing, to put it mildly.  As for GI themselves, their only tangible action was a one-off You-Tube video in late 2013, a racist Jeremiad narrated by someone who appears to have overdosed on Mogadon [32].

Things changed when GI launched their international ‘Defend Europe’ campaign in May 2017, crowd-funding a boat crewed by GI activists and sympathisers to travel to Libya and disrupt the refugee flow to Italy.  This alerted the international media, and Hope Not Hate, who got on the case, it being a fantastic opportunity for both virtue-signalling and fund-raising[33].  This is a paradox of the internet: the initiative would not have gained support (or captured the collective far right imagination) without international ‘crowd-funding’, but that very publicity meant arousing opponents too, and moves to block funding and scupper the whole enterprise, which eventually succeeded.

Coverage of ‘Defend Europe’, both supportive and otherwise, had a clear effect in the UK, leading to an attempt to revive GI here.   You would be forgiven for thinking ‘Hazel’ scored a goal, by infiltrating a recent GI meeting, but all is not what it seems.  Indeed, it can be argued her shot on goal was not a result of her own work, but an invitation (assist) to move into GI’s orbit facilitated by the garrulous Jordan Diamond, Liverpool UKIP member.  That GI are a joke security-wise is shown by her ‘rigorous vetting process’ consisting of a 30-minute video call from a Norwegian bloke called Tore who seemed captivated by his own voice.  Proper vetting procedure this certainly wasn’t.  If this is the calibre of people ‘Defending Europe’ things are even worse than they seem.

Anyway, Hazel also attended a Traditional Britain Group conference where GI poster-boy Martin Sellner spoke, and a subsequent informal GI meeting, at which (unfortunately for the show) Sellner is recorded saying that while the Jews were a real problem in the 1920’s, now the problem is Islam.  How inconvenient: he should have said that Jews are the problem today, so he could be labelled neo-Nazi, but he didn’t.  He certainly came out with sentiments about Pakis and the ‘Great Replacement’ most would see as racist, but nothing neo-Nazi.  I suspect this was why Hazel fled and didn’t return in the afternoon, not fear about being unmasked as the (un-named) Julia Ebner (on whom more elsewhere) had been at another GI meeting the previous day.  The hurried exit, complete with sinister music, was most likely a cheap theatrical device staged to give viewers an air of danger where none existed.  Even before the show was screened, Sellner himself was dismissive, arguing that “since we have a clear theory and strategy that is the same on the inside and outside we are immune to those sort of infiltrators” and that GI “clearly reject anti-Semitism racism and nationalism” [34].

As it happens, had the programme-makers any knowledge of the British far right, they would have recognised a parallel between GI’s ethno-cultural racism and the (failed) Race Campaign of the old political soldier National Front between 1987-89, which sought to move away from notions of racial superiority and instead emphasise (as does GI) the notion of difference.  A campaign famous (or infamous?) for the NF claim about Louis Farrakhan ‘He Speaks For His People, We Speak for Ours’ [35].  Highly unlikely in the first case, untrue in the second.  Indeed, there is an intellectual case to be made (from an international not domestic perspective) for seriously analysing and deconstructing GI’s ideas.  In particular, they rage against the spirit of 1968, when revolts by students and others (especially in France during the May events) led to the birth of the modern ‘New Left’ [36].  Yet GI’s street political methods: subverting theatrical performances, decorating statues, infiltrating opposing demonstrations and appearing to echo their demands to the point of absurdity [37] profoundly echo the spirit of 1968, and its fringes such as Situationism, by practising what is in effect detournement [38].  The pivotal question therefore, to open a Pandora’s Box, is why has the far left declined in intellectual and political vitality to such an extent that the enemy has been able to appropriate its armoury this way.  But covering these topics would be hallmarks of a serious programme, light years away from this shallow documentary, so apologies for the digression.

Anyway, returning to GI UK, they were launched in October 2017 by a handful of supporters from these Isles plus Sellner and his partner the wonderfully-named Brittany Pettibone [39].  To the extent GI have any significance, or UK audience, it will have been immeasurably enhanced by this film.  Was that the purpose?  Probably not, as neither Lowles or Collins are clever enough to dream of such a thing.  In any event, for GI (as with the NF and Britain First) the programme failed to properly answer its own questions about their strength and prospects with proper evidence. Indeed, we can go further, the initial statement by Lowles that the far right is increasingly younger and involving more women was not, based on these groups, borne out: and no, filming virtually the entire microscopic UK GI membership undercover in a pub isn’t credible evidence.  Lest I be misinterpreted, given the fractured nature of the far right it was perfectly appropriate to look at the National Front and Britain First as two larger fragments.  I object not to that, but the misleading impression given that these groups (and Generation Identity) have more support than a handful of acolytes.  The dishonesty involved here makes me think looking at the far right was not the documentary’s real purpose, but such groups were a pretext for the real motives behind the show.  An impression not dispelled by the ‘military style’ camps both covered and not covered.

DEFICIENCY (2)--TALK ABOUT MILITARY-STYLE CAMPS: BUT NOT THE RELEVANT ONES!

Connoisseurs of this sensationalist programme type know the script demands talk of military camps, organising for ‘race war’ and such like.  Such tropes are especially in vogue currently due to media/state reports about far-right terrorism mentioned below.  First, some historical perspective.  Back in the 1970s, via Special Branch informants Peter Marriner (not Germany but Whitehall calling!) and Dave Roberts, HNH’s direct predecessor Searchlight had a hand in organising them [40].  If you can’t organise camps, a fall-back is inventing them, as Searchlight did for the Channel 4 1988 Dispatches programme on the National Front, ‘Disciples of Chaos’. That can be risky: the land-owner where the camp was supposedly held successfully sued Channel 4 for £30,000 and they were forced to admit “there was no truth whatever in the allegation” [41].  Ouch!  Another variation (expensive too) is using agent provocateurs to lure fascists into attending camps you have set up, such as when the Cook Report tried (unsuccessfully) to get Nick Griffin to a paramilitary camp in France for their 1997 documentary [42].

Coming bang up to date, what did we learn about ‘military-style camps’ in the UK from the show?  Nothing! This could hardly be otherwise, as the only group referred to having them was GI, which formally got off the ground in October 2017, a month before the screening.  We were shown (a couple of times) footage from GI’s own web-site of group calisthenics, a mass running race, mass press-ups and individuals energetically practising kick-boxing in a gym.  The narrator intoned “as their footage shows Generation Identity organise what looks like military style training for members”.  Not in the UK, but France.  One intrepid British drinker was recorded saying “we would train for two hours in the morning.  At the end of the week we had like a mock demonstration, really realistic because they had like pepper-spray and everything”.  Certainly not magnifique, nor even la petit guerre!  As ‘military-style’ training laughable: no weapons, no night drills, and barely any physical activity.  Let’s also get a sense of perspective here: kick-boxing training, with far more bite, goes on the length and breadth of the country in hundreds of classes every night! 

Happily, (if that’s the word) advances in modern technology including microscopic hidden cameras and recording equipment mean those infiltrating such camps now have a far greater prospect of proving their existence: and there is also the fact those organising such and recruiting for them often post online.  Which again (as with GI’s ‘Defend Europe’ initiative) means opponents can pick up on such too. For those who care to look, there have indeed been several low-level but undoubtedly serious ‘military-style’ camps organised by the British far right in recent years, not in France but the UK.

THE SIGGURD LEGION

The first Siggurd Legion camp took place in the Brecon Beacons (Wales) August 2014, organised by Craig Fraser, keep-fit fanatic and author of ‘The Centurion Method’, a mix of esoteric far right philosophy and strenuous exercises, including structured violence.  This book (no longer available in hard copy to my knowledge) co-written by Fraser and his wife Lucy is no mere keep-fit manual.  It argues “we should be training like desperate soldiers gripped in an eternal war with an enemy that neither knows us or hates us, but wants to control, demoralise and eventually exterminate us nevertheless” [43]—so no slacking at the back then, methinks.  In 2013, speaking to fitness site ‘Health Gauge’ about his Centurion Method Fraser described one aspect as being “the English Gangster Method which is very simply the Silent Killing System devised by WE Fairbairn and used by the British armed forces in World War 2” [44].  That system was indeed about killing, in various ungentlemanly ways [45]

Just before the first camp Fraser posted on-line the abbreviated version of his credo, including the inimitable phrase “fuck your plan for growth we want knives and guns” [46].  Also in 2014 he gave a talk in Oxford, later put on-line [47], explaining his philosophy, indicating he comes from far-right field.  Fraser denounced ‘race-mixing’ and said the role of Siggurd (named after a mythical Norse warrior also the inspiration for Wagner’s Siegfried in the Ring Cycle) was to “give British man his identity back”.  Usefully, Fraser described four stages in the mythic process Siggurd was to replicate: an individual discovering his ancient heritage, and proceeding to find vengeance and seek out justice, but losing his first battle and becoming an outcast.  Second, while in the woods/wilderness facing himself and undergoing a religious (non-Christian) conversion.  Third, returning to his original community as a hero, striking fear into the enemy.  Finally, leading a band of brothers to destroy that enemy.  Fraser mentions he had come across members of the neo-Nazi National Action (not banned at that point), still at stage one, having been victimised and outcast. 

Some may think this philosophical stuff absurd.  I don’t, as it addresses the search for meaning in modern life, and indicates the camps purpose cannot be reduced to the physical, or military.  As with the jihadist model, effective camps have three aspects: the physical/military, the spiritual and political indoctrination.  Indeed, looking at the ‘Health Gauge’ interview cited earlier, such camps may appeal to some with no prior political affiliation.  The itinerary of this camp has been published on-line, and it included street fighting, grappling, archery and “knife fighting defence and attack” [48].  He was assisted by Russian Dennis Nikitin of the White Rex group, and Matt Tait formerly of the BNP.

Given the philosophy behind this camp, you might expect media interest, and it ensued.  First up a Daily Star story complete with group photo (showing 27 attendees with masks).  They reported both that “National Action has sent all of its members to the camps” (how do they know?) and that “anti-terror police are monitoring the Sigurd Legion mob amid fears they are using the camps to prepare for a wave of anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic attacks” [49].  Less than two weeks later, one journalist involved, Colin Cortbus, co-wrote another article using footage from the August 2014 camp, and photos of Craig Fraser brandishing a machete and his wife Lucy a rifle.  This clearly spooked (pun intended) Fraser who claimed to have disbanded the group “after a crisis of conscience”, declaring “I’m not a racist anymore. I’ve joined the Army…I can’t have all this stuff come out now because it might ruin things for me”, and, hilariously: “Yes, I’ve got a machete, but I’m not a violent person” [50].  By his own yardstick, Fraser was now stuck at stage one of his mythic process.  Whether that really happened, or he was engaging in ‘heavenly deception’, is another matter.

Whatever Fraser’s own individual journey (or retreat in the military sense), you’d think the documentary would mention these camps?  Not so, even though in late December 2014 Nick Lowles was clearly aware of the Siggurd Legion as he commented in the just-mentioned newspaper article, but it took until their review of the year in January 2016 before any mention of the camps in passing [51]

WHAT’S IN A NAME? FROM SIGGURD TO LEGION

Since then, Siggurd Legion camps have rebranded as Legion camps, using the web-site legionmac.org, ultimate ownership untraceable, masked by a registration service in Phoenix Arizona.  Though it is reasonable to surmise those involved include Matt Tait (aka Max Legion) and Larry Nunn (aka Max Musson).  At the 2015 American Renaissance Conference, Matt Tait confirmed his involvement along with two others in running the show [52]--the third might conceivably still be Craig Fraser but is possibly Jimmy Hay, who owns a gym in Lancashire.  Legion held two camps in both 2015 and 2016, though only one in March 2017, all the same format as previously. 

This last camp, despite only 15 attending, triggered a major media response from ITV News ‘Security Editor’ Rohit Kachroo, along with his producer Becky Kelly.  Yet again, somebody infiltrated the camp and filmed undercover [53], focussing on remarks by former National Action (NA) member, Garron Helm, and alleged sympathiser, ‘James Mac’.  Helm, who has already served time for sending 2,500 anti-Semitic tweets in three days to MP Luciana Berger in 2014 stated about the murder of Jo Cox MP, “it’s not our fault she was killed, she did have it coming…if you’re committing an act of treason against, you know, your own ethnic group then by right you should be put to death”. James Mac was shown at an NA demonstration in Newcastle 21/3/15, and the programme claimed “four of the 15 people who attended the three-day camp have links with National Action”.  Mac himself subsequently denied ever having been an NA member, and claimed he attended that demonstration to help the organisers out [54].  To paraphrase the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies he would say that, wouldn’t he?  The other two were not named.  

The questions posed by this camp are: first, what does the phrase ‘linked with’ actually mean?  Not really answered. Second, did attendance by (for the sake of argument) even four former NA members at this camp mean NA as such was/is still going, after it was formally banned in December 2016?  ITV argued it did, by implication, Matthew Collins of HNH quoted as saying NA have not ceased to exist and “are still incredibly active”, appearing (as you might expect) to contradict himself when stating “whether they use the name National Action or not, we believe their activities could encourage others to engage in terrorist acts”.  The contradiction is you can encourage others to do things even if the parent organisation is no more: a famous instance being Savitri Devi (and indeed John Gaster) wandering around post-1945 Germany distributing pro-Nazi leaflets. 

HNH were more forthcoming than ITN about their own role in the programme.  Infiltrator ‘Vlad’ was described as a “disaffected former far right activist who had agreed to pass information to HNH”, indeed the “object of the operation was to catch NA and its secret backers together in defiance of the government’s proscription” [55].  If so, and considering the fact this annual [not actually LOH] “event is where NA had previously made dramatic, show-stopping entrances” [56], they did not do so in 2017.  So HNH/ITV had to fall back on the general association between Legion camp and the NA instead.

I am not saying NA haven’t re-grouped, merely that this footage and these camps do not prove this, or show NA and Legion/Siggurd are identical.  In that respect, Larry Nunn’s response to the ITV report ‘Legion MAC Events—A Rebuttal’ is strictly correct [57].  He is disingenuous in a broader sense though: many NA members/former NA members will have been attracted to these camps precisely because of the militaristic confrontational activity integral to them.  While it may be true that “several leading members of National Action intensely disliked Western Spring” (Nunn’s web-site/outfit) patently not all did. There is also the claim that until 2016 Larry Nunn financed NA to some extent [58].  That there is an overlapping ideological pool has also been shown by Scottish NA, who in November 2016 held a camp featuring the Siggurd Legion logo [59].  Given nobody running the camps/organising them such as Fraser, Nunn or Tait has been charged raises an interesting conundrum: HNH have alleged in print that NA has “held a series of ‘camps’ where ideology is discussed and violence/self-defence is taught” [60], where and when were these camps held, and who organised them?  If not Ian Anderson, maybe Hans Christian Andersen?  I hope they don’t mean the June 2016 Britain First camp in Wales, when ‘self-defence’ classes were conducted with the tiny numbers present using wooden rulers as weapons [61].

On the broader question of NA re-groupment under false ‘flags of convenience’ a joint Scottish Daily Record/The Ferret web-site investigation in June 2017 tantalisingly indicated that may be so.  Scottish Dawn member Ruaidhri McKim told an undercover reporter “NA were a good organisation and the stuff we (Scottish Dawn) do is very similar.  Basically, there are some members of the group who were in National Action.  It’s kind of hard to talk about it because they’re a proscribed terrorist organisation” [62].  I’ll say it’s hard: a 10-year sentence for membership hard! Clearly the Home Office thinks Scottish Dawn the NA under another name: to quote from the current list of proscribed organisations updated 28/9/17 “the Government laid an Order in September 2017 which provides that ‘Scottish Dawn’ and ‘NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action)’ should be treated as alternative names for the organisation which is already proscribed as National Action”.  So now you know, and without pre-judging pending court cases, Helm is one of seven people currently awaiting trial charged with NA membership. Two NA members, de facto leader Christopher Lythgoe plus one other (not Helm) are facing trial on a charge of plotting to murder Labour MP Rosie Cooper [63].

The programme omitting the Siggurd/Legion camps was not simply due to sub judice laws: to my knowledge nobody organising camps has been charged with anything, including NA membership.  NA themselves were not absent from the screen: footage of them marching was shown twice, and both Richard Walton (ex-Scotland Yard Counter-terrorism Command) and Matthew Collins opined about NA, even aside from the speech by Peter Rushton at the Heritage & Destiny meeting (see below).  The bottom line is this: irrelevant French camps were shown, relevant British ones (which have even featured on national ITV News) were not.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why they made a big thing of Generation Identity camps, but made no mention of Siggurd/Legion camps (see Appendix). 

They did not reply.

 DEFICIENCY (3)--DERAILING BREXIT: BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY

Having disposed of the notion this was a serious programme about the organised far right, the question arises, what was it about?  One answer was Brexit, or more strictly opposing it.  That would explain both concentration on UKIP and the prominence given to claims Brexit fits a racist agenda.  A substantial assertion, but once you see where Hope Not Hate are coming from, this makes perfect sense.  While the programme-makers patently wouldn't see this as a deficiency, more of an 'angle', I certainly would.  After all, the airwaves are awash with anti-Brexit propaganda: there clearly was (and is) space for the occasional programme examining the Far Right: but this was not it, and by masquerading as such deprived viewers of the chance to see such a programme.

HOPE NOT HATE AND BREXIT: THE FACTS

Elsewhere on this site, ‘The EU Referendum and After: Hope Not Hate’s More in Common Campaign’ article outlines overt and covert HNH support for the Remain side in the 2016 Referendum. Check it out to be apprised of Lowles’ track-record as a pro-EU propagandist, the heavily-biased ‘Face the Facts’ initiative, and the involvement of three other HNH Trustees in pro-EU propaganda outfit ‘Best For Our Future Limited [64].  That article is also worth checking out, I suggest, because it outlines how irrelevant organised fascists were in the anti-EU campaign.

HNH’s public stance was “Hope Not Hate does not take a position on the forthcoming referendum on EU membership” [65].  An untruth worthy of Jesuits.  Analysing ‘Best For Our Future’ (BFF) expenditure on the Electoral Commission web-site, no less than six HNH personnel/associates received money from BFF, dates in brackets are when money was received.  Erstwhile graphic artist Andy Vine got £2,000 (13/6/16), Nick Ryan £1,500 (14/6/16), Owen Jones (no, not that one!) £1,299.19 (27/6/16), Elisabeth Pop £1,257 (27/6/16), Paul Mezaros of Bradford £3,000 (28/6/16).  Lowles received £5,860.56 (13/6/16), £826.55 (22/6/16) and £8,500 (12/7/16).  Furthermore, he got £2,176.76 (22/6/16) and £4,009.23 (23/6/16) for advertising.  Lowles was also a BFF ‘bag man’: for instance (despite not being a Trustee) receiving on their behalf an invoice from Creative Nerds Ltd (111 Charterhouse Street London EC1) totalling £118,000 dated 15/6/16.  The main BFF donor also puts the lie to any claim HNH are progressive: Lord Sainsbury, until recently main funder of the hard-right Blairite Labour Party faction Progress (and which key HNH personnel support), gave £419,000. 

Clear as day follows night therefore, HNH were not ‘neutral’ in the Referendum campaign.  Hardly a surprise that the day after the vote Lowles issued two rather plaintive emails.  The first at 7am rather implausibly argued “there is a real danger that the bitterly-fought contest could leave a lasting legacy of division in our country.  We cannot allow this to happen” [66].  By 4pm, having no doubt discussed it with others in the metropolitan bubble, his attitude hardened and the mask of neutrality slipped.  Now “many of you are angry about the Referendum vote.  Many are scared about what this vote says about the country we live in”.   All it actually says, technically, is that 52% of people voted to leave the EU, nothing else.  The racist interpretation of this result isn’t borne out by detailed polling [67], but that doesn’t deter HNH.  That HNH were/are clearly engaged in an anti-Brexit project is borne out by these sentiments--“we need to get organised in every town and city around the country.  We also need to engage with the communities that voted heavily for Brexit, because we write them off at our peril” [68].  Quite clearly, the ‘we’ to get organised are not those who voted for Brexit, who are the ‘other’ to be engaged with.  What the top-down ‘More In Common’ campaign was all about.

Extensive and intensive HNH involvement at all levels in the EU Referendum provides essential context for this programme.  Apparently casual asides regarding Brexit take on a new light considering the politics of those involved.   Lowles’ remark fascists have “been emboldened by Brexit” isn’t fact but propaganda, as too the narrator intoning “as levels of hate crime increase in the wake of Brexit and multiple terror attacks”.  I have already disposed (in the article on this site referred to earlier [69]) of initial ‘fake news’ reports about hate crime following Brexit.

TARGET UKIP: THE ANNE-MARIE WATERS SHOW

Anne-Marie Waters was a UKIP leadership contender in the 2017 election precipitated by Paul Nuttall’s resignation in June.  A former Labour Party member, concern about Islam earlier led her to form Shariawatch, and launch (unsuccessfully) an English version of the anti-Islamic German Pegida movement, in association with Tommy Robinson, formerly of the English Defence League. 

In Waters concern about Islam, she cares little about who she associates with, and did not distance herself from people on the far right.  She must have been aware, for example, of GI attendance at the October Traditional Britain Group conference.  At the very least, such insouciance shows her lacking political judgement, hardly good for a potential leader.  She also seems rather isolated, her circle prone to infiltration, as the programme illustrated. 

Waters evokes determined opposition even within UKIP: partly due to her views on Islam, but that isn’t the whole story.  Early leadership favourite Peter Whittle, for example, was himself associated with the ‘integration agenda’ focussing on Islam in the 2017 manifesto but did not face such hostility.  The fact is, while no Nazi, her lack of political differentiation from fascists means Waters was/is politically susceptible to criticism such as the Nazi epithet eventual winner Henry Bolton hurled in her direction [70].  The third reason Waters got a hostile reception was one the programme should have covered if  serious about looking at the role of women in politics—animosity because she was a woman.  There is a precedent: while clearly acceptable to most members, Diane James MEP resigned as Leader-elect after only three weeks in 2016 because she did not “have sufficient authority, nor the full support of MEP colleagues and party officers to implement the changes I believe are necessary and upon which I based my campaign” [71].  It would be wrong to reduce the resignation of James to sexism within UKIP, because she won after having barely canvassed during the contest and was also shaken by being spat at and verbally abused a couple of weeks after her victory at Waterloo station [72].  Nonetheless it’s a hypothesis worth mentioning, as in Waters’ case, but this was not a serious investigative production, so the subject was not broached.

The programme makers hope, evidently, was that Waters would become UKIP leader (she failed with 21% of the votes, coming second to Henry Bolton by 8%) at which point the documentary would have ‘exposed’ her secret agenda, they hoped, further accentuating UKIP’s current downward spiral.  A spiral important not because of UKIP themselves, but the bigger issue of sabotaging Brexit, which, to anticipate myself, was one key motive for the documentary.  In that sense, portrayals of Waters (and UKIP) were means to an end—hence the cursory nature of the coverage, not even hinting at sexism as an issue. 

The documentary had two lines of attack, one partly successful, another a dismal failure.  Partial success was showing Waters has far right connections.  One was to Jack Buckby, former BNP and Liberty GB activist.  There is no doubt, as shown, that Buckby was not only Campaign Manager for Waters, including designing her web-site, but chose to conceal the fact because he at least knew this would not look good politically for her, and it didn’t.  In that respect, the programme had a valid point, which I freely acknowledge.  However, I note Buckby’s claim to have told ‘Hazel’ he had been criticised in the BNP for being a Jewish ‘shill’ and is thus no neo-Nazi, with several non-white friends, who Hazel met, equally concerned about Islam.  In his exchange of letters with Henshaw, these claims by Buckby about scenes we have to presume Hazel filmed, but the final version did not feature, were not answered by Henshaw.  Leading me to believe Buckby had a point, especially when you recall what CPS lawyer Bethan David said about the unscreened ‘Undercover Mosque’ footage [73]

Another element of that partial success was the use of Jordan Diamond, UK co-leader of Generation Identity, UKIP member since June 2017.  He is repeatedly described as an “activist who appears to be a close friend of Anne-Marie Waters”, and introduced Hazel to GI.  An interesting scene in the documentary shows him asking Hazel in a pub 23/9/17 whether she would be happy if whites didn’t exist, while Waters is further up the table and not necessarily listening: though in a side-angle camera shot, thereby ‘implicated’ in his utterances.  Frankly, Diamond, with a finger in every far-right pie, has all the hallmarks of an infiltrator.  One background shot is shown of him attending what looks like a Justice for Marine A (Alexander Blackman) march (two were held in October 2015 and October 2016).  Footage not on his own You-Tube channel, strange to say…

Diamond attended the Pegida demonstration in Rotherham back on 4/6/16 (and up-loaded Tommy Robinson’s speech to his You-Tube channel).  In June 2017, according to HNH, he attended a Britain First rally (probably Birmingham 24/6/17) where he was pictured alongside co-leaders Paul Golding and Jaya Fransen.  In the same month, they claim he joined UKIP [74]. What looks like a screen shot from her deleted account shows ‘Hazel Brown’ joined UKIP in June too, on the 23rd [75].  In her email exchange with Henshaw prior to the broadcast, Waters denied close association with Diamond, however the sheer number of political occasions Diamond attended involving Waters between July and October 2017 (seven), and him inviting Hazel to the 15/10/17 launch of Waters’ new party ‘For Britain’ makes this claim ridiculous [76]

Had Jordan Diamond not joined UKIP and insinuated himself into Waters’ inner circle, there would have not even been a superficial excuse to feature GI in the programme.  Diamond doing this, and then involving Hazel, was the glue that held together the flimsy story-line.  As Henshaw put it in his email to Waters “the programme will report that through her interactions with you, Hazel met Mr Diamond who then recruited her to join Generation Identity” [77].  The Guardian plug for the programme was even stronger: “the documentary establishes a link between Generation Identity and Waters…a UKIP member, Jordan Diamond, who regularly attended Waters’ events, is also a member of Generation Identity” [78].  The chronology is interesting here: the first reported instance of Diamond attending anything organised by Waters in UKIP was 1/7/17, by which time he could only have been a UKIP member for 30 days at most, indeed on the basis HNH have the month right, probably only three weeks because it was 11/6/17 that she announced her leadership candidature (in Manchester) and he allegedly joined to support her.  It does not seem credible therefore to see him as a pre-existing close associate of Waters given he joined UKIP only shortly before Hazel.  Maybe Diamond is just an infectiously enthusiastic follower of far-right groups: however, in this business if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a mole…   

Waters allowing Buckby, Diamond and for that matter Hazel to get close points to political naivety, gullibility and isolation.  Isolation underlined by her being barred from standing as a UKIP candidate in the 2017 General Election.  Only one UKIP MEP supported her leadership campaign--Stuart Agnew--and perhaps only because Waters offered him the Deputy Leadership should she win.  Denying after the fact Hazel was “close to me” as Waters did [79], is foolish: Hazel driving Waters to hear the leadership election result at UKIP Conference is close in anybody’s book.  Showing Waters’ far right connections was no end in itself: the deeper message is that ordinary people with concerns about Islam are thereby far right, and by extension only the far right have such concerns: this from the people who brought us ‘Undercover Mosque’!  There is a parallel (and paradoxical) discourse, whereby establishment stooges like HNH can criticise aspects of Islam—but under the rubric of ‘anti-extremism’, a concept as bogus as it is officially popular [80].

Showing Waters has connections to people beyond the political pale as the programme did wasn’t new, but had some currency, as we have seen.  However, the second Hardcash line of attack barely hit home at all, presentation of Waters ‘extreme’ views about Islam.  It didn’t hit the target because Waters says little in private different from in public, other than using expletives, hardly significant.  A point eloquently proven when the programme showed a public speech by Waters in Manchester 11/6/17, with Tommy Robinson alongside, where she said “Islam is a killing machine” and Muslims “want to kill us, to enslave us, they want to subjugate us”.  Speaking of Robinson, the programme preposterously tried to make something of Waters saying in a car (28/9) that she was open to him joining UKIP: they could have used footage of her on BBC 2’s Newsnight 4/9/17 saying exactly the same thing!

She was also shown (in private) saying “I can’t bear the idea of girls being treated like shit, the way they are in Muslim countries”—surely a sentiment many reasonable people would agree with?  After all, ‘Undercover Mosque’ revealed more shocking things being said, such as “by the age of ten, it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab, and if she doesn’t wear hijab we hit her” or that homosexuals should be thrown “off the mountain”.  Not my sentiments, or those of Waters, but from the very programme Hardcash is so proud of.  Not double-standards but treble!

While I don’t agree with Waters’ de facto conflation between Islam and political Islamism, there is some linkage, but that is not the same as equivalence, a vital point.  However, I fear my nuanced interpretation is not widely shared.  Many who viewed the programme (or didn’t) don’t really make that distinction.  Some will, frankly, have been heartened by Waters saying in private what she says in public, and in that respect, it could be argued the show did Waters no real harm.  For example, horror is expressed at Waters saying in private “we have to stop all Muslim immigration now”. Yet a recent Chatham House survey of 10,000 people from 10 European States (conducted before President Trump made Muslim immigration a global political issue by issuing his executive order banning citizens from some Muslim states) found that “55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed” [81].  Should Hardcash want to door-step the evil racists behind this report, or HNH want to send out yet another begging email disguised as a petition to get them sacked, organising it shouldn’t be too difficult: lead author Matthew Goodwin co-wrote a 2012 HNH publication ‘From Voting to Violence’, to which Lowles contributed the foreword…

Confidence HNH understand public attitudes towards Islam is hardly increased when Lowles is shown on screen quoting from their own flawed ‘Fear & Hope’ research as though it explains anything other than the inadequacy of HNH research capabilities.  Having already critiqued the methodological inadequacies of its predecessor, which their latest study does not transcend, there is no need for repetition [82].

While I wouldn’t agree with Tommy Robinson’s Tweet the day after transmission that “last night showed the British public what a class act @ AMD Waters is”, there is a grain of truth in Waters’ parting shot to Henshaw that “I can only finish by thanking you both for the publicity and for confirming to the public that the only ammunition you can fire at me, despite months of deception on your part, is to ‘expose’ what I continually and repeatedly state in public” [83].  Not the whole story of course: as stated above the show revealed unsavoury associations and foolish naivety marking Waters as not cut out for leadership.  The speed with which she left UKIP showed she had no stomach for an internal party struggle, and suffice to say was not missed by the leadership, interim Chairman Paul Oakden stating the day after the programme “Ms Waters is no longer a member of our party, having discovered that her extreme views have no place in UKIP” [84].  Not strictly true, because for Waters to come second when virtually all the party hierarchy and MEPs, plus Nigel Farage, opposed her shows a significant bedrock of support, albeit within a shrinking party, even if up to 1,000 of her supporters may have joined in two weeks during June in order to vote for Waters [85].  Though we should not overestimate that support either—had it been extensive she would surely have been inside the conference networking, not hanging about outside with a bunch of racists and infiltrators.  In that respect the programme played a slightly clever trick, showing one delegate punching the air with delight when her vote percentage was announced.  Though he may have been a supporter, inasmuch as results were read out in reverse order he could equally have been celebrating the fact Waters hadn’t won, because the final name to be announced was the winner.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash whether Jordan Diamond was directly (or indirectly via Hope Not Hate) in the pay of the programme.  I also asked why they presented Anne Marie Waters private views as though different from public ones, when there is little or no difference (see Appendix). 

They did not reply to either question.

It might seem paradoxical, that a documentary ostensibly devoted to damaging a political group may end up helping it, but there are precedents: one Lowles himself played a key part in, when working for Searchlight.  This was the BBC ‘Secret Agent’ programme, transmitted 15/7/04, which showed extensive footage of then BNP Leader Nick Griffin denouncing the grooming of white children for sex by some Asian men in Keighley, Yorkshire before it was politically fashionable to do so (apart from redoubtable Labour MP Anne Cryer).  This whole episode was extensively analysed in a previous Notes From the Borderland, suffice to say that after it was shown Griffin abandoned his decision to stand as a 2005 General Election candidate in Sheffield but switched to Keighley instead, so little damaged was he by the coverage.  As I commented at the time “the BBC’s grasp of the BNP’s nature and support is so poor that Nick Griffin is not standing in Keighley at the General Election despite Secret Agent, but in large part because of it” [86].  True, the BNP came a poor fourth in Keighley with 9.2% of the votes—but that Griffin stood there in the first place was directly attributable to the programme, not something Lowles has ever had the honesty to admit [87]

A PROGRAMME TOO FAR: PETER RUSHTON OVERREACHES HIMSELF

References to Brexit by programme makers are one thing: fascist utterances were needed for them to hit home.  Here the sound-bite from Peter Rushton, Assistant Editor of Heritage & Destiny at the Preston John Tyndall Memorial meeting 6/10/17 was crucial.  The programme-makers liked it so much the quote was used both near the beginning and towards the end.  Using the quote twice shows its importance, the second time he was bringing the programme’s core point to a crescendo.  Rushton stated the current situation called to mind that “Brexit was the ultimate expression of the will of fellow Britons to enforce what was the most famous BNP slogan: Brexit was about Rights for Whites”, cue applause and Lowles immediately remarking fascists have “been emboldened by Brexit”.  A propaganda point not lost on Mike Hartman, of HNH satellite Tyne & Wear Anti-Fascist Association, who tweeted immediately afterwards on the night “Brexit was about ‘Rights for Whites’: Peter Rushton, long-time Nazi”.  In his response to Hardcash before the programme was screened, Rushton parroted the line HNH and other Remainers would be delighted with— “there can be little doubt that concerns over immigration were the main motivation for many (arguably most) pro-Brexit voters” [88].  I disagree.

Here’s the rub: the programme did not even name Rushton, the most recent HNH web-site mention of him is over two and a half years old [89].  He recently appeared in Hope Not Hate magazine, but in terms that downplayed his importance, reportedly (at a closed conference in September 2016) giving a “rambling analysis of Jewish big business interests and his own growing detachment not just from the British far right but from reality in general” [90].  A conference not alluded to by Searchlight, indicating he may have been attending on somebody else’s behalf.  The documentary even incorrectly describes him as Chair of the meeting: yet that supreme accolade fell to Steptoe impersonator Keith Axon. Not naming Rushton caught the attention of Unite Against Fascism (UAF), who commented in a passable critique of the programme next day “we heard the voice of…ex BNP organiser, Peter Rushton, talking of ‘Rights for Whites’, but sadly, no analysis of the role Rushton looks to play conjoining various, far right splinter groups” [91].

The reason for that missing analysis bemoaned by the UAF, and what the programme did not say, is that Rushton is a long-term Searchlight/state mole, and as the former’s star is waning, it is entirely plausible he has hooked up with HNH too.  In 2002 the Nick Griffin-led BNP expelled him because of cumulative evidence: which the late John Tyndall ignored, as I commented at the time, with sagacity unrivalled since Emperor Caligula chose his horse as a Consul.  Well, actually, rather less.  To quote (for the first time anywhere) a contemporary (22/10/02) intelligence report by one of Rushton's handlers:

"has been at the centre of an ongoing war between various factions within and outside of the BNP.  He appears to have Tyndall on side and has set up a NWBNP site to put the case of his supporters.  He has also on my advice gone down the Data Protection path to ask to see what they hold on him......He has some heavy people behind him.  It could run and run". 

It certainly has 'run and run', but maybe has now finally run its course.  My concerns, from an anti-fascist perspective, date back to 1994 (when he first tried to get me beaten up!) [92].  Following the expulsion NFB conducted our own investigation into Rushton’s career, published in Notes From the Borderland [93].  Luckily for Rushton, our magazine is not obligatory reading in neo-Nazi counter-intelligence circles, including new kids on the block National Action.  Rather than embarrass Rushton further I merely say this: is it not time, honestly, that Captain slung his Hook?

Rushton didn’t necessarily concoct his sound-bite to misrepresent Brexit as intrinsically racist in conjunction with the programme-makers.  I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, however, with both Lowles and Collins aware of his status as a long-term plant.  And what a busy little bee Rushton is.  One key platform is his position of Assistant Editor (to Mark Cotterill) of Heritage & Destiny magazine.  With other publications such as Spearhead and Identity having long fallen by the wayside, it is unique as a meeting point and bi-monthly journal of far-right record.  Nowhere else, realistically, would veteran (former NF Chairman/BNP MEP) Andrew Brons’ recent cry of anguish about the (poor) state of the far right have commanded a larger audience.  Indeed, as a corrective to ridiculously talking-up fascist prospects in this programme, ponder Brons’ opening words, worth highlighting:

British Nationalism has never previously been as fragmented.  There is no credible, electable, Nationalist political party.  The majority of paid-up and/or active British Nationalists have disappeared from the scene and most are not even in contact with other nationalists[94].

Rushton himself writes a column every issue (Movement News) that admirably summarises fascist (and UKIP) performance in elections plus reports of marches and such like.  He uses his status to travel across Europe and beyond, enthusiastically supporting Holocaust deniers like the late Ernst Zundel [95].  On 19/8/17 Rushton addressed a thousand neo-Nazis at Spandau calling for release of documents concerning the death of Rudolf Hess [96], and has appeared both on (Iranian) Press TV and Russia Today.  It takes no imagination at all to surmise that reports from these overseas trips, including especially encounters with Far Right opinion-formers, make their way to MI6 and the likes of the Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz (BFV=Germany Domestic Security Service).

Knowing where Rushton is coming from makes his columns fascinating.  He loses no opportunity to twist the knife in Nick Griffin’s back, and dislikes Tommy Robinson (who has consistently rebuffed attempts by the state to recruit him) too, commenting in 2015 about Robinson’s claim “we have to save our culture”, that “in this context ‘our culture’ presumably means mortgage fraud and cocaine abuse: given Robinson’s record it certainly has nothing to do with racial integrity or British heritage” [97]

Rushton has always covered National Action sympathetically.  For example, he said in 2015 regarding their deliberately confrontational approach “those who argue that they would be better off leafletting for a political party ignore one obvious fact: there is little or no mainstream nationalist electoral activity taking place, so which party are these young nationalists supposed to join?” [98].  Following the December 2016 ban, Rushton displayed undoubted erudition in a two-page article putting the ban in historic perspective, commending their strategy (“not all that dissimilar to the so-called ‘alt-right’”) and feeding their sense of victimhood [99].  Hinting some in NA’s periphery at least value Rushton as a respected movement ‘elder statesman’, consider this elliptical aside regarding the alleged plot to kill Rosie Cooper MP some NA activists have been charged with--“this murder plot sounds very far-fetched and H&D is aware of a very different story, which we cannot yet publish for legal reasons” [100].  Intriguing.  As is footage broadcast showing Rushton attending an NA march before the ban, and at the meeting stating “these young men in National Action are not terrorist”, to say they are “makes a mockery of the English language”. 

NA, beleaguered on all sides, might be forgiven for thinking him a wise head to turn to, based like many of them in the North West. Immediately before those quotes, the narrator spoke about meetings where “support is declared for far-right terrorists by people who believe their time has come”.  The thought crossed my mind, knowing where Rushton is coming from, that this clip was shown to facilitate such an outcome.  Just a thought: and no need for Henshaw to know anything about it were that the case.  Indeed, no need for Rushton to necessarily know either, as he anticipated the speech (like all others) would be broadcast on You-Tube anyway, where NA members could pick it up.  If anyone from the NA is so stupid as to allow Rushton anywhere near their defence case, that will exponentially increase their chances of being found guilty.  In which eventuality they would end up getting the maximum sentences possible.  The folly of (neo-Nazi) youth eh? His response after the programme that he did not express support for ‘terrorism’ because the term is applied too broadly is fair enough [101].  However, as I have argued, he is not commenting on 'terrorism' as a disinterested party, but an asset.

In case you think it fanciful a TV programme might be scripted to further a secret state agenda, consider this admission by Lowles in September 2017: “as Hope Not Hate goes to press, the police have announced that six alleged members of National Action have been charged with a variety of offences, including two with a plot to kill a Labour MP.  The information that led to the arrests and subsequent charging of these men originated from Hope Not Hate” [102].  Some may not be bothered by this: anybody concerned about a free media and non-state-compromised anti-fascism should be.  Returned to below.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash (see Appendix) whether

--they were aware Peter Rushton is a long-term infiltrator into the far right, for Searchlight/Hope Not Hate

--Rushton was in the pay of the programme, whether directly or via Hope Not Hate

--Rushton’s comments about National Action and/or Brexit were sound-bites designed by Hope Not Hate and/or Hardcash in collusion with Rushton

--why, given Rushton’s prominent role, they did not name him.

They did not reply to any of these questions.

DEFICIENCY (4)--CRYING FOUL ABOUT THE INTERNET

As with the anti-Brexit agenda, the programme-makers might not see this as a deficiency.  I demur: there is a battle going on for the soul of the internet and this show comes down very much on the censors side.  Indeed, the anti-Brexit agenda and desire to curb the internet are today inextricably linked, one scary thing about the current situation is that those liberal/Left circles who historically you might expect to be wary of censorship are so annoyed by the plebs voting for Brexit most are actually cheer-leading for 'controls' on the internet and in the process exhibiting a degree of Russophobia not seen since the Cold War: from the Hard Right.  Our political class (and secret state) are terrified by the way traditional information monopolies have been undermined by the world-wide web.  What is sneeringly referred to as ‘populism’, whether of Left or Right, is code for opinions not sufficiently controlled from above.  As such, the Brexit referendum, where a majority of the British people effectively told most of the political class to ‘do one’ was a seismic shock. The establishment have not given up but are planning to refight the EU Referendum and/or annul it (by using parliamentary/media Quislings).  In terms of undermining Brexit, this is where this type of programme comes in.  The methodology is simple:

  • Show racists coming out with racist views (hardly difficult).
  • Point out how they have used the internet to organise (even if like the National Front they barely do).  Here we see the significance of focussing on GI: little actual UK support but an undoubtedly sophisticated internet presence. 
  • Then, having disgusted your audience sufficiently with a pre-prepared script, soften viewers up so they support more controls on the internet to ban ‘nasty’ views (rather than engage with or even refute them of course).

This propaganda offensive is far larger than this programme of course: conspiracy theories peddled by the Guardian/Observer about Brexit (Carole Cadwalladr) and by most media outlets about Russian interference in the democratic process via the internet all make up the bigger picture. Russia does fight the ‘information war’ using the internet, and seeks to influence protagonists on all parts of the spectrum by building personal and professional relationships—but so do US and UK intelligence, something the likes of Cadwalladr conveniently forget.  It just goes to show how cynical, and shallow, was the pretence by the Guardian they took Edward Snowden's revelations seriously.  In all this debate concentrating on Russia (and China), what Snowden uncovered about US/UK state surveillance and dirty tricks seems to have been swept aside, dumped in the memory hole.  Ironically, seeking to reduce the outcome of elections/referenda to sinister manipulation by one side is crass conspiracism that previously (when things were going their way), most mainstream media outlets would have ridiculed.  That an agency or interest group should seek to produce a certain outcome is not the same as proving they actually have.  All this for another day however.

A parallel but ultimately converging agenda to the ‘Russkies under the Mouse Mat’ claim is the pre-existing ‘anti-extremism’ discourse that like a virus has corrupted important areas of academia (e.g.  Matthew Goodwin, Paul Stocker, Matthew Feldman, Nigel Copsey and others of that ilk: most published by Routledge, interestingly enough) and energetically promoted by often competing but sinister think-tanks such as the Quilliam Foundation, Institute for Strategic Dialogue and of course Hope Not Hate.

A lot of often small bricks are needed to construct a wall (of censorship).  This programme was one: in case any viewer missed the point, it was made three times at the end.  First, narrator Caroline Catz described the far right (ludicrously based on what had gone before) as “a confident and ambitious movement with the potential to gather more far-reaching support than ever before”.  Next up was Lowles, Professor Hamster, intoning that “politicians and the government need to have a far greater understanding of social media and the far-right interaction on social media”.  Fact is, the organised far right are weaker today than at any point in the last 30 years, therefore the real concern is not the far right but the desire to control social media: which of course means the Left/Greens/anti-EU activists. 

Richard Walton (former Head of Scotland Yard’s Counter-Terrorism Command) told us the murder of Jo Cox MP “was a wakeup call as to what can happen if you allow these narratives to flourish and to grow”.  As it happens, her killer, Thomas Mair, appears to have bought bomb-making manuals and such like from the (US) National Alliance as far back as 1999 by mail-order.  Therefore, while in the days before the murder he used the internet in his local library to research information on serial killers, the Waffen SS, Ku Klux Klan and .22 ammunition, it would be wrong to attribute his developing murderous intent to the internet as such [103].  Police would have been better addressing, which they never have, who supplied him with the Weihrauch .22 bolt-action rifle stolen nearly a year before the murder in August 2015 from a car in Keighley.  Somehow, I don’t think he bought it on Ebay. As the Economist piece quoted earlier shows, claims about far-right influence on the internet are vastly exaggerated, but the likes of Walton/HNH as you will have already gathered don’t deal in facts.

Walton is a disturbing choice to appear on this programme, but it shows HNH/Henshaw’s true colours.   He took early retirement in January 2016 to avoid an Independent Police Complaints Commission Inquiry into his role concerning police spies who infiltrated the campaign for justice following the murder of Black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993 [104].  It is most concerning therefore, that Walton is shown arguing the internet has “turbo-charged far right and far left extremism”.  I highlight the far-left aspect in case anybody (such as naïve crowd-funders of Hope Not Hate) missed it.  Given the collapse/implosion of most far left groups today, and the way Momentum has hoovered up so many Left activists, it is obvious that he must be including Corbyn supporters in this.  I must ask, what legitimate reason has a former Head of Counter-Terrorism Command got for targeting Leftists, given any association between the UK Left and activity remotely resembling ‘terrorism’ is non-existent?  HNH’s concern is clear: we have previously [105] outlined how the bulk of their leadership clique are associated with the Labour Right, specifically the Progress faction, and as such anti-Corbyn.  Henshaw’s motives? For him to explain.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash whether they were comfortable about using Richard Walton given he resigned from the police in disgrace because of his role in spying on the Stephen Lawrence campaign (see Appendix). 

They did not reply.

The final comment, unfortunately for coherence (and overall narrative) came from Collins who spoke of a “small group of lunatics”—a description not applicable to GI for instance, and in any event this use of mental health terminology is inaccurate, inappropriate, and intellectually shallow—which I suppose sums Collins up.

Interesting too that what presented itself as a legitimate investigative programme should go to such lengths to delete all the infiltrators historic Twitter posts: Hazel Brown @Ldngirl_south, Mary McShane @MissBrit_Lady and Sarah @yorks_babex (also using the screen name Mary M).  It is one thing to not keep an account active (because of abuse) another to delete all historic posts.  Something to hide? I rather think so.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why they deleted all the historic Twitter posts of these three agents (see Appendix).

They did not reply.

CONCLUSION

Having laid into the programme somewhat, they at least got something right. Before transmission emails were sent to all featured, outlining what was seen as the evidence against them.  Far preferable to the normal tactic: door-stepping people at inopportune times.  In that respect, they differ from others, though only drew critical attention to one practitioner: Tommy Robinson.  As part of his Troll-watch series he confronted a Guardian journalist at home, as unacceptable to me as ITV journalist Rohit Kachroo door-stepping Garron Helm at home in March 2017.  Difference is the former is criticised, the latter not.

Sadly, qualified praise for one aspect of the programme does not make it adequate, in particular it didn’t even attempt to prove the early proposition that “the new far-right has an unexpected profile.  Its supporters are getting younger, with women involved from the grass roots to the very top”.  Concerning this claim about women, not true for the National Front: only Julie Lake was featured, nor Britain First: Jaya Fransen was mentioned but that’s it.  As for National Action, no women mentioned, not even Bryony Burton.  Coming to Generation Identity, however photogenically alluring Brittany Pettibone (and for that matter Laura Southern) undoubtedly are, they are not female British activists, and none were shown.  At the Traditional Britain Group Conference, approximately 20 out of 135 attendees were women, and many not exactly young.

No credible evidence was given regarding women and the British far-right, and the far-right’s strength and significance exaggerated, with heterogenous groups lumped together when they have fundamental differences.  Further, no mention of a potential far right recruiting pool that dwarfs all these small groups: the Football Lads Alliance, which held a very well attended march (estimates between 10,000-30,000) against ‘extremism’ and terror attacks in London 7/10/17, at which both Tommy Robinson and Anne Marie Waters turned up, as (apparently) Frank Portinari, English UDA commander and sometime gun-runner did to an earlier march in June [106].  It would be wrong to see this march as far right in itself, but it was certainly worth a mention.

Weaknesses in coverage of the far right indicates the programme’s purpose was not as stated but something else.  That ‘something else’ had two parts: resisting Brexit and building a case for restrictions on social media. A slight paradox is much was made of undercover filming (accompanied by sinister music and quirky camera angles) at meetings where speeches were shortly after put on-line anyway, as with both the Traditional Britain Group and Heritage & Destiny.  As stated earlier, I don’t disagree in principle with undercover filming, which captured some idiotic racist comments and showed certain attendees at meetings (e.g. the eternally shifty ex-BNP Youth leader and cartoon racist Mark Collett replete with ill-fitting suit) conventional open filming wouldn’t have revealed.   Yet the sub-text to this documentary is these groups should be banned from putting speeches on-line: which would give such mostly irrelevant ‘under-hand’ filming a validity it doesn’t entirely have, on this showing.  I say mostly irrelevant because if undercover filming, supposedly over a year, had revealed more, we would have been shown the results.

Prior to publishing this article I asked Hardcash why, given the programme was billed as being about Women and the Far Right it was so poor regarding not just the far right, but the role of women within it (see Appendix).

They did not reply.

All this raises a thought-provoking question about the relative contributions of Henshaw and producer Joanna Potts on the one hand, and Lowles/Collins on the other.  Were the production company complicit in the HNH-inspired agenda, or willing dupes?  Difficult question, though you might think people as experienced as Hardcash should know better.  In another respect, though, standards of investigative journalism are so low probably not.  I am not positing, note, a conspiracy theory as to how the programme came about.  It is entirely possible that Henshaw's original intention was (as the funding proposal to Coutts stated) a programme about 'Women and the Far Right'.  It is plausible too that as the bigger operation he should have turned to HNH and not Searchlight for 'research assistance'.  At this point, HNH may well have said (or suggested) keep the idea of having three acknowledged female infiltrators, but why not focus on social media and the internet instead?  At which point their anti-Brexit/pro-censorship agenda would then have predominated.  Not that I think Hardcash would have put up much resistance to this hijack: after all, as Henshaw's programme/book smearing the ALF and Class War shows, he's certainly one for tuning in to the Zeitgeist.  Whatever HNH had to say, there is also the need to please commissioning editors.  Piranhas Hardcash undoubtedly are, but their hand-to-mouth finances show they are swimming in a pool of media sharks.  They have to turn in shows that are 'sexy' and resonate with those handing out commissions: and Brexit plus internet censorship certainly fit the bill.

The previous paragraph is speculative, certainly.  What isn't is the astonishing fact that the show did not mention actual British ‘military-style’ camps.  There is one explanation, potentially hinted at by Lowles, recently speaking of the arrests of alleged NA members— “while we cannot say anything more at this time, given that we will be providing evidence to the trial, the full story will come out in due course” [107].  Being charitable, the programme might have been so bad, and implausible, because properly covering what it should have might have compromised a forthcoming trial.  As stated, given nobody organising the camps has been charged with anything, this hardly adds up.  However, Henshaw and Potts might not know that, or maybe do but don’t care. 

Speaking of the far right’s potential for organised violence, and (leaving aside the 1999 London bombings by David Copeland NFB has covered extensively elsewhere [108]) it is likely that (as did neo-fascist Anders Breivik who killed 77 people in Norway 22/7/11) sooner or later someone else will get through and do something similar in the UK.  Sad but true.  However, this should not blind us to the fact that the terrorist potential of far-right groups is currently far less than that of Islamists.  Looking at recent Home Office statistics for arrests, between 9/11/01 and 2017 79% of arrests have been for ‘International Terrorism’, i.e. ‘Islamist’ terrorism/plots, the other three categories being Northern Ireland, Domestic and Unclassified [109].  In a narrower time-frame, the year ending 31/3/17, ‘International Terrorism’ accounted for 75% of arrests and ‘Domestic Terrorism’ 16% [110].  Dry these statistics may be, they are essential background to understand what is certainly a media/state ploy to exaggerate the threat from ‘fascist terrorists’/potential ‘terrorists’ in the UK, which might go a long way to explaining why a minuscule group like National Action, who have not, as yet, murdered anybody, receive such extensive media coverage, and whose members/alleged members risk heavy sentences in forthcoming trials if found guilty.  For analysis of overall spook strategy currently, look elsewhere [111].

The trick is this: to look not so much at the numbers of specific plots/attacks (the overwhelming majority Islamist) but referrals to preventative programmes such as the Home Office’s Channel.  Thus, in February 2017 David Anderson QC revealed that a quarter of referrals are now ‘far right’ sympathisers.  He stated “extreme Right-wing ideology can be just as murderous as its Islamist equivalent” [112].  Now, he is certainly correct that they can be: but the real question is whether the far-right currently actually are.  My view, and that of NFB colleagues, is that rumours of fascist bomb plots in general are just that.  To put it all in historic perspective, read this article by my colleague Dave Hughes on this web-site written 7 years ago [113].  To reiterate, sooner rather than later a UK fascist is going to commit mass murder: yet in very recent times some Islamist militants actually have.  An unfortunate fact, but a fact nonetheless.  One the programme itself can hardly argue with, for the opening scenes showing the aftermath of the Manchester bombing 22/5/17 were not chronicling a fascist attack, were they?

Another statistical gambit is covering arrests for domestic terrorism separately from those for ‘international terrorism’.  Take, for example, this Daily Telegraph piece headlined ‘Far right and neo-Nazi terror arrests double’.   Not forgetting the caveat most people arrested are released without charge (or found innocent), it is striking nonetheless that the first three sentences read:

Terror arrests of suspected Right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis more than doubled last year amid fears of a growing threat of political violence from far-Right groups, new Home Office figures show.  A total of 35 people were arrested on suspicion of ‘domestic’ terrorism in 2016, which security sources said was dominated by threats from the far-Right.  The arrests followed only 15 for domestic terrorism the previous year and come after a warning from the Government’s terrorism watchdog that far-Right extremists now account for one-in-four of those reported to counter-radicalisation schemes[114]

While the article goes on to mention arrests for ‘International Terrorism’ these are described as “falling slightly”.  Now, it is of some interest far-right referrals have increased, but that should not blind us to the bigger picture.  An imbalanced impression of relative threat is conveyed not in accordance with the facts, but consonant with a media strategy aimed at much as the Muslim community as anywhere else, intended to present the state as being even-handed in such matters.  Suspicion there is statistical massage going on is not dispelled by the most recently released statistics, which mention that in the year ended 30/9/17 the largest increase in arrests was for those of White ethnic appearance, up by 77% from the previous year (81 to 143) [115].  The earlier report’s detailed breakdown of arrests by offence category is not in the report’s main body this time, despite being promised.  Burrowing into the statistical annexe you find that ‘Domestic Terrorism’ arrests numbered 73 out of 400 (18.25%), still dwarfed by ‘International Terrorism’ 292 out of 400 (73%) [116].  On that basis, while a superficial impression might be that Whites are arrested for (unspecified) Far right sympathising offences, the actual figure of 73 indicates just over half were arrested for non-domestic terrorism offences.  This would include White converts to Islamism, Kurdish and others fighting Islamic State, animal liberation activists and so forth.  There is also an interesting anomaly, or potential anomaly, concerning offence classification.  Whereas all paramilitary related arrests to do with Northern Ireland are classed as Northern Ireland related, we cannot be sure this applies to offences elsewhere.  Thus, Darren Osborne, who drove a van at worshippers outside Finsbury Park mosque in June 2017 was later charged with ‘terrorism-related murder’ [117].  Given he has no known far right connections, how is this offence categorised?  Given that it was apparently a response to ‘International Terrorism’ (Islamism) will it be put in that category, analogous to Northern Ireland precedent?  Or will it be classed as ‘Domestic’, or indeed far right (because he is White?).  Who knows?

Perhaps the most useful statistic putting things in perspective for the time being is that of 213 persons in custody for ‘terrorism’ offences 30/9/17, 88% held “Islamist extremist views”, 8% “far right-wing ideologies” and 5% beliefs related to other ideologies [118].  Statistics only tell you so much, but although indicating a murderous far right potential, also tell us this should not be exaggerated.

Returning to the documentary, a precise term describes the debasement of proper research this sort of thing constitutes, which I coined after the BBC Secret Agent programme Lowles was involved in.  The term is SPIJ: standing for State-compromised Pseudo-Investigative Journalism. A concept adequately defined elsewhere on this site, I suggest interested parties start there.  One sentence in the summary fits this documentary like a glove: “At times, and without any ethical discussion, so-called investigative documentaries function as secret state information outlets, enmeshed in spook agendas while retaining a crucial, and misleading, semblance of independence” [119].

All this matters because if journalism is reduced to serving the interests of one or other secret state faction or acting as police agents then freedom of the press becomes a hollow memory.  Resulting in programmes as poor as this one.

Another reason I am concerned about the activities of HNH, and Searchlight before them, is that so many of their infiltrators: Dave Roberts, Ray Hill, Tim Hepple, Matthew Collins etc. turn out to be agents provocateurs and/or thugs delighting in attacking anti-fascists.  While those involved in NA are mostly (though not all) deluded thugs, this does not mean some may not have been set up.  If so, any infiltrators working for HNH will be in the parlance ‘prime suspects’.  For this reason, I will watch the trials of alleged NA members, and HNH evidence, closely.  Fact is, infiltrators run by HNH and Searchlight can do things on behalf of the state free from proper scrutiny and regulatory control, which is why they are so useful.  Consider therefore the begging email below, sent by Lowles to HNH supporters 31/10/16:

“Research is at the heart of HOPE not hate’s work. We monitor and expose the activities of extremists at home and abroad, we provide vital intelligence and analysis to our campaign teams…Running almost 20 people inside extremist groups is now costing us £2,500 a month in expenses…Our research team is busier than ever before. We monitor thousands of extremists, photograph every demonstration and meeting and trawl through social media looking for trends and connections”

This email raises questions, as does the documentary, that need answering:

  1. What action do HNH take to ensure these people do not act as agents provocateurs?
  2. The term used here is extremist, not far right. Does that mean HNH have informants in Islamist groups like Al-Muhajiroun or Hizb ut Tahrir? And in far-left groups? 
  3. If HNH do not have informants in Islamist groups, when they clearly publish about them, why does their Modus Operandi differ here, to that concerning the far-right?
  4. Do they run informants in UKIP, which is a legal political party opposed to violence?
  5. Did they run informants in any organisations during the EU referendum, a referendum where they claimed to be neutral?
  6. Peter Rushton was an informant for Searchlight. Does he now work for HNH? If so, was he working for HNH when he tried to link the Brexit vote to ‘Rights for Whites’?

I do not expect HNH to answer these questions, but they are certainly relevant.  In the meantime, I invite readers, researchers and journalists to put these questions to HNH at every opportunity.

As for Hardcash, I will almost give them the last word.  They tweeted just after the show “the far right seems confused that we investigate both political and religious fascism: it’s called journalism”.  Well, coming from the far left not the far right, I am not confused but amused that Hardcash think this programme worthy of the term journalism. 

Nonetheless, nobody is beyond redemption.  Following the Mexican stand-off in their libel action against Nigel Farage, and basking in the establishment/uncritical media support and massive funding (including from George Soros) they enjoy, HNH are getting more cocky, and aggressive, by the minute.  We have remarked before HNH’s preferred method of resolving political disputes is issuing legal threats [120] and now they have serious money behind them no doubt will try more of the same.  The bullying tone of Nick Lowles after the case is an implied threat to all critics: “Hope not Hate is putting purveyors of fake news on notice: no more.  There needs to be a line in the sand for those who blithely, and without fear or concern for the consequences, throw out falsity” and so on [121].  That Lowles, neither here nor elsewhere, has had the honesty to admit HNH (or rather the mugs crowd-funding the action) had to pay their own costs is as expected.  However, overweening pride and arrogance such as the ever-expanding HNH now display always comes before a fall.  So, a suggestion for Henshaw/Potts, especially if (unlikely as that is) they only now realise what a load of cold dog-poop this documentary served up to viewers.  Why not (as with Undercover Mosque: The Return) a follow-up programme to Charities Behaving Badly, indeed specifically one spook-connected charity behaving badly, Hope Not Hate.  Call me psychic if you want, but somehow (despite ample subject material), we won’t see this on our screens anytime soon, and even if we do, Coutts won’t be financing it…

APPENDIX: EMAIL SENT TO HARDCASH

BY EMAIL

7/12/2017

Exposure: Undercover inside Britain’s Far Right Transmitted 9/11/17

Dear Mr Henshaw

I am an independent investigative researcher specialising in the Far Right and critiques of investigative journalism, in print and on-line at www.borderland.co.uk

I am writing to inform you that I am planning to write about the above programme.

In the interests of fairness I am writing to give you the opportunity to respond to criticisms I intend to make and issues I intend to raise.  These are enumerated in questions below.

I ask that you provide a written statement by 5pm 14/12/2017 so that your response can be included.  I will edit any such statement to ensure that your comments are fairly and accurately reflected.

 

  1. Why did your programme exaggerate the strength and influence of Britain First?
  2. Did you not know Britain First were deregistered as a political party a week before the programme (2/11/17), or did you know and decide not to mention it?
  3. Why did you cover (and make a big thing of) Generation Identity camps, but make no mention of the Siggurd/Legion camps organised on British soil?
  4. Was Jordan Diamond in the pay of your programme, whether directly or indirectly via Hope Not Hate?
  5. Why did you try and present the private views of Anne Marie Waters as though they were different from her public ones, when on virtually all matters such as Tommy Robinson, Islam, and Muslim immigration there is little or no difference?
  6. Are you aware that Peter Rushton is a long-term infiltrator into the far right, using the name Captain/Captain Hook, working for Searchlight and now Hope Not Hate?
  7. Was Rushton in the pay of your programme, whether directly or indirectly via Hope Not Hate?
  8. Following on from Question 7, were his comments about National Action and/or Brexit being about ‘Rights For Whites’ sound-bites designed by Hope Not Hate and/or Hardcash in collusion with Rushton?
  9. Why, given the prominent role accorded to Rushton, did you not name him?
  10. While I understand your three female agents do not deserve abuse, why have you deleted all their historic Twitter posts?  What have you to hide?
  11. Given Richard Walton had to resign from the police in disgrace because of his role in spying on the Steven Lawrence campaign, are you comfortable about using him on the show, especially given he referred to ‘far left extremists’?
  12. Given the programme was billed as being about Women and the Far Right, why was it so poor regarding not just the far right, but the role of women within it?

 

I look forward to hearing from you

 

Dr Larry O’Hara

Editor,  Notes From the Borderland

 

FOOTNOTES

 

[1] For full analysis (and documentation) concerning the split see Notes From the Borderland issue 10 2012 p.34-80, and the various extracts on this web-site for an outline.  For reference, if you visit the shop on this site, all NFB back issues are available either as hard copy (most) or PDF (all). 

[2] Notes From the Borderland magazine issue 10 p.47, see also NFB 11 p.9-10 for further detail

[3] Hope Not Hate magazine 30 January-February 2017 p.11.  This list is ludicrous for among other things putting their own informant Jim Dowson at number 1!

[4] ‘Animal Warfare’ Fontana 1989 p.91

[5] Ibid. p.190

[6] For references see my ‘Searchlight for Beginners’ available from this site

[7] See full transcript ‘The Israeli Lobby in Britain’ Peter Oborne and James Jones opendemocracy.net 13/11/09

[8] For example, see the article by Martin Bright (who else!) in the Jewish Chronicle 19/11/09, Community Security Trust statement ‘Dispatches; Where is the evidence?’ 23/11/09, and Henshaw’s defence in the Guardian ‘An insidious argument for censorship’ 23/11/09

[9] See reproduction of Ofcom ruling on Opendemocracy.net 23/3/10

[10] See Notes From the Borderland issue 11 2016 ‘Hope Not Hate versus Searchlight Civil War: the Fall Out Continues’ Heidi Svenson and Dr Paul Stott p.9

[11] http://www.cps.gov.uk/news/pressreleases/archive/2007/153_07.html, on the programme see Wikipedia entry on ‘Undercover Mosque’—ignore the asinine commentary, but there is a good list of sources.

[12] ‘How Did George Galloway Squeeze the Producer of Undercover Mosque?’ Press TV 9/9/08

[13] ‘Mehdi Hasan—The Undercover Mole’ hurryupharry.org 17/6/14

[14] See Charity Commission Inquiry Report into Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (UK) 2/9/16, and the HSS Press Release that same day

[15] First coined by the Order’s David Lane (with an echo of Mein Kampf) ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children’

[16] See entry for The Steadfast Trust on Charity Commission web-site, also Susannah Birkwood ‘We took too long to remove Steadfast Trust from the register, Charity Commission admits’ thirdsector.org.uk 24/2/15

[17] See Accounts for Hardcash Productions Limited Company number 02695415 submitted 27/5/15, 31/5/16 and 15/3/17

[18] Form MR01 registered 14/11/16

[19] Form MR01 dated 5/5/17

[20] Also, instruments (MR01s) registered 18/6/14 (2), 14/1/15 (2), 30/9/15 and 11/3/16

[21] Daily Telegraph 4/5/08 Richard Northedge

[22] See Sunday Mirror (Stephen Johns) 23/7/17 on Rochdale.

[23] Independent on-line 5/5/16

[24] http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/124-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[25] guardian.com 1/12/17 (Ian Cobain)

[26] Economist 17/12/16

[27] Something that can be checked via the inestimably useful wayback.org

[28] The Observer 3/12/17 (Mark Townsend)

[29] Julie Lake comment on ‘Exposing the Exposers #1’ thread on westernspring.co.uk 15/11/17

[30] Searchlight 457 December 2013 p.5, see also Searchlight 455 August 2013 ‘Identity: the new nationalist idea’ p.12-13, Searchlight 456 October 2013 p.6-10

[31] Hope Not Hate 12 January 2014 p.24-31

[32] Generation Identity UK ‘A Declaration of War from The Students of Britain’ You-Tube 27/12/13

[33] For a relatively coherent account see Chris York ‘I Met Defend Europe’ huffpost.com 6/8/17 and for a time line Joe Mulhall ‘Failed Europe Mission Comes to An End’ hopenothate.org 17/8/17, as well as Defend Europe’s own multi-lingual Twitter-feed

[34] ‘The ITV Exposure of Nothing’ Martin Sellner, You-Tube 8/11/17

[35] For a detailed analysis of which see Chapter 3 p.101-119 of my (as yet unpublished) PhD thesis ‘Creating Political Soldiers? The National Front 1986-90’ Birkbeck College London University 2001

[36] Indeed, the key Identitarian manifesto by Marcus Willinger ‘Generation Identity’ (Arktos 2013 in English) is sub-titled ‘A Declaration of War Against the ‘68ers’

[37] See for a useful descriptive summary of these actions Martin Sellner in ‘GI Presentation in London’ published by Amorpha Media on You-Tube 9/11/17

[38] See the original formulation by Guy Debord & Gil J Wolman ‘A Users Guide to Detournement’ [1956] accessible via bopsecrets.org, and Guy Debord ‘The Society of the Spectacle’ [1967], various editions (mine is Black & Red Detroit 1977).  Intriguingly, Willinger even copies the form (a numeric list of theses).  I say this not to detract from Debord, but to make a provisional observation about GI along the lines of Samuel Johnson, that however adequate their presentational skills (Sellner is certainly adequate) their work (including stunts) is both original and interesting, though what is interesting is not original and what is original is not interesting….

[39] See ‘Generation Identity Launch in UK’ You-Tube 24/10/17

[40] For references and detail see my ‘Searchlight for Beginners’ (1996)

[41] See East Anglian Daily Times 6/10/88, Searchlight April 1984 p.3 and High Court Queen’s Bench Division Statement in Open Court (Edwin Nye v Channel 4) Ref 1989 N-N0 282.  Chapter 7 of my PhD (cited above) p.171-215 considers the evidence for and against an NF turn towards ‘terrorism’ in theory and practice.

[42] See Notes From the Borderland 4 2001 p.17, Nick Griffin Press Release 11/4/97, Time Out 16/4/97

[43] Craig and Lucy Fraser ‘The Centurion Method’ Abalawutaz Books 2014 p.60

[44] ‘Centurion Method: Outdoor fitness, guerrilla style’ Craig Fraser on healthgauge.com 26/4/13

[45] ‘SOE Syllabus, Lessons in Ungentlemanly Warfare World War II’ Public Record Office 2001

[46] Extract from Craig Fraser ‘A Paean to Joy, Action & Truth’ Radical-traditionalism.tumbir.com 25/7/14

[47] See ‘Craig Fraser: 2015 Jonathan Bowden Oratory Prize Nominee’ on westernspring.co.uk 14/3/15.

[48] See the thread commenced 19/8/14 ‘UK Training Camps’ on the US-based Lumine Boreali (Northern Light) web-site.

[49] Daily Star Sunday 9/11/14 (Scott Hesketh & Colin Cortbus)

[50] Sunday Mirror 21/12/14 (Simon Wright & Colin Cortbus)

[51] Sunday Mirror 21/12/14 (Simon Wright & Colin Cortbus), Hope Not Hate 17 January-February 2015 does not mention Siggurd Legion, Hope Not Hate 23 January-February 2016 p.11-12 does.

[52] Matt Tait ‘Tragedy and Hope: Lessons from the Plight of British Nationalism’ You-Tube 13/5/15

[53] See itv.com/news/2017-03-20/exclusive-former-members-of-banned-terror-group-meet-at-far-right-training-camp

[54] ‘Response to Fake News Hatchet Job’ James Mac on You-Tube 22/3/17

[55] Hope Not Hate 31 March-April 2017 p.38, the whole article p.36-39 apparently written by Collins.

[56] Hope Not Hate 31 March-April 2017 p.38

[57] On-line 21/3/17 at westernspring.co.uk

[58] Daily Mail 9/9/17 (Richard Price)

[59] See ‘This Autumn, Neo-Nazis Held A ‘Training Camp’ in Scotland’ athousandflowers.net 20/11/16

[60] Hope Not Hate 29 November-December 2016 p,23 (no by-line)

[61] Wales on-line 15/6/16 (Philip Dewey)

[62] Scottish Daily Record 12/6/17 (Billy Briggs & Jamie Mann), also on Scottish Dawn see Mail on-line 2/4/17 (James Dunn)

[63] See Independent on-line (Lizzie Dearden) 26/10/17, Manchester Evening News (Kim Pilling) 27/10/17 and The Guardian (Jamie Grierson) 3/11/17

[64] http://www.borderland.co.uk/2-uncategorised/133-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[65] Hope Not Hate 23 Jan-Feb 2016 p.23

[66] Nick Lowles ‘Stand Together’ hopenothate.org 24/6/17 7:07am

[67] See my analysis at http://www.borderland.co.uk/2-uncategorised/133-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[68] Nick Lowles ‘Let’s use this anger!’ bopenothate.org 24/6/17 4:07pm

[69] http://www.borderland.co.uk/2-uncategorised/133-the-eu-referendum-after-hope-not-hate-s-more-in-common-campaign.html

[70] See Evening Standard 29/9/17 (Tom Powell) also Nigel Farage in the Daily Telegraph 30/9/17

[71] Quoted in The Guardian 5/10/16 (Rowena Mason/Peter Walker)

[72] Daily Express 1/10/16 (David Maddox)

[73] See Henshaw letter to Buckby 26/10/17, Buckby reply and Henshaw’s further response dated 4/11/17, all on jackbuckby.co.uk ‘My Full Response to ITV Hardcash Fake News’ 9/11/17

[74] ‘Generation Identity’ on hopenothate.org.uk put on-line 9/11/17

[75] Put on Twitter 30/10/17 by Nikolashvili@ViniKako

[76] See Henshaw letter to Waters 26/10/17 and her response 30/10/17

[77] Henshaw to Waters 26/10/17

[78] ‘UK far-right activists attend military-style camps with anti-Islam group’ The Guardian 8/11/17 (Jamie Grierson)

[79] Twitter response to Huffington Post article 10/11/17

[80] See Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.58-59/64 for an exploratory critique of HNH’s ‘anti-extremism’

[81] Matthew Goodwin, Thomas Raines & David Cutts ‘What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?’ chathamhouse.org 7/2/17

[82] Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.52-68, but especially p.52-55

[83] Waters email to Henshaw 30/10/17

[84] ‘Update from Interim Chairman Paul Oakden’ (UKIP) 10/11/17

[85] ‘Large influx of new UKIP members prompts fears of far-right takeover’ The Guardian 3/7/17 (Peter Walker)

[86] Notes From the Borderland 6 2005 p.34: the article (p.11-39) deconstructs the whole template of TV ‘investigative journalism’ and as such is still of contemporary relevance.  See also ‘The BBC Secret Agent documentary revisited’ Notes From the Borderland 7 2006 p.34-36 which retrospectively analyses (among other things) the initial ‘pitch’ for the programme which fell into our hands as these things do….

[87] See Nick Lowles ‘Hope: The story of the campaign that helped defeat the BNP’ Hope Not Hate 2014 p.70 when Griffin standing in Keighley is bizarrely attributed to success in Bradford! Mind you, the foreword to the book is by an unfunny comedian so what can you expect?

[88] ‘Why not just buy the magazine and watch the You-Tube videos?’ [no by-line but Peter Rushton] heritageanddestiny.com 8/11/17

[89] Hopenothate.org ‘Jew-Hating Jew Forced to Quit Nazi Rally’ Matthew Collins 29/5/15

[90] Matthew Collins Hope Not Hate 29 November-December 2016 p.27

[91] ‘far right and fascists looking to rebuild in the UK’ uaf.org.uk 10/11/17

[92] ‘Turning up the Heat: MI5 after the Cold War’ Phoenix 1994 p.77

[93] ‘The British National Party and the Secret State: Some observations’ Notes From the Borderland 5 2003 p.58-62

[94] Andrew Brons ‘Where Does British Nationalism Go From Here?’ Heritage & Destiny 79 July-August 2017 p.3

[95] See Rushton’s obituary of Zundel Heritage & Destiny 81 November-December 2017 p.14-15

[96] Heritage & Destiny 80 September-October 2017 p.23

[97] Heritage & Destiny 69 November-December 2015 p.23

[98] Heritage & Destiny 68 September-October 2015 p.23

[99] Peter Rushton ‘Establishment panic—Political repression intensified’ Heritage & Destiny 77 March-April 2017 p.4-5

[100] Heritage & Destiny 81 November-December 2017 p.3

[101] ‘Why not just buy the magazine and watch the You-Tube videos?’ [no by-line but Peter Rushton] heritageanddestiny.com 8/11/17

[102] Hope Not Hate 33 September-October 2017 Editorial p.3

[103] ‘The slow-burning hatred that led Thomas Mair to murder Jo Cox’ The Guardian 23/11/16 (Ian Cobain/Nazia Parveen/Matthew Taylor)

[104] Powerbase.info Richard Walton (accessed 30/11/17)

[105] Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.59-60/75

[106] See Independent on-line (Will Worley) and (London) Evening Standard, both 7/10/17, also ‘The Football Lad’s Alliance: Report From the March’ Tash Shifrin, Martin Smith and James dreamdeferred.org 8/10/17

[107] Hope Not Hate 33 September-October 2017 p.3

[108] See my colleague Heidi Svenson’s spirited exchange with Linda Bellos on this (Notes From the Borderland 11 2016 p.55) which contains full references, and for an introduction to our take on those bombings: http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/19-the-copeland-scandal-summarised-updated.html

[109] Grahame Allen & Noel Dempsey ‘Terrorism in Great Britain: The Statistics’ Briefing Paper CBP7613 6/10/17 p.12

[110] ‘The Operation of Police Powers Under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Subsequent Legislation for year ending 31/3/17’ Home Office Statistical Bulletin 8.17 June 2017 p.4

[111] See ‘Spook Update: The Secret State We’re In’ Larry O’Hara & Dave Hughes Notes From the Borderland 11 2016 p.30-36

[112] Quoted in the (London) Evening Standard 15/2/17 (Martin Bentham)

[113] http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/36-uk-fascist-bomb-plots.html

[114]  Daily Telegraph 10/3/17 (Ben Farmer)

[115] The Operation of Police Powers Under the Terrorism Act 2000 and Subsequent Legislation for year ending 30/9/17’ Home Office Statistical Bulletin 24.17 December 2017 p.13

[116] Ibid: see p.12 for the promise regarding arrests, which is not lived up to there, however Annex A.13 provides the detail on offence, Annex A.11 on ethnicity

[117] Independent on-line 23/6/17 (Katie Forster)

[118] Ibid, p.16

[119] http://www.borderland.co.uk/component/k2/item/49-spij-defined-deconstructed.html

[120] Notes From the Borderland 10 2012 p.73 gives some details

[121] Nick Lowles ‘My charity’s libel action against Nigel Farage marks a defeat for fake news’ theguardian.com 16/11/17.

 

 

 

 

REVIEW OF RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI 'WE LOVE DEATH AS YOU LOVE LIFE: BRITAIN'S SUBURBAN JIHADISTS' HURST & CO 2015 £15.99


 

 

 

APPROACH WITH CAUTION: REVIEW OF RAFFAELLO PANTUCCI ‘WE LOVE DEATH AS YOU LOVE LIFE: BRITAIN’S SUBURBAN TERRORISTS’   HURST 2015  £15.99

(extract from Notes From the Borderland issue 11 pages 19-29)

 

Pantucci's book is a dense book full of facts, names, dates, dealing with a complex phenomenon.  This perhaps explains why to date there have been few reviews that we have noticed.  If your attention span is short, don't bother reading the book, or this review, until you have extended it.  For those of you still with us, reading both is worthwhile.  We welcome critical comments, and offer the author himself the right to reply.  If you like the review, visit our shop and buy the magazine: the more people that do, the more often we can come out!   Enjoy!

Jihadism is an enduring phenomenon of our times, and this important book covers many recent key moments, actors, and plots.  It should not, however, be taken at face value, even less treated as a sole reference source.  Read this detailed review/critique to find out exactly why that is the case.

UPDATE AS OF 4/3/17: the below review of Pantucci's book by myself on Amazon, along with the detailed content below, is hopefully self-explanatory. Pantucci struts about the media feted as an impartial 'expert', but cannot/will not answer the serious charges laid against him below.  You can reach your own conclusions as to why this is.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Death-You-Life-Terrorists/dp/1849041652/ref=la_B005HXHAYY_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488672000&sr=1-1#customerReviews

 Larry O’Hara

INTRODUCTION

While not the comprehensive reference book for British Jihadism it might appear to be at first sight, and Pantucci believes it is, nonetheless this attempt to “stitch the whole narrative together….trying to tell the whole story”1 is worth reading by anyone interested in the subject matter: which should include all perusing this magazine for a start! Some serious questions are raised herein about Pantucci’s research, and academic integrity.  He is welcome to exercise a right to reply should he so wish.

REVIEW STRUCTURE

This review falls into four sections.  First, I look at what is useful and interesting.  Next, I outline problems with the book, both factually and in interpreting the jihadist phenomenon.  Third, I flag up things not in the book but should be.  Before concluding I (fourthly) attempt some explanation based on what is known about Pantucci and the body he works for, the quintessentially establishment Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).  This last point is important due to ongoing blurring of the lines between genuinely independent academic research on the one hand, and tailored bespoke research which might appear academic but isn’t on the other.  All references in brackets are to the book itself: footnotes cover other sources.  To dispel any ambiguity: I am no parlour liberal, and do not deny his claim that “most of the most dangerous and ambiguous recent terrorist acts and plots in the UK are perpetrated by people professing an Islamist outlook” (p.4).  While there are certainly fascist bomb-plotters out there, they pale into insignificance in number and seriousness besides Islamist plots, even though, by the law of averages, one is again bound to get through to fruition sooner rather than later.  A word on terminology: like others in this field, Pantucci uses the term radicalisation to refer to individuals becoming Islamist Jihadists, and terrorism as a description of what they (seek to) get up to.  Neither terms am I comfortable with, nor the absurd oxymoron (which he does not affect thankfully) ‘Critical Terrorism Studies’ either.  Such deconstructive arguments are for another day...

(1) THE BOOK’S GOOD POINTS

Pantucci  has amazing sources: both human (if mostly anonymous) in the shape of police and security officials, and court transcripts, which as those outside the charmed circle who have tried to obtain such will know, are ruinously expensive or just not available.  The sheer number of transcripts, and the book’s general tenor, leads me to believe he got these from the prosecution (in its broadest sense) rather than defence. One familiar name graces the acknowledgements: Nigel Inkster, of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Inkster (a former Director of Intelligence and Operations) was, it is widely believed, Richard Dearlove’s chosen successor as MI6 chief, elbowed out of the way by Blair lickspittle John Scarlett, infamous both for being complicit in the ‘dodgy dossier’ justifying war with Iraq, and knowing rather a lot about the suspicious death of WMD expert Dr David Kelly. I have no objection to Pantucci cultivating spook/ police sources: though the narrow spectrum limits the book’s depth if not range.  Accessing sources is one thing: using them well another.  Pantucci commendably crams much detail into the book.  He passably outlines 2004 Operation Crevice (p.160-77), the 7/7/05 (p.185-99), 21/7/05 bomb plots (p.207-14), 2006 Operation Overt (p.214-23), 2007 Doctor’s plot (p.232-8) and so on: the index at the back is functional and informative.  Allied to this he has interesting (if at times scathing) sketches of key individuals: Abu Hamza (p.110-15), Omar Bakri Mohammed (p.88-98), Abu Qatada (p.131-4), Abdullah El Faisal (p.134-40) and Dhiren Barrot (p.176-83) for example.  Some sketches are more value than others, but it is hard to disagree when he says of Hamza his “gift seems to have been an ability to reach out to troubled young men of any background, to provide them with leadership and guidance supplemented with real world support in the form of a roof over their heads and a role to play in his part of the global struggle to establish a Caliphate” (p.130).  At times the relentless detail can overwhelm: it reads like (and probably came from) many merged condensed police/intelligence reports emphasising links between Jihadists in general and specific plot personnel in particular.

Pantucci does not confine himself to reportage, worthy though that would have been.  He also (following his King’s College supervisor Peter Neumann) attempts to explain Jihadism by positing three important ‘drivers’ of such, ideology grievance and mobilisation.  How they “coalesce is dictated by random events and how they respond to a given situation, factors that are all difficult to forecast, much as a fruit machine, with three wheels spinning in tandem and occasionally lining up, is hard to predict” (p.7-8).  This fruit machine analogy he attributes, intriguingly, to Nigel Inkster,  Driver one, ideology, “in many ways the most important of the three drivers…[is] the philosophy that enables individuals to become involved in extremist Islamist terrorism, a supremacist Takfirist ideology that seeks to impose a global Caliphate” (p.8-9).  In the section on ideology, Pantucci includes something that while perhaps true is not really ideological: “the notion of becoming an international terrorist, a figure imbued with a sense of cool” (p.11).  This is more of a personal driver, reflecting the selfie-centredness of our times.  Where the IRA issued terse communiques signed by the eponymous P O’Neill, today’s bombers compose personal rambling narcissistic2 monologues designed for post-mortem dissemination on You-Tube.  

Next comes grievance, “a sense of not being able effectively to participate in society may indeed play a role in some cases; according to conclusions reached by MI5, the loose terms ‘blocked mobility’ apparently features as a running theme through the biographies of Britons who get involved in terrorist activity” (p.13).  Slightly undermining this, Pantucci stresses that “care must be taken not to over-interpret grievance to suggest that social deprivation is necessarily at the root of terrorism” citing Leon Trotsky as an authority (p.13).  Inasmuch as Trotsky (and his epigone Pantucci) are talking about one ‘root’, social deprivation, correct, but there are many roots, and this may be one.  Another ‘grievance’ is foreign policy: in some cases pre-dating 9/11 and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan (p.291). 

The third driver is mobilisation; which “enables this blend of ideology and grievance to mutate into action” (p.13).   In common parlance the word mobilisation is not just used militarily, but also politically, by various movements for change (or against it) therefore using the word here is troubling, especially as Pantucci cites the example of Omar Saeed Sheikh (who later went on to murder American journalist Daniel Pearl) engaging in relief support work for Bosnian Muslims as his first step: mobilisation (p.13).  This presages a constant in Pantucci: elision of essential distinctions between non-violent and violent political action.  Had Pantucci wanted to make the distinction, he could have (but did not) used an alternative word like ‘activation’ or ‘implementation’. 

These drivers (terminology apart) may be necessary but are not sufficient: as Dr Paul Stott has pointed out, such characteristics apply to many organised sub-cultures, for instance football hooligans.  Even more relevantly, the (international) Ploughshares movement of anti-nuclear activists are deeply committed (usually Christian), risk arrest or serious injury, and mobilise together as a group.  Thereby fulfilling Pantucci/ Neumann’s three ‘drivers’—and showing the limits of such in explaining ‘terrorism’. 

Pantucci well apprehends some key factors in ‘radicalisation’, such as the alienation of youth from imported Mullahs who barely speak English (p.64) and the concomitant development in the early 2000s of ‘alternative spaces’ in the form of Islamic bookshops as instanced by Moazzam Begg for example in Birmingham (p.72) and that in Beeston. 

It is hard to disagree with Pantucci’s insightful periodisation of four stages thus far in the development of British Islamism:

1) Large networks stirred up to go abroad and fight/train

2) Large networks redirected by Al Qaeda back to the UK to take action

3) Shadow networks developed in response to security service activity to replace the broader more public ones.

4) More recently the internet allowing recruits to experience a common narrative drawing them towards violence (p.290)

Regarding the internet, Pantucci is surely right (even if merely the messenger) when recounting that “by the mid-2000s the British security services began to note the increasing importance of the internet as a vehicle to supplant and even displace extremist forums in mosques, bookshops and community centres that until now had been the loci of radicalisation in the UK” (p.251).  After the book, he seemed to say something different, that “while the internet does play an accelerant role…I don’t think it plays a universal role, and I think most cases, when you look at it, that individuals who appear to be radicalised [by the internet alone] actually did have some contact with radical individuals.  There is usually some level of connection that you find”3.  I could be splitting hairs here—both statements are not necessarily inconsistent.  In any event, spooks ‘noting’ the internet’s role is not the same as negating it.  To be fair Pantucci does not deny this, concluding that while the security services understand the networks much better “there is still very little understanding of how to counter and de-radicalise” (p.292).  It might be, as with some other minority currents, political failure and old age could produce such an effect, individually at least.

Pantucci realistically argues the threat has “mutated into a variety of forms in different parts of the globe” (p.230), and even more strongly that (with reference to Syria) “the crest of the first wave of British jihadism may have been broken, but undercurrents of a new storm are building” (p.293).  Poetic license perhaps, but beats naïve triumphalism, and this was before the November 2015 Paris, March 2016 Brussels and Bastille Day 2016 Nice attacks showed the storm has truly arrived.

Finally, Pantucci is onto something when stating “jihadist ideas within the UK are becoming the default anti-establishment movement for an increasingly diverse community of individuals” (p.292).  That this might be so is not just an indictment of the Last Century Left in general, but the failure of specific currents (like the Socialist Workers Party for instance) to confront homophobia and misogyny within Islamism or indeed Islam itself.  A big issue, but worth noting nonetheless—the absence of a credible total vision forcibly argued for by the Left makes it difficult to counter Islamism’s allure

If the above was all there is to be said about Pantucci, we could end now, with qualified praise for a detailed and fascinating book.  That is the line taken in Prospect magazine by Sameer Rahim, whose brief review says “the writing is a touch dry but the detail fascinating”4.  Owen Bennett-Jones in the London Review of Books, has more to say about himself, and fingers the UK Deobandi community.  Of the book itself, rather less, his principal criticism being Pantucci underestimates the importance of “the underlying factor that helps explain radicalisation: identity”5.  On the contrary, Pantucci is attempting to explain the process by which jihadists assume/acquire their identity, it being one of many competing in the fragmented identity market-place that is modern life.  As Bennett-Jones is a veteran BBC journalist, it is no surprise that such complexities would elude him.

(2) PROBLEMS WITH THE BOOK

(A) POINTLESS SNOBBERY

Pantucci is quick to deny the importance of racism: which “cannot be the sole cause; quite aside from the involvement of white converts, it is also possible to find anecdotal evidence of individuals who do not appear to have faced a constant onslaught of racism in their upbringing” (p.52).  This caricatures how racism can operate: it need not be a ‘constant onslaught’ or have been primarily faced in one’s ‘upbringing’.  It is also setting up a straw man argument in that on the contrary racism can be seen as one cause, but not necessarily the sole cause.  This lack of comprehension means Pantucci does not consider possible racism in two cases others might think constitutes such.   Speaking of those (many from Crawley) arrested in Operation Crevice (the 2004 fertiliser bomb plot), he writes “all of them can be easily characterised as well-assimilated individuals born to immigrant families…at the time of arrest, none of them was advancing far in his career” (p.166).  About the 7/7/05 (London) bomb plotters Pantucci notes that “many public accounts suggest that all the members of this cell suffered from a basic social immobility due to their roots in Beeston” (p.188).  It is not fanciful to suggest racism might have played a part in both cases and more (though not necessarily all), experienced individually as ‘frustrated mobility’.  Blocking can range from actual (direct discrimination) through to perceived—someone blaming their own lack of progress on discrimination as a means of avoiding self-scrutiny. 

Beneath a patina of pseudo-academic respectability, Pantucci harbours the petty prejudices of a low-grade cop.  Tel Aviv bomber Asif Hanif he waspishly remarks “appears to have done little to distinguish himself academically” (p.173).  Mohammed Atif Siddique, who helped establish numerous jihadist web-sites is described (paradoxically) as an “aimless and dim youth” (p.256).  A common theme is that many are portrayed as losers, implicitly due to personal deficiencies. Those implicated in the abortive 21/7/05 London plot are depicted as “for the most part relatively new migrants to Britain, none of these individuals held down particularly glamorous or steady jobs.  All had only recently become practising Muslims.  None had entered further education and a number had troubled pasts involving drugs or petty crime…an archetypal selection of individuals would be drawn to this group: former drug addicts, petty criminals, men who had encountered difficulties in life” (p.210). 

There are three problems with this negative stereotyping, which echoes the way far right activists are often described by critics (or the far left by the mainstream media):

First, it undermines understanding and can go hand in hand with underestimating capability. 

Second, it is incapable of coming to terms with, much less countering, the good work (in its own terms) performed by Islamism in giving the marginalised real self-worth. 

Third as Pantucci acknowledges elsewhere not all bombers fit such stereotypes, some such as Saeed Sheikh, and especially the two ‘Doctors Plot’ bombers in 2007 (Bilal Abdullah and Kafeel Ahmed) were men of an “integrated nature…they had strong roots in the country and were qualified medical doctors and research engineers” (p.232).  The Iraq War is mentioned as a driver here (as was Bosnia for Saeed Sheikh), so perhaps there is an implicit division, with the (further) educated granted higher order grievances about foreign policy as a driver in a way not afforded plebs.   

One important recruitment strand is believed (by Mark Rowley national police counter-terrorism lead) to be teenagers who would otherwise have been attracted to gangs, with 20% of terrorism arrests in the year ending March 2015 falling into that age category6.  That said, while there may well have been a sharp decrease in gang activity since 2008, this in itself wouldn’t prove the recruits would otherwise have been in gangs.  More evidence is needed here. 

On the other hand, and relevantly given Pantucci’s snobbery, the significant number of students/ex-students implicated in Islamist activity (liquid bomb plotter Waheed Zaman was a serving President of London Metropolitan University Islamic Society when arrested7 clearly demonstrates British Jihadism can recruit from the aspirant and successful, something corroborated by a 2014 London University study into 600 Muslim men and women8.

(B) LONE WOLVES OR MISGUIDED MUTTS?

Pantucci sometimes abandons without acknowledgement his ostensible central argument, the primacy of ideology (then grievance) as drivers.   While he states all three drivers are necessary to drive an individual to action (p.15), and concludes that “wider foreign policy was a forceful driver in motivating established jihadist networks in Britain to turn against their host nation” (p.291), important sections of the book contradict this, most significantly his take on the ‘Lone Wolf’ phenomenon. 

Lone Wolves are defined as “individuals who attempt to carry out an act of random violence using a mask of political justification as his or her driving motivation” (p.261).  Nicholas Roddis, Nicky Reilly and Andrew ‘Isa’ Ibrahim are men who “claimed at some point to be converts to Islam, and all three attempted or appeared to be on the road to carrying out acts of public disorder in the name of their interpretation of violent Islamism” (p.261).  Pantucci is acting as thought-policeman, able to determine whether people really believe or not in ideas, or whether it is a pretext: “none of the men can be considered to have felt in a particular personal way the larger narrative that has been painted in this book.  None of them was anywhere near the large migratory communities where radical ideas had been incubated around the country; none of them was born into Muslim families, or even into the families of Middle Eastern or South Asian origin…none of them really had any contact with any of the extremist communities that have thus far been listed in the UK” (p.268).  In Ibrahim’s case, untrue: the concerned Bristol Muslim community reported him to the police before his plans took tangible form.  As for ideology, elsewhere the most important driver, these “unfortunate young men whose lives appeared to be going nowhere” (p.262) “chose the ideology to give their lives a sense of direction” (p.269).  While there may be grains of truth in all this, rather than situate it within the complexity of how ideology works, Pantucci’s stark and dismissive picture lacks subtlety and nuance.  Pantucci is saying that because ‘Lone Wolves’ don’t fit his pre-ordained explanatory schema, they cannot believe in ideas they claim to believe in.  This crass reductionism is misguided and dangerous: it ill behoves any serious researcher to dismiss the motivations or sincerity of people prepared to die for their beliefs.

(C) DECEITFUL NAIVETY?

In some ways Pantucci comes across as naïve, with little grasp of the real world beyond Spook Central and Think-Tank Towers.  No more so than when he says of Dhiren Barot—author of the ‘Army of Madinah in Kashmir’, associate of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, possibly involved in pre-9/11 reconnaissance—that his “remaining silent” in prison means he is “thus largely an enigma to investigators” (p.181).  Has it not occurred to Pantucci that Barot considers himself a prisoner of war, under no obligation to co-operate with ‘investigators’, a weasel synonym for cops and spooks?

More important than any Pantucci naivety is the way he routinely dissembles, or creates a snow-storm, when discussing Jihadists who may (or may not) be spook assets.  He does it so often, and predictably, it calls into sharp question his reliability as a historian of events, which as we have seen is perhaps the book’s strongest feature. 

First there is reference to James McClintock and Martin Abdullah McDaid, both white converts associated with the Iqra bookshop in Beeston (Leeds), seed-bed of the 7/7 bomb plot.  Not a hint that these two may have been spooks, which would mean incompetence at the very least (p.170/188).  As an aside, it is interesting that all this was going on in Leeds: readers of this magazine will be aware there has been a long history of suspected malign secret state activity in the area, so much that West Yorkshire could in some sense be seen as a laboratory for dirty tricks9.

Then there is Mohammed Junaid Babar, unquestionably an FBI informant from 2004, who provided much of the evidence against those jailed for Operation Crevice (2004).  Was he an asset even earlier?  A question not broached (p.167). 

Third, and just to show Pantucci can stir it when necessary (or directed?) consider this characterisation of Hassan Butt “later denounced as a fantasist after he told a reporter that he made up considerable portions of a story…this does not detract from the fact that he appears to have been operating quite openly on the periphery of a terrorist network” (p.156).  Maybe so, but for whom?  An answer (of sorts) came 70 pages later, with a bit more detail and the aside that despite being frequently questioned, Butt “appeared to have somehow avoided trouble or prosecution” (p.226-7).  Hardly a substantial answer: there are many other possibilities as to why a possible asset might not have been prosecuted, that maybe Agent Stake-Knife in the IRA (Frank Scappaticci) might also be aware of, or indeed Tim Hepple/Matthews, whom I have chronicled as extensively involved in agent provocateur activities, but who has never even been questioned by police10.

Fourth if Butt is unmistakeably put in the frame, however elliptically, others are deftly taken out.  Writing in 2008 about Abu Qatada, while pointedly declining to comment on the allegations, Pantucci at least reported that it was alleged “Qatada was an informant for Britain’s Security Service MI5”, referencing claims he met MI5 and his mysterious disappearance from MI5’s surveillance just before his proposed December 2001 arrest, reappearing 10 months later “a few minutes walk from MI5’s headquarters”11.  Tepid as this non-committal 2008 reference was, by the 2015 book despite 14 pages mentioning Abu Qatada, four being a profile (p.131-34) Pantucci makes no mention of even the possibility. Yet the facts of what happened in 2001-2 had not changed between then and Pantucci’s book.  The only things that had were his deportation to Jordan 7/7/13 and acquittal in subsequent trials 26/6/14 and 24/9/14 of the terrorist charges he was extradited to face.  These facts (not mentioned), and Qatada’s more recent criticism of Islamic State, might lead some to reasonably conclude he was an asset all along.  A hypothesis that would never occur to anybody relying on Pantucci’s book as their definitive source.

Fifth, consider also this reference to Abu Qatada’s erstwhile colleague Abu Hamza, whose son was notoriously involved in the Yemen kidnap of UK and US tourists12, with father’s knowledge and perhaps even instigation.  “It is also likely that Abu Hamza was feeding information to the security services dampening their view of him as a threat” (p.122).  Was not Hamza perhaps more, even a directed source to some extent, with spooks at least aware of the Yemeni kidnap in almost real time, but deliberately turning a blind eye to it for reasons of state?

(D) RAUF TALES: SORCERY ABOUT SOURCES?

Rashid Rauf was an important British-Pakistani Al Qaeda co-ordinator, reportedly in contact with the 7/7 and 21/7 bomb plotters, as well as those implicated in the 2006 ‘liquid bomb’ plot.  His arrest in Pakistan 7/8/06 was the trigger for those plotters being arrested in the UK.  A warrant was sought for his extradition on charges of murdering an uncle in Birmingham April 2002.  In December 2007 he managed to escape from police custody in Pakistan in bizarre and suspicious fashion, through a toilet window while all his guards were conveniently praying. 

Reported as having been killed by a US drone strike in November 200813, Rauf is important for two reasons. 

First, his lawyer, and family, believe he was not killed in that drone strike, but died in another strike years later.  To confuse matters, he still appears on the Interpol ‘Red List’ today as wanted (for the 2002 murder)14

Second, a supposed account of the 7/7, 21/7 and liquid bomb plots written by Rauf in two documents is extensively referred to by Pantucci as if fact, which of course it may (or may not) be (p.186). 

Despite its central importance to his narrative, we have to turn to a footnote (p.322) for Pantucci’s explanation of the documents provenance.  Supposedly a post-operation debrief, they were allegedly found on a memory stick in the possession of two militants (Maqsood Lodin/Yusuf Ocak) arrested in Germany April and May 2011 for Islamist activity.  Pantucci says “German, British and American authorities all believe the documents were written by Rashid Rauf, and biographical information within them seems to confirm this”, and shyly refers to “an assessment of the documents received by the author” (p.322).  Leaving aside for the moment these same ‘authorities’ fingered Libya for Lockerbie and Saddam Hussein for having Weapons of Mass Destruction, questions abound.  Did Rauf write the documents? Who exactly for? Was he working for British (or perhaps Pakistani?) intelligence when writing them, or indeed while liaising with the bomb plotters?  Depending on the answers in this case, not just a can of worms, but a seething cauldron of the same would be opened.  Raising this possibility is not mindless conspiracism, but to exhibit what Pantucci lacks: an open mind, especially where state assets may be involved. 

There is a fundamental methodological problem with Pantucci here.  The footnote refers to an “assessment of the documents received by the author.  From here on they are referred to as the ‘Rauf’ documents’” (p.322).  Any reasonable-minded person who hasn’t looked at and then deconstructed this footnote (let’s face it, few will look beyond the claim lots of spooks think them genuine) would think he is using them as a primary source.  Introducing the documents, the main text (p.186) refers to a document “purportedly written” by Rauf—and without saying more there, the documents are used as unquestioned primary texts very soon (p.189/196 for example) with no qualification whatsoever.  Yet that assessment from which Pantucci summarises is (if extant) actually only a secondary source, something he lacks the honesty to emphasise in the main text, or indeed anywhere.  No page numbers are given for any citation—so the possibility of differentiating between each document as regards reliability or even consistency is precluded a priori

Earlier reference (outside the book) to the same documents by Pantucci extensively quotes secondary (journalistic) sources missing by the time we reach the book, and enigmatically states “subsequent quotes attributed to Rauf are drawn from author read-outs”15.  This does not make even grammatical sense: an ‘author read-out’ is in common parlance a public reading from your own work, clearly not the meaning here.  Or is he saying he has had read only access without direct quotation rights, a common spook tactic to keep mouthpieces on side?  All gloriously opaque.  Pantucci compounds the error (casuistry) in the article by stating these journalistic sources are “referred to as the ‘Rauf documents’”.   Once we reach the book the assessment has now become those same Rauf documents.  If they ever came into the public domain, how would he refer to them—a third set of Rauf documents? 

Not understanding (or rather dissimulating about) the difference between primary and secondary sources would be no minor infringement, but the action of an academic charlatan.  If Pantucci eventually got read only access without direct quotation rights he owes readers such an admission.  Not wanting somebody to take the documents away raises questions about legitimacy to a new level.  If Pantucci has never seen the documents, but only a secondary (but undeniably important) spook assessment (and earlier journalistic reportage), he owes readers that admission too, not least disclosure which agency this assessment was written for.  Then we might judge its provenance ourselves, even if only in outline.  Does this matter?  Yes! Ask yourself how valid would any analysis of Nazism be without the author having read Mein Kampf, but instead relied on excerpts released by critics.  Especially given Rauf’s preposterous 2007 escape, no intelligence agencies are impartial observers, trusted to reveal all relevant facts (or quotes). 

Rather ironic then, that in speaking of confronting (or rather advising avoiding confronting) ‘conspiracy theorists’ he has recently claimed they “will pivot on a wisp of information into a spiral of obfuscation and confusion”16.  For is not Pantucci’s ostensible legerdemain over the Rauf documents a veritable spiral staircase of obfuscation and confusion?  As for conspiracy theorists, specifically the UK July 7th Campaign who think 7/7/05 was an ‘inside job’, in this very magazine I confronted them in 2009: they still haven’t dared respond17.  

The charitable view, putting to one side his snide comments about some jihadist’s lack of further education, is that maybe I am too harsh on Pantucci here.  As an English Literature graduate who spent time as a visiting scholar in the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (hardly an oasis of academic freedom and razor-sharp scholarship as opposed to material science research elsewhere in China I’d surmise) there is only his War Studies MA at King’s College where Pantucci might have reasonably picked up the basics of academically rigorous research.  Alas, even here Pantucci was never stretched, at the time he blogged his course was “three classes for a grand total of three and a half hours per week; the rest of the time I am off supposedly reading, I am not entirely sure I am getting my value for money”18.  I am inclined to agree: and a PhD has eluded him.  Easy to figure out why.

In fact, Pantucci understands very well the difference between primary and secondary sources, and the importance of such.  This can be gleaned from his post on the ICSR ‘Free Radical’ Blog 19/3/12 entitled ‘The British End of the Al Qaeda Documents’.  When put on his own blog raffaello.pantucci.com it was prefaced by the admission that this article was “exploring in some depth documents I have not managed to see first-hand yet, hint, if anyone feels like sharing or has more information about them, please don’t hesitate to write.  An admittedly slightly premature piece consequently”.  The section in bold linked to his email address, so Pantucci was aware of their importance, but didn’t have them, hence begging.

The ICSR piece is also important because he links to two sites that reference the documents.  The first, by Abu Susu19, contains an analysis remarkably similar to that of Pantucci: that Rauf wrote two of the documents based on the biographical data and intimate description of plots (both of which may be true).  Even more interesting is another site he references, where Florian Flade is described as merely “providing a slightly different description of the same documents” which hardly does Flade justice.  Flade describes all five documents in some detail and clearly attributes views on their provenance to German Federal police20.   Why does Pantucci excise mention of these sources by the time we get to the book?  The suspicion is that not only did Pantucci never see the original documents (pretty well established as fact by now) but he never saw any assessment, just cribbed lines from Abu Susu and Flade’s blogs, and passed these off as an “assessment”, which they were, though not the covert spook one he implies.  I am not saying Pantucci did this, but he lays himself open to such a charge by evasiveness and inconsistency.  Why not use direct quotes from this claimed ‘assessment’? The uncharitable view has to be hasn’t seen any but is trying to con readers.  He can clear this all up by citing the exact source of the assessment, using direct quotes, and/or putting it online.

 

There was a long time-delay (a couple of years) between Pantucci’s book being announced and actual publication.  Given the importance of Rauf to his narrative of British Jihadism, might continued fruitless attempts to get the Rauf documents, then finally giving up on them, explain the wait?  There are good reasons why spooks would not release the Rauf documents even to a sycophant like Pantucci—the important operational information they contain might well be of great strategic use to autonomous self-mobilising jihadists, especially as Al Qaeda’s original structure fragments.  It is noteworthy that the (very well-informed) Daily Telegraph’s Duncan Gardham’s article on the supposed Rauf documents does not claim he had seen an assessment, but speaks of “a secret document prepared for al-Qaeda by the commander and disclosed to the Daily Telegraph by sources with knowledge of the contents” (patently spooks)21.  If Gardham didn’t get the written assessment, why would Pantucci: his maternal grandmother’s connections wouldn’t be sufficient surely22?

 

Pantucci’s evasiveness regarding truth when spook interests are at stake (although elsewhere he has criticised the FBI for entrapment23) is chronic.  He dismissively states that for Rauf’s lawyer “the entire story of his escape and death are part of an elaborate conspiracy” (p.224-5), a ‘conspiracy’ Pantucci does not discuss, despite the centrality of Rauf for his narrative.  In the 2015 news media, Pantucci baldly stated Rauf was killed in 200824.  Yet in early 2014, Pantucci was more ambiguous, stating that his death has “never been officially confirmed, presumably as the corpse and DNA were never identified.  Given the fact that plots connected to him continued to be uncovered almost two years after his reported death, confusion continues to dominate his narrative”25.  Squirrelled away in a footnote, where few will see it (like the Rauf documents provenance) Pantucci concedes that while “senior official sources in both the US and UK seem quite convinced he is dead…the lack of any DNA evidence and the seeming complexity of his story cast some doubt on this” (p.327).  ‘Senior official sources’—this neutral phrase actually means spooks, but for Pantucci their position in the hierarchy is what counts, not transparency as to function.  As for Rauf, his family now think he is dead, announcing in 2012 they planned to sue the British government for providing the US with intelligence on his whereabouts26.   If alive Rauf may not be keen on family reunions: especially bumping into cousins with fond memories of his late uncle.  The official Brit spook line certainly seems to be that he was picked up as a result of GCHQ intercepts, though the 2015 review by David Anderson did not mention his actual death27. Whatever the truth of anything concerning Rauf, one thing we can be sure of: Pantucci won’t break it first.

 

(E) THE EXTREMISM SLUR

 

Until recently (what with Syriza, the 2015 SNP land-slide and the Corbyn phenomenon, not to forget the rise of UKIP to third-party status votes wise) the arena of legitimate political discourse has been getting smaller and smaller in recent years, so it is no surprise that, like many others in this field, Pantucci shows an alarming ignorance of extra-parliamentary politics, seeing it as merely low-level proto-terrorism.  That is not, unfortunately, a misrepresentation of Pantucci’s perspective, would that it were.  Speaking of the 1995 Manningham and 2001 broader Bradford riots, he tells us “many of the social drivers are similar to those that underlie the alienation we see in evidence on those who are drawn to terrorist activity. This is not to say that public affray and rioting are equal to self-immolating mass murder, but there are parallels in the motivations” (p.55).  Too late—he has already made the linkage, something repeated when talking of the Beeston Mullah Boys self-defence activities against racism “while this may not be a causal link, such rationalisation is similar to that espoused by extremists who involve themselves in terrorism, claiming that their actions are an attempt to protect the global Ummah of believers” (p.68).   At best, sloppy, at worst, sinister, equating political activity of a sort many (like me) would approve of with ‘terrorism’.  In any event, it isn’t even clear Pantucci is right about the Mullah Crew: Kenan Malik describes them as “little more than a street gang with pretensions”28, something echoed by another report which hints at inter-racial street violence29.  Though to be fair all agree the Crew had a direct ‘cold turkey’ approach to victims of hard drug dealers and little time for the dealers themselves.

 

Just to show his linking street activity with terrorism was no flash in the pan, Pantucci recently penned a tendentious article for aspirant spook magazine Hope Not Hate on ‘Reciprocal Extremism’30, whereby “extremisms feed off one another…a narrative that has remained fairly constant over time”31  He includes here the Southall Asian Youth Movement as a counter-reaction to fascists, and again references the 2001 Bradford riots, before looking at Al Muhijaroun and the English Defence League.  The Bradford Black United Youth League are cited for “apparently preparing a series of petrol bombs to use against the fascist groups they saw as threatening their communities”32.  There was no ‘apparently’ about it, the Bradford 12 did not deny making the petrol bombs, but a jury unanimously acquitted them because they accepted this as legitimate33.  I am proud that my organisation, Big Flame, fully supported their defence efforts34.

 

Blurring boundaries between political groups by categorising them as reciprocally related, and then further equating politics with terrorism, is disturbing in many ways.

 

First, it equates unlike with unlike, thereby closing down discussion of the content of politics by making it a security matter, which ironically is more likely than not to drive people in a violent direction.  

 

Second, it falsifies history for propaganda capital, and so impoverishes political discourse generally.   A crucial difference between political activists engaging in self-defence like this and Islamists is that while the former wanted integration into society on non-racist terms, Islamists reject that society.  If Pantucci cannot see this there is little hope for him.

 

Third, it disempowers citizens, leading them to rely on spooks/the state generally to counter a mythical extremism to keep us all in the fabled centre ground. Especially pernicious in that (like in Pantucci’s book) an alibi is thereby given to possible state assets. 

 

Fourth, it fails to comprehend the real dynamics of social and political change, exemplified by Pantucci’s caricature of the Bradford Asian Youth Movement as a group that “attempted to unite all minority communities not simply Pakistanis.  It was, however, a short-lived experience.  Different community interests tore it in different directions” (p.62).   The ‘tearing in different directions’ was no chance happening but a matter of deliberate policy, whereby both the police (via prosecutions) and the local state (via funding strategies favouring separatism) actively intervened to bring about this state of affairs, a thesis substantiated (separately) by Kenan Malik and Anandi Ramamurthy35.

 

(F) TAINTED SOURCES?

 

That Pantucci derived much material from police/spook sources is illustrated by copious footnotes and unsubstantiated insinuations regarding individuals and court cases.  Of Zeeshan Siddiqui, one of the Crevice accused, Pantucci states diaries found in his possession by Pakistani authorities appear to confirm an interest in suicide, commenting “Siddiqui has disputed the authenticity of the documents” (p.200). And?  Any proper researcher owes their readers an opinion—not so Pantucci, who allows the state version to prevail by default, concluding with the snide comment this “remains one of the most cryptic pieces of the British Jihad still at large” (p.201). 

 

After mentioning a pre-7/7/05 trip to London by Mohammed Shakil and Waheed Ali, Pantucci states that the Crown Prosecution Service believe this was a reconnaissance trip linked to 7/7, “a conclusion that two successive juries disagreed with, the second clearing the men of any involvement in the 7th July attack, though Ali and Shakil were both convicted of attempting to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan” (p.196).  In other words, using cop logic, guilty of the latter so probably the former too. 

 

At times, Pantucci’s craven acceptance of the police/spook line is laughable, for instance he states of the liquid bomb plot “aside from those who were found guilty, it is difficult to draw any definitive conclusions about many of those believed to be involved in this plot” (p.223).  Happily, juries can still definitively conclude some accused may be innocent, this being simply the wrong definitive conclusion for Pantucci’s sources.  It is worth noting here Pantucci simply ignores the July 2005 execution of Jean Charles De Menezes shot by police on the mistaken assumption he was a 21/7 bomb plotter.  Over and above the rights and wrongs, this event was for some drawn to jihadism (and many not!) a significant milestone—not for Pantucci though, which matters if this book purports to be a journal of record.

 

It is difficult to tell whether some Pantucci errors are sloppiness or deep prejudice, as when he states (p.219) citing a public police source “Rashid Rauf’s family had worked hand in hand with Al Qaeda and been ‘flagged red for months”.  Not Al Qaeda as such, but Kashmiri Jihadists Jaish E Muhammad. Yet by p.223 an “investigation into a charity established by his father led to nothing”.  Actually not quite the exoneration it might seem; the Charity Commission Inquiry (not referenced by Pantucci) concluded that while there was “no evidence that the trustees had diverted charitable funds for unlawful or non-charitable purposes…the trustees were unable to verify satisfactorily the end use of funds in both Indonesia and Pakistan”36.  Evidence the charity was evasive can be found in the fact they did not tell the Commission they even had a bank account in Pakistan, despite the UK accounts being frozen in 200637, and various supposed trustees denied they were such38.  All in all, the Charity Commission Inquiry did not draw a blank, but blatantly downplayed evidence any impartial observer would think might result in closure.  This phenomenon, whereby highly suspect charities are given carte blanche, will not surprise readers of this magazine39.   That Rashid Rauf married into jihadi royalty (the daughter of Ghulam Mustafi a famous Deobandi madrasa) is perhaps relevant here, as too that Pantucci elsewhere merely describes Rauf’s family as coming from “a long line of distinguished religious leadership”40.

 

(3) TWO SIGNIFICANT OMISSIONS FROM THE BOOK

 

(i) Londonistan

 

No proper consideration of British jihadism can take place without mentioning the Covenant of Security: “the long-standing British habit of providing refuge and welfare to Islamic extremists on the unspoken assumption that if we give them a safe haven here they will not attack on these shores.  French intelligence call this policy—with contempt—‘Londonistan’”41.  Yet, amazingly, Pantucci manages to do just that, merely mentioning that for many Arab dissidents “the priority was to instigate action in the Muslim world” (p.47).  The nearest he gets to Londonistan is the admission that “while the freedom that London afforded meant that it flourished as a centre for Arab media, this fact also attracted the wrath of Arab governments, who regarded London as a home for radical publishing and a haven for dissidents who continued to instigate trouble at home” (p.31).  It is not that this is untrue: it is the fact Pantucci does not mention political and spook complicity in this that grates.  It was also not just Arab governments who complained: Abu Hamza’s presence alone attracted the ire of Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Netherlands and Spain for example42.  Which makes all the more galling his specious comment with reference to Finsbury Park Mosque attenders Germaine Lindsey Mohammed Siddique Khan (of 7/7 infamy) that “missing the importance of Reid and the others, British intelligence focussed on the apparent danger that was emerging from the mosque and its community of North African radicals” (p.148).  Inasmuch as most convicted in the UK post 9/11 were Algerians, this danger was not just ‘apparent’.  He compounds this glib dismissal by saying investigations into the ricin plot “missed a crucial element in the story of the Islamist radicalisation in Britain, happening both within the mosque but more prominently in cities just outside London and among Britain’s Muslim South Asian Community” (p.151).  The Covenant of Security impinges on both cases because it (falsely) led British spooks to think there was little of UK domestic (threat) interest going on in these circles, because if there had been assets like Abu Hamza (or Abu Qatada) would have told them of such.  More fool them!  As for Pantucci, he really is too wise by half, as befits many with no real life experience outside academe, or in his case pseudo-academe.

 

(ii) SAUDI ARABIA AND JIHADISM

 

Another signal absence in the book is any examination of Saudi Arabian links to, and early encouragement of/funding for, jihadism in Britain or elsewhere.  That 15 of 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi is an inconvenient fact Pantucci would rather we forgot.   The censored passages from the US 9/11 Commission Report now finally released are certainly bad news for Saudi apologists43.  Even earlier the Wikileaks-released 30/12/09 cable from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to US Embassies world-wide stated that despite some co-operation with the US, “while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority…donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide…Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, [Lashkar e-Tayyiba], and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan”44.  Questioned at the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in March 2013 about this cable, Pantucci’s boss, Dr Jonathan Eyal, RUSI Director of International Security Studies, admitted “there is absolutely no doubt that a lot of the funding that came for various terrorist organisations came from various Saudi sources”.  He immediately qualified this by stating (without evidence) “I don’t think it was ever government-sanctioned money and I believe that the Saudis have realised that this whole activity is a cancer to themselves”45.  Eyal is no impartial witness but a UK government mouthpiece, illustrated by his response to another question about UK: Saudi co-operation that “far from aiding and abetting a dictatorship using repressive measures, we have paradoxically, given the media coverage of Saudi Arabia, engaged with a Government who have tried to be very innovative on the subject of counter-terrorism”46a.  Yet Saudi Arabia, a dictatorship, finds little difficulty in cracking down on other religions or even drinking alcohol—one might think ‘terrorist funding’ not beyond them if the will existed.  Saudi ‘innovation’ has included sending 1,500 troops to Bahrain to suppress pro-democracy protests in March 2011, and more recently adapting British police training to identify future torture victims46b. 

 

Staying on Saudi Arabia, but moving onto the Sunni group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), ex MI6 head Richard Dearlove spoke at the RUSI itself in July 2014 citing funding and encouragement from Saudi Arabia and Qatar as central to ISIS growth.  While the Saudi Embassy vigorously denied supporting ISIS “financially morally or through any other means”, and urged the media to “take an in-depth look into the financial backing and organisational structure” of ISIS47, one can surmise they did not mean this.  Dearlove’s speech, and this exhortation, sunk like a stone in the British media48.  It does nonetheless seem plausible that until the abrupt dismissal of Saudi Head of Intelligence Prince Bandar bin Sultan in March 2014, from 2012 while he was in post Saudis pursued a pro-ISIS line.  Which puts in perspective Eyal’s apologetics of March 2013…The key point is that (as Craig Unger has put it) “the complex, impenetrable, and unregulated system of Islamic charities actually enabled Saudis to have it both ways.  Through their generous charitable donations they could both establish their bona fides as good Muslims and even buy ‘protection’ from militants.  And thanks to the unregulated nature of the charities, they could do so in a way that gave them plausible deniability to the West”49.

 

Aside from funding specific groups, difficult to prove beyond a shadow of doubt in many cases, the more general influence of Saudi-funded religious intolerance creating a pool within which jihadists swim is easier to substantiate.  As far back as 2007 the detailed influence of Wahabbism in the UK was chronicled by scholar of Islam Dennis Maceoin, replete with misogyny, homophobia and religious sectarianism of the most visceral kind50.  Yet Wahabbism barely features in Pantucci’s book; the founder gets a couple of name-checks (p.9/10) and then a final reference to a 1990s recruitment drive of fighters to go overseas (p.96).  You would be forgiven, reading Pantucci, for thinking Wahabbism, ideology of the Saudi ruling house and propagated abroad through massive funding programmes51, is of little current significance.  Yet, as Pantucci states in his conclusion “with events in Syria it appears that the threat may be growing once again” (p.292). 

 

The ‘threat’ is radical Islamism, and in any dispassionate treatment the fact ISIS and the Saudi rulers have Wahabbism in common would be considered significant.  There are two versions of this argument; the simplistic neo-con equation of Saudi Arabia and ISIS, underestimating antagonism between the two52, and the more sophisticated take, as provided by, for example, Abdel Bari Atwan, who after tracing connections (and pointing to reports the Saudis have spent $5 billion arming Syrian rebels), ends with the salutary warning that “the Saudi regime, rightly, feels that the declaration of the caliphate, and the overt criticism levelled at the House of Saud by the extremists, constitute a very real threat to its existence.  That the challenge is mounted within the unique framework of the House of Saud’s own construct—Wahabbism—makes it all the more potent”53. 

 

If Pantucci can perhaps be forgiven for not mentioning (even if critically) the allegation Saudis sponsored ISIS in the book for reasons of timing (going to press deadlines), later articles have no excuse.  In neither August 201454 nor an October 2014 paper Pantucci co-authored mention such.  This RUSI ‘Threat Assessment’ inelegantly titled ‘The Threat of ISIS to the UK’ mentions ISIS splitting from Al Qaida, but not Wahabbism (or Saudi Arabia).  Their ‘narrative’ is described in geographical terms—“protection, consolidation and further expansion of its declared caliphate’s borders”55 and social terms—“providing social services, law and some semblance of state order”56.  Wahabbist theology is conspicuously absent.  Here Pantucci is mirroring the British state, anxious to downplay any religious element in Islamism…

 

(4) EXPLAINING RUSI

 

(A) AVOIDING THE SAUDI CAMEL IN THE ROOM

 

I have already mentioned Pantucci’s RUSI tenure, and his boss Jonathan Eyal’s unimpressive response regarding Saudi Arabia before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. In case it be thought the two are not parroting a common (evasive) line, consider other RUSI contributions on the Kingdom, which follow an obsequious pattern. A January 2014 RUSI analysis of Iran’s nuclear programme is explicitly couched in terms of considering the Kingdom’s military (and other) options; no such coverage of Israel’s nuclear programme.  While this can be excused on the grounds the paper’s author is a Saudi academic57, another contribution cannot.  This is the (unintentionally) amusing piece on a promotion (fittingly 1/4/14) by Michael Stephens with an opening paragraph “even though he may be 68 years old, the appointment of Muqrin bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to Deputy Crown Prince suggests that Saudi Arabia is paving the way for a careful transition of power to a younger generation of princes”58.  As if more proof of RUSI toadying to repressive regimes were needed, how about this gem from ‘Research Associate’ Matthew Willis in the RUSI Journal (that I suspect the late Ian Tomlinson’s family disagree with) “training courses for Bahrain defence personnel…from the UK is more likely to promote a measured and discriminating approach to crowd control—something in line with British policing standards—than training received from Saudi Arabia or any number of other providers”.  Warming to his theme, Willis opined that “suppressing dissent is not something most countries have problems with; it is doing so in an acceptable manner that poses the challenge, and that is where the UK’s efforts in Bahrain can help”59.  Indeed so: the paradoxically-named (government-backed) ‘Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’ put the number of dead protesters at 30, opposition forces claim 88.  While Michael Gove baulked (in October 2015) at a £5.9 million contract for training Saudi prison warders60, the Conservative government still sees Saudi Arabia as a ‘priority market’61. 

 

RUSI were so concerned Richard Dearlove used their manor to criticise Saudi Arabia in July 2014 that ‘Senior Research Fellow’ Shashank Joshi sprang to the Saudi’s defence, not refuting Dearlove but warning that he was likely to “irritate his former colleagues in the intelligence services and the Government itself…these are exceptionally strong words for a former intelligence chief”62.  It is important here to distinguish between Dearlove’s forward threat assessment minimising the Syrian jihadi phenomenon (wrong) and his take on how ISIS grew in the first place: another matter.  Joshi absurdly states Dearlove recalling Prince Bandar, head of Saudi intelligence, telling him before 9/11 “the time is not far off in the Middle East when it will be ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them” is an “extraordinary anecdote”.  Most memorable anecdotes usually are: a fatuous thing to say, unless Joshi is implying Dearlove was lying?  What vexes Joshi, and no doubt the RUSI generally, is the PR fall-out from Dearlove’s speech: “for someone of Dearlove’s status to cast Saudi Arabia in such a critical light is therefore highly unusual”.  That may be so, but is hardly the point: what matters is Saudi actions, something RUSI want to avoid proper discussion of. Not just RUSI: we are again indebted to Wikileaks for revealing the British government traded votes with the Saudis in 2013 to ensure the UK and Saudi Arabia were both elected to the UN Human Rights Commission63.  They certainly have experience: Saudi Arabia executed 423 people between 2007-2012, 79 in that last year alone64.

 

There are three key problems for any attempts to close down discussion about Saudi support for ISIS: the November 2015 slaughter in Paris, that of March 2016 in Brussels and July 2016 in Nice.  While it is to be expected Douglas Murray of the Henry Jackson Society attacked the Saudis65, he was not alone: Saudi funding of mosques in Belgium has also been criticised66, and one provocative New York Times piece described Saudi Arabia as ‘An ISIS That Has Made It’67.  More tellingly, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has publicly denounced Saudi Arabia for funding Wahabbi mosques because “many Islamists who are a threat to public safety come from these communities in Germany”.  In this he was echoing a BND (German intelligence service) assessment that Saudi Arabia is at risk of becoming a destabilising force in the Arab world68. 

 

These arguments Saudi apologists like RUSI cannot sweep under the carpet indefinitely.  Which is not to say they aren’t trying.  In response to a January 2016 announcement the British government was going to examine foreign funding and support for UK jihadist groups, Shashank Joshi (as featured above) tried to muddy the waters, stating the UK didn’t have the power to investigate financial flows alone and such an inquiry would be “a little bit of navel gazing”69.  How convenient.  Yet even the UN is critical of the UK supplying arms to Saudi Arabia70 used to brutal effect in the Yemen, where airstrikes have systematically targeted civilians71.  Needless to say, such actions barely feature on the BBC, yet equivalent strikes by Russia in Syria do, in great detail.  What matters, it seems, is not so much the fact of carpet-bombing, but whether those doing it are allies or not.  Quite straightforward once you get the hang of it.  And RUSI certainly have, it would appear.

 

(B) TIME FOR HARD QUESTIONS

 

Having established, I trust, that Pantucci’s blind spots, including deference to powerful sources and interests, apply to the RUSI generally, all still needs explanation.  Quite rightly, Spinwatch has drawn attention to the lack of transparency shown by the Henry Jackson Society, especially regarding their funding sources72.  Yet Spinwatch’s allied ‘powerbase wiki’ (following the form of that fool’s encyclopaedia Wikipedia) lets the RUSI massively off the hook—entry last updated in August 2013 with no criticism whatsoever, or questions about finances. 

 

Asking questions does not guarantee answers, even to the most obvious one, how much does the RUSI rely on Saudi (and Qatari) money to function?  In this respect, their accounts are virtually useless.  The latest published73 show business is booming, with a jump in research income from £2,303,089 to £3,104,260 in 2014-15, and of subscriptions from £507,434 to £520,952 in the same period (p.8).  Things are going so well that in 2015 RUSI purchased the freehold of their 61 Whitehall premises.  As to who exactly is providing RUSI with this research/subscription income, the accounts say not a word.  The 2014-15 Annual Report gives away little concerning the Middle East either, though the fact RUSI now has a Qatar office is indicative.  RUSI has contributed to recent UK Defence Reviews, and developing counter-extremist ‘resilience’ measures shows which side of the tracks they are on. 

 

A roll-call of RUSI luminaries past and present reads like a spook/military bean-feast.  Senior Vice-President is General David Petraeus (always available for female reporters), the Chair (until his replacement 1/9/15 by William Hague former Foreign Secretary74) was Lord Hutton, whose report whitewashed David Kelly’s death.  John Scarlett ex-MI6 is an international adviser, Jonathan Evans (ex-MI5 DG) is a Senior RUSI Associate, and even Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian gets in on the act, as Council member and journal contributor75.  Norton-Taylor fits the bill as RUSI ‘useful idiot’—-he persistently and uncritically uses the Guardian to plug RUSI material and quotes personnel with no hint he is in their orbit.  Yet if he wants to say something ‘radical’ Norton-Taylor uses CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) instead!76.  Perhaps the deferential old duffer was in the audience on 15/6/15 when Petraeus presented Henry Kissinger with the 35th RUSI Chesney Gold Medal for being (in the former’s words) a “statesman of extraordinary accomplishment”.  Whereas for me, and others aware of the history well-marshalled by the late Christopher Hitchens, Kissinger was (and remains) a war criminal like George Bush and Tony Blair, albeit with more gravitas77, not difficult I concede.

 

(C) RUSI CORRODING THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS

 

That the RUSI, established by Wellington in 1829, is an establishment fiefdom is unremarkable, but a disturbing closeness to government and spooks allows RUSI to imperceptibly (and corrosively) influence public discourse on security matters in a way unhealthy for democracy.  RUSI uses its establishment legitimacy, and proximity, to steer debates in spook-friendly directions, along the way incorporating sections of the liberal intelligentsia.  A good example is their July 2015 Panel Report ‘A Democratic License to Operate’ which essentially called (in the post-Snowden era) for mass state surveillance to be accepted, but merely put on a legislative basis.  The likes of Heather Brooke and Martha Lane-Fox were overwhelmed by input from Jonathan Evans, Sir David Omand, John Scarlett and John Grieve, himself well-known to NFB readers78. 

 

RUSI’s corrosive role is further illustrated by a crucial article on opendemocracy.net in June 2015 by David Wearing of CAAT. Citing specific cases, he amply shows how RUSI is certainly not the impartial think-tank it is presented as, not least on the BBC (and as we have seen in the Guardian).  A BBC article by Michael Stephens, Director of RUSI Qatar, on Qatar and Islamic State, “describes Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s goals in Syria in broadly uncritical terms, with questions only raised over the competence of how policy was executed”.  Another Stephens article for the BBC “followed a similar pattern, explaining the Saudi point of view, accepting its priorities essentially uncritically, and merely commenting (in this case approvingly) on the policy’s effectiveness”.  Wearing goes on to say that “research for this article did not identify any RUSI pieces for the BBC News website that took a similar approach to the Iranian regime, Hamas, Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, or any other opponent of the West and its regional allies, explaining their point of view, accepting their priorities essentially uncritically, and merely commenting on questions of competence and policy effectiveness”79.  This captures accurately RUSI methodology, on the BBC and elsewhere.  If this review spurs those who have hitherto ignored RUSI to put it on the investigative radar, I will be satisfied.

 

RUSI have positive and negative reasons for circumspection regarding Saudi Arabia/Qatar.  Positively, lucrative revenue streams accrue in this key market from such judicious evasion.  Negatively, the threat of being sued, as happened80 to Rachel Ehrenfeld after her book ‘Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed—and How to Stop it’.  She reported (including his denial) the allegation that the “former chairman of the National Commercial Bank (NCB) in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Khalid Bin Mahfouz, for example, is alleged to have deposited tens of millions of dollars in London and New York directly into terrorist accounts—the accounts of the same terrorists who were implicated in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 224 people were killed, including 12 Americans”81.   For that, the (late) Bin Mahfouz prosecuted Ehrenfeld in the British libel courts, on the pretext 23 books were sold to the UK, but did not (as far as I know) go after the author of the article she cited82.  Mahfouz himself is the subject of a fascinating chapter in neglected classic ‘Forbidden Truth’ by Brisard and Dasquie83.  As for the Ehrenfeld libel case, a British court awarded large costs which she doughtily refused to pay, resulting in the August 2010 US ‘Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage Act’ designed to protect US authors and publishers from the British libel courts.  Then there was the 2006 book by J Millard Burr and Robert O Collins ‘Alms for Jihad’ pulped by the Cambridge University Press.  Little danger of that fate befalling Pantucci on the Saudi account.

 

CONCLUSION: THE BOOK, AND PANTUCCI, SUMMED UP

 

The book, as we have seen, has good points, but major flaws also.  I would welcome clarification from Pantucci regarding the ‘Rauf papers’ and his access to them (or not).  Far from the free-wheeling dashing (Raffles?) figure ‘Raff’ Pantucci might imagine himself to be (especially when strutting his stuff as meritocratically-appointed ‘Consultant At Large’ for literary agents Artellus his father co-founded84a), he is a mundane inhabitant of Grub Street. Pantucci’s LinkedIn profile is explicit—“my career has mostly been in the think-tank industry, but I have done freelance journalism and tailored research for the private sector.  I am open to commissions on both”.

 

Pantucci is not genuinely open-minded, he simply takes the side of the most powerful in any situation.  Graphically illustrated by his defending MI5 when criticised by SO15 insiders in August 2016 for repeatedly preventing them arresting radical Islamist Anjem Choudhury.  He commented “I would be very surprised if you found a directive somewhere in [MI5] or somewhere else that said ‘Don’t touch him because he’s more useful out there than he is inside”84b.  No way does he know that: but he just wants to appease MI5.

 

He is only really ‘Open’ to whoever pays the most, hence his recently branching out beyond UK ‘terrorism’.  Pantucci was well on-message with the ‘Osborne Doctrine’, whereby Britain sought to repair the PR damage wrought by David Cameron meeting the Dalai Llama in May 2012 by abasing itself towards the Chinese regime of President Xi Jinping.  As a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences while Xi was Shanghai Communist Party boss (Xi Jinping 2007-12, Pantucci 2009-13)85, Pantucci is ideally placed to participate: his laudatory empathetic articles on the Chinese regime’s problems (re-posted on the site he runs with RUSI research fellow Sarah Lain and former HSBC China executive Sue Anne Tay chinaincentralasia.com) are puke-inducing.

 

Using Wearing’s methodology critiquing the RUSI subservience to British state interests (deference/competence and effectivity analysis only), Pantucci achieves the same result with China as the beneficiary.  Sample rhetoric “China and India are two rising Asian giants…the time is right to strike and lay out a joint agenda for Afghanistan’s future post-2014”86.  A January 2014 article in line with the Osborne Doctrine suggested the UK “address” the “human rights component” of China’s counter-terrorism policy by exporting the UK’s CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy, as “engaging now offers a moment to influence the situation positively”87.  Yet in the book Pantucci admits that the security services have “still very little understanding of how to counter and de-radicalise” (p.292).  Hope Chinese spooks with cheque-books missed that.

 

Pantucci might also hope Chinese observers have forgotten his robust article co-authored in 2007 calling for NATO to be used as a “forum for engaging Europe in Asia in a way that enhances transatlantic cooperation and creates a countervailing force to Chinese dominated regional organizations”.  Rather confrontational, urging the EU to “draw up a list of items, with American consultation, of what items should be prohibited from export to China…and rephrase the stipulation of the [arms] embargo that prohibits members from selling ‘whole’ weapons and weapons systems to include some reference to weapons parts that are sold”.  As the article put it “this last requirement is increasingly crucial, especially in the light of reports coming out of the UK that strategic export licenses (which are needed to sell arms abroad) worth $131 million (£70 million) were granted to China in the period between July 2005 and June 2006”88.

 

Another article Pantucci co-wrote in 2011 stated the “crackdown that has followed the Arab revolutions puts in doubt China’s commitment to political reform…China …is likely to continue to suppress demands for democracy at home…the EU will have to remain vocal and consistent on China’s human rights and internal reform processes, even if it incites Chinese anger and results in a reaction in other fields”89.  These pieces pre-dated the Osborne doctrine, Pantucci’s tune has changed since.

 

Consider Pantucci’s January 2014 aside about “particular violence” in Tibet in 2008, the clear implication (as it is bracketed with 2009 Xinjiang violence central to his subsequent advice on CONTEST) being that the UK has no problem with China’s illegal occupation of Tibet.  As for advising the Chinese government on ‘counter-terrorism’, a suggestion both grotesque and laughable. 

 

Not so funny was the Met Police raiding the homes of three anti-Xi Jinping demonstrators during his 2015 visit to Britain90. Even less amusing is China cracking down on dissidents including anybody printing or selling books the regime does not like.  This includes abducting booksellers from Hong Kong91, a conscious strategy, spelt out in the leaked ‘Guangdong Action Plan’ circulating in the middle of January 201692.

 

The chronology is relevant here.  In late December 2015 the Chinese regime announced ‘anti-terror’ legislation creating a new counter-terror agency, response forces, and extended censorship93.   Days after the legislation, Pantucci weighed in, deferentially, his most substantive criticism being that there is “seemingly no discussion about how to tackle the underlying causes of radicalisation”94.  Given this was early January, Pantucci could be forgiven for not mentioning the ‘Guangdong Action Plan’.  However by the 1st March 2016, when he asked ‘Can the EU and China work together on violent extremism?’95 Pantucci had no such excuse.  While accepting that the EU and China disagree on whether the World Uyghur Congress are terrorists Pantucci claims “discussion around these questions in Beijing is in fact a fairly sophisticated one, with some advocating for a more nuanced response than others”96.  The 2011 emphasis on human rights (see above) has vanished, instead Pantucci concludes by suggesting the “EU and China can cooperate…dealing with a problem that menaces nationals from both countries in an increasingly equal manner”97.  To not mention what China is actually doing to dissent within and without is unpardonable.  As one commentator put it “the party’s investigators have sweeping powers of detention, interrogation and asset seizure.  They operate above and beyond China’s façade of a legal system.  Some old men die awaiting due process, targets of all ages have jumped from buildings, taken overdoses or hanged themselves”98. 

 

Pantucci’s mentor Nigel Inkster (and he is not alone99) has criticised “a propensity on the part of some areas of the UK government to see China as little more than a giant hypermarket…it does not represent an adequate assessment of what it is we’re dealing with…if the UK demonstrates any vulnerabilities, these will likely be taken advantage of”100.  Hardly a ringing endorsement of the Cameron government’s plan to have China help run Hinkley Point nuclear power plant, initially delayed by his Sino-sceptic successor Theresa May.  Though the deal eventually went ahead, May replacing Cameron as PM (and Osborne’s departure to the dustbin of history) in July 2016 creates problems for Pantucci’s pro-China apologetics, definitely not flavour of the month101.

 

A symbolically fitting end; might I suggest for Pantucci’s ‘tailored research’ dictatorships with money form an orderly queue (behind the Saudis and Chinese), taking care not to speak to any ‘Free Tibet’ activists demonstrating outside, or bump into mules delivering court transcripts and spooks slithering back into the shadows.  The rest of us should approach this book with due caution, reading between the lines.  But do buy it.

 

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FOOTNOTES

 

1) Raffaello Pantucci speaking at Henry Jackson Society event to publicise his book 20/4/15 transcript at henryjacksonsociety. org

2) Kenan Malik is particularly cutting in this respect regarding 7/7 bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan’s video in ‘From Fatwa to Jihad’ Atlantic Books 2009 p.117-19

3) Raffaello Pantucci speaking at Henry Jackson Society op. cit.

4) Prospect Magazine 23/4/15

5) London Review of Books Vol. 37 No. 16 27/8/15 p.10

6) Cited in The Times 15/5/15 (Fiona Hamilton: who else!)

7) Crown Prosecution Service Press Release 8/7/10

8) The Independent 25/9/14 (Emily Dugan)

9) See for example my articles ‘Again Plucking The White Rose: Yorkshire Revisited’ Notes From the Borderland issue 2 1998 p.34-43, Notes From the Borderland issue 4 2000 p.54, Notes From the Borderland issue 8 on the revived ‘Redwatch Revisited especially pages 10-19

10) see ‘At War With the Truth’ (1993) and ‘At War With the Universe’ (1999) on Age0nt Hepple/Matthews. Both NFB pamphlets

11) Quote from Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory ‘The Suicide Factory’ Harper Collins 2006 p.108 (see also p.151) and earlier ‘Abu Qatada’s Comfortable British Jihad’ (Jamestown) Terrorism Monitor Vol.6 issue 14

12) On this see Sean O’Neill and Daniel  op. cit. p.155-71

13) Daily Telegraph 23/11/08 (Andrew Alderson)

14) www.interpol.int accessed 9/11/15

15) Counter-Terrorism Command’s CTC Sentinel Vol.5 issue 74 ‘A Biography of Rashid Rauf’ (Raffaello Pantucci) footnote 34

16) ‘Extremism: Focus on the Positive’ Prospect Magazine blog 8/10/15 (Raffaello Pantucci)

17) Notes From the Borderland issue 9 (2009) p.17-24 has the (uncensored) J7 Campaign critique and my (unanswered) reply.

18) ‘British Students Struggle With Rising Tuitions’ Field Report (Raffaello Pantucci)  genprogress.org 10/4/07

19) AbuSusu.blogspot.co.uk  ‘(Alleged) Qaida-Documents Surface in German Trial’ 12/3/12

20) ojihad.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/cut-off-the-head-of-the-dead-body-al-qaida-strategy-paper-discovered-in-berlin/

21) Daily Telegraph (no by-line)1/5/12

22) Madeleine Gardner was a US Women’s Army Corps Major during World War 2, she died in 1983

23) Raffaello Pantucci ‘Counter-Productive counter-terror’, The Guardian Comment is free 30/11/10.  Some FBI cases are so poorly constructed, entrapment seems a logical explanation, not least the original World Trade Centre bomb plot in 1993.

24) ‘The fuse lit by the 7/7 bombers’ Sunday Telegraph 5/7/15 (Raffaello Pantucci)

25) Birmingham Mail 17/2/14 quote (Amardeep Bassey)

26) Sunday Mercury 27/10/12

27) ‘A Question of Trust: Report of the Investigatory Powers Review’ David Anderson QC June 2015 p.339 (Case Study 1) states “bulk data enabled GCHQ to trigger a manhunt for a known terrorist linked to previous attacks on UK citizens…GCHQ was able to pick up the trail by identifying patterns of activity online believed to be unique to the suspect…a network was successfully disrupted before any attack could take place”.  Rauf was not named, but Sean O’Neill in The Times 13/6/15 identifies Rauf and the 2006 liquid bomb plot.

28) Kenan Malik ‘From Fatwa to Jihad’ Atlantic Books 2009 p.99 (98-104 covers the Mullah Boys)

29) Ian Herbert The Independent 2/4/09

30) Hope Not Hate July-August 2015 p.27-9

31) Hope Not Hate July-August 2015 p.27

32) Hope Not Hate July-August 2015 p.28

33) See the excellent ‘Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements’ (Anandi RamaMurthy) p.120-47 Pluto 2013 on all this.

34) ‘Black Star’ (op. cit.) p.79/118/134 references Big Flame’s involvement, see also for example ‘Bradford 12: The Resistance Continues’ Big Flame 100 November 1981 p.16, and for the underlying approach ‘The Past Against Our Future’ (Big Flame) 1980

35) ‘Black Star’ p.148-70 traces this process, as does ‘From Fatwa to Jihad’ p.36-79, both in Bradford and nationally.

36) Inquiry Report (Crescent Relief) Charity No. 1087724 29/9/11 p.3

37) ibid. p.9

38) ibid. p.11

39) See the article on the (fascist) International Third Position by Matthew Kalman & Larry O’Hara Notes From the Borderland issue 1 1997 p.3-6.  ‘Adopting The Position’ Notes From the Borderland issue 4 2001 p.3-4 covers the Charity Commission’s pathetic response. Also the ongoing Hope Not Hate charity scam, covered this issue and last.

40) ‘A biography of Rashid Rauf’ (Raffaello Pantucci) Combatting Terrorism Center (USA) 24/7/12

41) Crispin Black ‘7-7 The London Bombs—What Went Wrong?’ Gibson Square 2005 p.31

42) See Paul Stott UEA PhD Thesis ‘British Jihadism: The Detail and the Denial’ 2014 p.159

43) Before the event: ‘9/11 Secrets could turn Saudis into pariahs’ (Michael Burleigh) The Times 23/4/16.  The documents themselves were reased 15/7/16.  They are on-line at intelligence.house.gov, see also 28pages.org.

44) On-line at theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/242073 [last accessed 13/9/15]

45) Jonathan Eyal answer to Question 186 Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee 5/3/13

46a) Jonathan Eyal answer to Question 184 Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee 5/3/13

46b) ‘British Police sccused of helping Saudi torturers’ The Times 8/6/16 (Catherine Philp/Michael Savage)

47) Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia (London) Press Statement 8/7/14

48) The exception was Patrick Cockburn in The Independent 12/7/14, see also his ‘The Rise of Islamic State’ Verso 2015 p.105-110

49) Craig Unger ‘House of Bush House Of Saud’ Gibson Square 2005 p.181 (see p.177-83/272-4 on Al Qaeda funding), see also Jean-Charles Brisard & Guillaume Dasquie ‘Forbidden Truth’ Thunders Mouth (New York) 2002 p.79-93

50) Reported in The Independent 1/11/07 (Paul Vallely)

51) ‘Saudi Arabia funding fuels jihadist terror’ Vancouver Sun (on-line) 28/5/13 (Jonathan Manthorpe)

52) See the occasionally polemical, but nonetheless fascinating, overview by Salim Mansur ‘ISIS, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the West’ 14/6/15  gatestoneinstitute.org [last accessed 7/10/15].  James Woolsey (ex-CIA) is on the Advisory Board, and ex-Bush UN Ambassador John Bolton prominent.

53) Abdel Bari Atwan ‘The Digital Caliphate’ Saqi 2015 quotes from p.94 and p.215 (see p.200-215 on the Saudi-Wahabbi relationship), also ‘Saudis fund Sunni army to curb Iran and topple Assad’ The Times 13/5/15 (Tom Coghlan/Hugh Tomlinson/Michael Evans/Ahmad Dawood)

54) ‘Is ISIS a Threat to the UK?’ RUSI Analysis 21/8/14

55) Raffaello Pantucci and Clare Ellis ‘The Threat of ISIS to the UK’ RUSI Threat Assessment October 2014 p.4

56) Pantucci and Ellis  op. cit. p.5

57) ‘Iran’s Nuclear Diplomacy: A Response from Saudi Arabia’ Dr Saud Mousaed Al Tamamy (King Saud University) RUSI 26/1/14

58) ‘Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince: A Sign of Real Transition Ahead?’ Michael Stephens, RUSI Analysis 1/4/14

59) ‘Britain and Bahrain in 2011’ RUSI Journal Vol. 157 No.5 October 2012 Point 8 (Matthew Willis)

60) In The Guardian 14/10/15 Alan Travis takes issue with Gove and ends with sentiments favouring the contract.  As usual, Guardian liberalism is not even skin-deep.

61) The Observer 18/10/15 (Jamie Doward)

62) ‘Islamist Terror is little threat to the West. And Saudis are backing Iraqi jihad’: is this former spy chief right? Daily Telegraph blog 8/7/14 (Shashank Joshi).

63) ‘UK & Saudi Arabia in secret deal over human rights council place’ The Guardian 30/9/15 (Owen Bowcott)

64) International Business Times 18/2/14 (Ludivica Iaccino)

65) ‘Why are the Gulf States bankrolling IS barbarians?’ The Sun 18/11/15 (Douglas Murray)

66) ‘How the influence of Saudi Arabia sowed the seeds of radicalism’ The Independent 24/11/15 (Leo Cendrowicz)

67) New York Times 20/11/15 (Kamel Daoud)

68) Quoted in Daily Telegraph 7/6/15 (Justin Huggler)

69) The Observer 17/1/16 (Mark Townsend)

70) Ban Ki-moon speech reported in The Guardian 6/2/16 (Patrick Wintour)

71) See summary of report in The Independent 28/1/16 (Charlie Cooper) and in the same paper a critique of Foreign Office apologetics for the Saudis (Chris Green)

72) ‘The Henry Jackson Society and the degeneration of British neo-conservatism : liberal interventionism, Islamophobia and the ‘war on terror’’ 11/6/15 available on spinwatch.org.  (thankfully no sub-title)

73) Charity No. 210639 signed off 25/6/15, covering period ending 31/3/15

74) ‘William Hague to be next Chairman of RUSI’ RUSI News 28/7/15

75) See for instance ‘Spy Fiction & Intelligence in the Post-War World’ RUSI Journal Vol. 159 No. 5 October 2014

76) See (all on-line at The Guardian) ‘RUSI Report on extremism’ 15/2/08, ‘The Lessons of Costly Conflicts’ 23/4/14, ‘Who needs Trident’ 28/9/15, and using CAAT (but not RUSI when surely relevant) ‘UK-Saudi Arabia: the new special relationship’ Guardian defence and security blog 7/10/15.

77) Christopher Hitchens ‘The Trial of Henry Kissinger’ Atlantic Books 2012 [originally 2001]

78) See ‘The Thieving Magpie, A Peacock & One Lesser-Spotted Grieve’ Notes From the Borderland issue 4 2001 p.25

79) ‘Why is the BBC presenting RUSI as objective analysts of the Middle East?’ David Wearing opendemocracy.net 12/6/15

80) Published by Bonus Books Chicago 2005

81) Rachel Ehrenfeld ‘Funding Evil’ p.22

82) Kevin Dowling ‘The Ties that bind: Barclays, A Bin Laden Relative, the Carlyle and the BCCI boys’ Online journal 3/11/01, Rachel Ehrenfeld ‘The chill of libel tourism’ The Guardian Comment is Free 9/6/09, and ‘Funding Evil’ p.xi-xv

83) Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie ‘Forbidden Truth: US-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden’ Thunders Mouth (New York) 2002 p.115-39.  That the book may have extensive French intelligence input does not invalidate the content.

84a) See artellusltd.co.uk

84b) quoted in ‘MI5 stopped Scotland Yard taking Choudary down, sources claim’ Daily Telegraph 22/8/16 (Martin Evans/Ben Farmer)

85) Information from LinkedIn profile

86) ‘China and India: Time to Cooperate on Afghanistan’ 23/10/13  chinaincentral asia.com 

87) ‘The Route to Better Relationships with China Lies Along the Silk Road’ 10/1/14  chinaincentralasia.com

88) Quotes from Christopher Griffin and Raffaello Pantucci ‘A Treacherous Triangle?: China and the Transatlantic Alliance’ SAIS Review (John Hopkins University) Vol. XXVII No. 1 Winter-Spring 2007

89) European Council on Foreign Relations Policy Memo ‘China’s Janus-Faced Response To the Arab Revolutions’ June 2011 p.4/5 (Jonas Parello-Plesner and Raffaello Pantucci)

90) ‘Demands for Met to be investigated for raid on Chinese dissident’s home’ The Independent 27/10/15 (David Connett/Nigel Morris/Jamie Merrill)

91) ‘Thousands protest in Hong Kong over publishers; booksellers worried’ Reuters 10/1/16 (Donny Kwok/Kalum Chen)

92) ‘China Plan to hit rebels overseas’ Sunday Times 24/1/16 (Michael Sheridan), also see his article in the Sunday Times magazine 15/5/16 p.12-19

93) ‘China passes controversial new anti-terror laws’ BBC on line 28/12/15 (Steven Evans)

94) ‘Will China’s new law tackle terror?’ (Raffaello Pantucci) BBC on line 2/1/16

95) Euobserver.com 1/3/16 (Raffaello Pantucci)

96) ibid.

97) ibid.

98) Sunday Times magazine 15/5/16 p.15/17 (Michael Sheridan)

99) ‘Supping With the Devil’ Daily Mail 24/10/15 (Dominic Sandbrook)

100) Quoted in ‘China and the Osborne Doctrine’ (Carrie Gracie) BBC on-line 19/10/15

101) ‘How To Avoid Nuclear Fall-out’ Telegraph online 4/8/16

THE GREEN LEFT CASE FOR BREXIT

INTRODUCTION (Larry O'Hara 13/11/16) 

Four months before the 23/6/16 Referendum on EU membership I wrote the article below, developing my views on the case against EU membership. There is clearly lots more that can be said, about the referendum itself (see the article the EU Referendum and after for a few pointers).  I hoped, but did not expect the Leave campaign to win, but they did.

The article below is worth circulation now for a number of reasons

1) It hopefully confounds the idiotic view that there is no Left-Green case for leaving the EU.

2) After the Referendum, rather than seize opportunities the vote offers, the Green Party leadership (and many in the Labour Party too) have learnt nothing from the mass rejection of the EU, and instead want to do everything possible to actually prevent us exiting the EU, so out of touch are they.

3) The detailed analysis of Green Party policy below hopefully substantiates my point that in supporting pro-EU forces and vacating the political fray (eg at the Richmond by-election) a strategic and tactical error of massive importance has been made.  And should be reversed.  For example, rather than simply accusing Leave campaigners of being liars over the £350 million per week promised the NHS (which did happen) where are the unions and Leftists demanding this money be produced? Nowhere, instead wallowing in self-pity about the evils of Brexit.

4) I did not join the Green Party 26 years or so ago in order to stand aside for reactionary toads like the Liberal Democrats, their twitching political corpse still writhing from supporting the Tories in coalition, for which they were rightly punished. Quislings like Tim Farron calling for a second referendum deserve studied contempt, at the very least.

A final point: while I disagree with their perspectives, one can but admire the relentlessness with which those who support the EU are straining every sinew to overturn the Referendum result, aided by the mainstream broadcasters (Sky/ITV/Channel 4/BBC), numerous supporters in parliament, and the legions of lawyers and the like (including judges) who are doing what they can to assist.  Indeed the very terms 'hard Brexit' and 'soft Brexit' are patent ideological/propaganda constructs, which the media will not of course point out.  Those like myself who support an exit from the EU in order to advance a Left-Green agenda should take note and show equal if not greater determination.  We are but few, but that should be no deterrent.  More on all this later...

 

THE GREEN CASE FOR LIFE AFTER THE EU: MY JOURNEY AND OTHERS Larry O’Hara 28/2/16

(Green Party member since 1988/Editor Notes From the Borderland magazine)

INTRODUCTION

The virtual ink has dried on the terms agreed between PM David Cameron and his allies in the semi-elaborate charade that was the ‘negotiation process’ between the UK and EU Heads of government, and we know the deadline date for a decision; 23rd June this year. It is now time for all interested in the future of radical politics in the UK, indeed the UK itself, to take a stand. Whatever happens, the EU issue will not go away: but the terrain of struggle will be clarified. What follows below is a contribution to debate aimed primarily at those in the Green Party and/or the Left, though hopefully of interest to a broader audience. I readily concede political arguments are rarely decided by rational discourse alone. Which is why although throughout this piece I challenge some more obvious (and outrageous) pro-EU mantras, I fully accept minds will largely be made up on the basis of more intangible feelings and emotions, including the way EU opponents are perceived, rightly or wrongly. In that respect, outlining my own trajectory is as valid way as any other to introduce the issues.  I make no apology for referring in passing to esoteric Leftist texts: even if obscure, still relevant.

One thing I am convinced of; if, as at time of writing, opposing the EU and envisaging life beyond is seen as largely the prerogative of right-wing Tories, UKIP and the Daily Mail/Express, the campaign is doomed. I certainly have no problem with the likes of Michael Gove (or David Davies) joining the fray, and welcome the way Gove’s opposition is couched in constructive non-racist terms. Nonetheless, if discussions about the EU are framed in even subliminally racist terms such as obsessing about immigration, and benefits available to ‘foreigners’, that campaign will remain in the slow lane, rightly heading towards a dead end, whatever polls might say.

(1)     WHERE I STARTED FROM & WHY MY VIEWS CHANGED

Let me start by saying I unequivocally favour a ‘No’ vote in the referendum, a position long held, though not where I started from. In 1975, as a Leftist Labour Party member, I was agnostic on the EU, indeed though too young to vote (17) I might well have abstained. This is because while having little love for the EEC (as it was then known) I nonetheless felt, as an internationalist, that there was something a little chauvinist about opposing the EEC, and felt uncomfortable with that. I noticed with distaste Enoch Powell’s presence in the ‘No Campaign’, though should have paid more heed to the fact Tony Benn, Barbara Castle and Peter Shore were there too.  As too the fact that the International Socialists (who later became the Socialist Workers Party: SWP) also supported a No vote.

After the 1975 Referendum, Europe was off the immediate political agenda, but after a few years in the Socialist Workers Party (hereafter SWP) which I left not because they were too radical, but not radical enough, I began to take a greater interest. I realized that leaving the EU (as I term it from now on) was integral to the policy platforms of not just the Labour Left (with their Alternative Economic Strategy) but also Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (in particular the SNP 79 Group, including one Alex Salmond), for broadly similar reasons. The key reason, which still guides me today as a Left-leaning Green Party member, was this. To implement radical social economic and political change, various forces and interests will have to be confronted, including the EU. Measures to nationalise (I prefer the term socialise) industry, pull out of trade treaties, restrict the market and introduce popular planning from below into the economy will come up against multinationals and their agents, the EU institutions and treaties, all designed to facilitate the free flow of labour and capital.

As the 1980s progressed, while losing no Leftist fervor (I was proud to be in Big Flame until its end in 1985) I realized ever more acutely the limitations of what I term the ‘Last Century Left’, encompassing extra-parliamentary groups such as the SWP and the Labour Left. On the one hand the SWP wanted a re-run of what they imagine happened in the 1917 Russian Revolution. The SWP’s take on this was wide of the mark: they have never understood Gramsci’s differentiation between Russia (where civil society was nothing) and Western Europe (where it is everything). The Labour Left for their part did not appreciate the policy initiative they possessed in 1973 and even 1979 (Alternative Economic Strategy:AES) was being eroded and then destroyed by first Neil Kinnock and then the whole New Labour Project. I was certainly sympathetic to the AES for the potential political space it opened up for groups to the Left, and wrote a series of articles for Big Flame newspaper on this very topic. Yet rather than develop new realistic policies in tune with the modern world the Labour Left have ever since confined themselves to repeating policy demands (slogans) like mantras, believing that adding up the demands of various progressive causes and interest groups is a strategy, it isn’t. A shopping list is exactly that, a recipe for eternal opposition, not government.

(2)     THE GERMAN GREENS & JOINING THE GREEN PARTY

I was inspired by the German Greens, especially their 1983 programme ‘Purpose In Work, Solidarity in Life’, and the visionary early writings of East German dissident Rudolf Bahro. To me, German Greens at this time combined old Left anti-capitalism with a sensitivity to the modern world and a collection of fundamental principles that I take to be bedrock Green tenets. These include internationalism, a belief in genuine decentralization of power, democracy, sustainability, construction of genuinely viable local economies (and currencies), a sceptical attitude towards unreflective economic growth, anti-capitalism, an aversion to free market forces and distrust of large-scale institutions not amenable to democratic control. Allied to this was my own sustained opposition to institutions like the EU, NATO and the spectacle that is the UN. I am fully aware what a disaster the German Greens later became; my perspective is their failure to learn from the Left’s history, especially regarding how to be both in and against the state, fatally compromised them.  It is also the case that (even aside from Stalin and the purges etc.) the Russian Revolution didn’t end up too well either—if it had, the current situation of oligarchical state capitalism wouldn’t have arisen, would it? For the record, I fully support the October Revolution: but my political sympathies lie with the Left Social Revolutionaries, not Bolsheviks. Regarding German Greens, aside from their excellent early policy of rotating those in elected office (which we adopted in Big Flame around that time) even a basic understanding of Lenin would have helped them (both positively and negatively), but even more so would consulting the forgotten masterwork by Georg Lukacs ‘Tactics and Ethics’[1], anticipating by 70 years (even if not resolving) all the tensions between principle and parliamentary careerism that have effectively destroyed the German Greens as a radical force.

In the late 1980s, along with friends in the Green Party and outside, through the organization Green Flame we briefly sought to sketch out what such politics might mean in programmatic practice, even speaking for motions critical of EU membership at one conference. There was clearly more to Green Party politics than the EU, and I was in the Association of Socialist Greens until it (sadly) dissolved. Nonetheless, the importance of Green principles on the one hand, and presence within the Green Party of a figure like Derek Wall on the other, convinced me this was the place to be, and I have remained, while profoundly disagreeing with the increasing capitulation to the EU that passes for party policy.

Disillusioned with the closing down of political space in the 1990’s, as the Left of all varieties shrank into stasis and oblivion, myself and others decided to ‘keep the faith’ by launching an occasional magazine devoted to fighting the (Gramscian) ‘war of position’ from the Left, Notes From the Borderland, which I am happy to say is still going. In this magazine[2] can be found the most extensive article I had written till now on the EU, assisted by colleague David Pegg, ‘This Cursed Plot: How the Secret State and Fascists Disrupt the Anti-EU Movement’. Its scope is broad: UKIP (including Nigel Farage), the British National Party, and even a precursor to the Hope Not Hate campaign, the Searchlight organization, on whom more later.

(3)     THE EU versus GREEN PRINCIPLES?

The onward march of ever greater EU centralization and the growing (if covert) influence of shadowy pressure groups like the European Round Table of Industrialists (hereafter ERT) has been watched by me with ever growing concern, even if viewed with indifference by many in the Green Party. In recent years, the disgraceful treatment of Greece’s Syriza government by the EU seemed to momentarily lift scales from some eyes, for here was a genuine radical government being totally crushed by the EU, who were (and are) dictating to a democratically elected government, empowered by a popular referendum even, that they had to tear up their radical programme, privatize industries, dismantle welfare provisions, annihilate pensions, all in order to appease the loan shark parasites of the international banking community. Surely, one might have thought, the fate of this government tells us something about the nature of the EU? That has not altered since a defeated Greece is now out of the headlines.

At its minimum, the EU is about market ‘harmonization’: code for driving down workers living conditions worldwide. This is what Tory supporters (and even opponents like Boris Johnson) of the EU mean when they concede it has been good for trade. One instrument for harmonization is ‘bench marking’, whereby the most disadvantageous (to workers) practices are made the norm. Another aspect is introducing ever more competition in the provision of services hitherto provided by the public sector. It is this that provides the backdrop to welfare state privatization, Royal Mail sell-off and the unmitigated disaster that has been the PFI initiative in the NHS, mortgaging the future for generations to come while saddling citizens with ever mounting debt. The Campaign Against Euro-Federalism have bravely, and indefatigably drawn attention to these matters in great detail. What a pity Europhiliacs in the Labour Party and elsewhere blithely ignore this evidence; as too have most Greens to date. TTIP and the related Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada, which will provide a back-door for US corporations to sue elected governments as in TTIP, are both dangerous and blatantly contradict Green principles, as can be seen by perusing the excellent Leave.EU pamphlet on these subjects[3]. Yet both are imminently set to become EU reality.

A paradox needs explaining: the mismatch between fundamental Green principles and the EU itself, a gap so wide that the fact many Greens (and Leftists generally) do not realise it demands serious explanation. The gap can be summarized thus:

  1. Internationalism should always be voluntary to be genuine (e.g. the 1930s International Brigades) and should never be confused with the creation of supranational institutions with imperial ambitions: which the EU has been ever since Jean Monnet’s vision took shape in the 1957 Treaty of Rome, explicit aim, ever-closer union. Like a ratchet, every single EU development has travelled that path, whether it be majority voting, Maastricht Lisbon and the rest. EU centralization operates like a ratchet, that only goes one way. I fully support Europe as an idea, and co-operation between European peoples, but no way should this be confused with the EU (on this at least I agree with Boris Johnson). This very article was started in Hamburg, indeed. One mendacious act of many is the deliberate sleight of hand by which proponents of Empire (the EU) seek to conflate Europe as an idea with the EU as an institution.
  2. Every accretion of power to EU institutions (of whatever stripe) is a diminution of power available locally. If any referendum produces the ‘wrong’ (i.e. anti-centralist) result, it is re-run until the right answer ensues. Furthermore, the whole notion of ‘subsidiarity’ is a pathetic fig-leaf: the centre decides what powers to give away, and it is the centre that can rescind any concessions.
  3. It is not just beyond belief, but even comprehension, that anybody could really think that a political entity with 503 million inhabitants like the EU could be democratic. Institutions to be democratic have to be on a scale that people can understand, meaningfully relate to, and control. Those numbers mean that is just not possible: but is conversely why the ERT favours the EU. How much easier to negotiate with one government than 28. Just when did some Greens think the slogan ‘Think Global, Act Local’ became redundant? As Tony Benn never tired of pointing out, if you don’t elect people (European Court/Commission) and you can’t remove them, they’re not accountable to you. This is the definition of undemocratic. It is fascinating, therefore, to hear Benn’s thoughts echoed in Michael Gove’s 20/2/16 statement on the EU “My starting point is simple. I believe that the decisions which govern all our lives, the laws we must all obey and the taxes we must all pay should be decided by people we choose and who we can throw out if we want change. If power is to be used wisely, if we are to avoid corruption and complacency in high office, then the public must have the right to change laws and Governments at election time. But our membership of the European Union prevents us being able to change huge swathes of law and stops us being able to choose who makes critical decisions which affect all our lives. Laws which govern citizens in this country are decided by politicians from other nations who we never elected and can’t throw out. We can take out our anger on elected representatives in Westminster but whoever is in Government in London cannot remove or reduce VAT, cannot support a steel plant through troubled times, cannot build the houses we need where they’re needed and cannot deport all the individuals who shouldn’t be in this country. I believe that needs to change“. If this applies to even a Tory government, why would it apply less to a Green government or even a Corbyn-led one?
  4. As for the European Parliament, giving it even more power, which I do not favour, would inevitably (and unavoidably) be at the expense of national governments, who whatever their faults can at least in principle be removed: on this Tony Benn Michael Gove and George Galloway are all right. Even if every single MEP (and MP) elected from the UK (or even England) favoured withdrawal from the EU or any other policy, MEPs elsewhere, if we give them power, would be able to prevent such a policy happening. Anybody thinking that situation democratic is beyond reason, or even hope. As too the current European Council of Ministers where the UK has voted against 72 measures, and been defeated 72 times.
  5. Sustainability is not merely an argument for more recycling bins and altering fridges: it should be at the heart of Green policies aimed at breaking the capitalist market cycle of planned obsolescence which will ineluctably mean taking on the multinational corporations who are so keen, with EU acquiescence, to push through the devastating TTIP (Transatlantic Trade Treaty). In proper context, developing a genuinely sustainable economy is a dagger to the heart of capitalism, and the illusory religion of economic growth.

I could certainly say more, and maybe will elsewhere, but have hopefully said enough to substantiate my claim that, as I see it, there is a gap between genuine Green principles and the EU. The paradox therefore which needs explaining is this; if these things are so axiomatic and obvious to me and the few Greens who share such views (like Jenny Jones and a minority of Green Left members) why is this the case? This, I would suggest, requires an exploration of the political journeys undertaken by those who have arrived at a different destination to me. In the real world, the Green project cannot advance without support from others including elements in the unions and the Labour Party. Uncomfortable but true, which means making sense of current Labour/union policy on the EU: any progressive anti-EU coalition needs to build bridges, if not with most of the leadership, certainly the members. This includes those who flocked to join Labour in the belief Jeremy Corbyn and his allies in Momentum intend, and are capable of, bringing about radical change. I do not look at all tendencies within Labour, just the most important in relation to the current EU debate.

(4)     THE LABOUR PARTY AND TRADE UNIONS: POLICY ORIGINS & CURRENT STANDPOINT

Tracing why a political stance is taken can go a long way towards ascertaining how (or whether) it might change. In the case of the Labour Party and many unions we should not beat about the bush: in both situations the reason was weakness, or, put more strongly, cowardice. While Labour in 1981 formally confirmed a policy of withdrawal from the EEC (EU), they had been demoralized by three electoral defeats on the trot: 1979, 1983 and 1987. This led the Party to accept EEC membership as a ‘fact’ in May 1988. Of course it was a fact: the real question: was it a ‘fact’ to be accepted?   After all, China annexed Tibet in 1959: is that now to be ‘accepted’? If something is wrong, it’s wrong. End of.

By 1988 the trade unions were in an even more difficult place: union membership had declined from a 1970s peak of 13 million to between 7 and 8 million. Unions were systematically excluded from the political process, the miners had been defeated (the 1984-5 strike) and a series of Tory anti-union laws were enacted, culminating in the 1988 Employment Act. At this point both Labour and the unions were uniquely vulnerable: the stage was set. At this point Jacques Delors, President of the European Commission, came to the 1988 TUC Congress and praised the unions to the skies. He basically invited them to give up on the national route to advancing workers rights, and use the EU instead. Ron Todd, that year’s TUC President, reputedly said “there is now only one card game in town, and that town is Brussels”. Not all union leaders capitulated of course; the late Bob Crow was a tireless opponent of the EU till his untimely death in 2015.

Nonetheless, political weakness, and a belief they could not win their battles alone, lay behind most unions capitulating to the EU. Understandable, certainly, but a gross abdication of advancing their members interests. If unions in the UK are not strong enough themselves, no way will they be genuinely strengthened by giving power and initiative up to a third party (in this case EU institutions) irrespective of who they are or how progressive they appear. The issue that needs addressing is how can unions build up that strength and self-reliance, in which matter only one thing is guaranteed: the EU will be no help at all. For the very EU that has in the past proposed working hours reductions and other apparently pro-worker initiatives is now seeking to uniformly reduce workers rights and extend privatization into ever more areas. Only this time, there will be no miraculous escape by appeal to an external third party like Delors. It was ever the way: from the Diggers and Levellers to the Tolpuddle Martyrs to the Chartists to the Suffragettes, it is struggle from below that has secured rights, not benevolence from above.

In the Labour Party case, abandoning their anti-EU policy was understandable. Having junked the Left-leaning programme that was the Alternative Economic Strategy and its diluted successor, the 1983 Election manifesto, the next priority for the Labour Right was to eliminate the Left, which the Kinnock leadership did not least by expelling supporters of Militant. There was a subterranean dynamic in play here: having ditched any attempt at socialism Labour (and most unions), were desperate to do something, anything to win an election. The late 1980s move by Margaret Thatcher to rhetorically resist further EU integration gave Labour an opportunity to present themselves to the City, US, and big business as a sane pro-EU (and pro-capitalist) alternative. This was what the John Smith ‘Prawn Cocktail Offensive’ was all about[4]. The salient point is both Labour and the unions changed policies not on the basis of principle, but weakness.

Passing over the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown years, characterized by acquiescence to the EU in everything but monetary union, most notably in the continued destruction of the UK’s industrial base, the Ed Miliband (remember him?) era showed how few were Labour MPs opposed to the EU: a mere 11 (including Jeremy Corbyn) voted in favour of a May 2013 amendment to the Queen’s Speech expressing regret that a referendum on the EU wasn’t in it.  Miliband himself saw the issue as low down his priority list: as one commentator put it “even the possibility of Brexit…would be enough to spook the markets and damage the economy—something that, as a potential government, they wanted to avoid at all costs”[5].

Which brings us to Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against membership in the 1975 Referendum and has opposed EU integration in many votes since including the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties. At the last Labour leadership hustings before he was elected (25/7/15) Corbyn refused to rule out campaigning for a No vote. However, his problem, to which I am sympathetic, is that he and his co-thinkers (despite great support in the party as a whole) are vastly outnumbered among Labour MPs, so in that respect he and the likes of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell are captives of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). The figures are frightening: the pro-EU ‘Britain in Europe’ headed by Alan Johnson, has 213 of 231 Labour MPs as members. This is a fight that Corbyn early on decided he could not win, but more fundamentally thought was not important enough. In his first major interview after election he firmly nailed his colours to the EU mast “we want to see a more social Europe...this can only be achieved by staying within Europe”[6]. After Cameron’s deal Corbyn articulated his approach, showing just how little he grasps the issues. Corbyn declared Cameron “should have been talking to other European leaders about action to save our steel industry”[7]. What would be the point, given EU rules against state aid? He goes on to claim Cameron “could have been using Britain’s leverage to stop the threat to our services and rights in the secretive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership”[8]. What leverage? TTIP is being covertly negotiated by the European Commission and when a deal is reached will be presented as a fait accompli. As it happens, it may well be the case that Corbyn is also supporting EU membership because of a Tory promise that in his negotiations Cameron would not attempt to explicitly water down EU policy on workers rights and so forth. The loser here is of course Labour: once the UK is ‘locked into’ the EU, these policies can be changed at leisure. So retaining them for the moment is a hollow victory, and no victory at all when measured against what the EU has planned via TTIP and so forth.

Sadly, it seems Corbyn is doomed to irrelevance on the EU. If the Labour Party lacks a transformative programme (and it does), and most Labour MPs are on the right, the only thing that can alter the situation is extensive deselection of MPs and candidates between now and the next General Election by Momentum and sympathisers. Not my war.

The Labour Party, indeed Left generally is (thankfully) more than Corbyn’s circle, and, rightly or wrongly, the Guardian newspaper is an arena where many reach out to others. For this reason only, and certainly not coherence, the output of columnist Owen Jones is worth a mention. On 15/7/15 he wrote an opinion piece entitled ‘the left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda’. Barely six months later he announced he had changed his mind (7/1/16). I have no problem with somebody changing their views, agreeing with Keynes’ reputed dictum that ‘when the facts change so does my opinion’. The points at issue here are simple: did any facts change between July and January, and does the latter article adequately dispose of anti-EU arguments within the former? The best way of answering both questions is comparing each article point by point:

  • “Britain’s left is turning against the EU, and fast”: Jones then cites examples and comments “there are senior Labour figures in Westminster and Holyrood privately moving to an ‘out’ position too”

--points not mentioned (or refuted) in January article

  • “the more left-wing opponents of the EU come out, the more momentum will gather pace and gain critical mass. For those of us on the left who have always been critical of the EU it has felt like a lonely crusade”

--by January, the crusader had sheathed his sword, the ‘momentum‘ had vanished.

  • the EU “would threaten the ability of left-wing governments to implement policies, people like my parents thought, and would forbid the sort of activism needed to protect domestic industries“

--leaving aside the peculiarity of Jones hiding behind his parent’s views here, points again not mentioned (or refuted) in the January article

  • “the destruction of Greece’s national sovereignty was achieved by economic strangulation...the EU has driven elected governments...from office. The 2011 treaty effectively banned Keynesian economics in the eurozone“

--again points not mentioned (or refuted) in the January article

  • TTIP “typically negotiated by the EU in secret with corporate interests…would give large corporations the power to sue elected governments…would clear the way to not only expand the privatization of our NHS, but make it irreversible too”

--mentioned, but merely to say “a vote to leave would not be seen as a rejection of TTIP (try asking people on the street if they know what it is), but rather more to do with, say, opposition to immigration”

--an utterly evasive statement: whether people have heard of TTIP is irrelevant, it is as harmful now as last July, as too is the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Canada

6)   We need an independent Left exit campaign focusing on “building a new Britain, one of worker’s rights, a genuine living wage, public ownership, industrial activism and tax justice”

--no mention, this campaign has just melted away into the ether.

  • “without a prominent Left Out campaign, UKIP could displace Labour right across Northern England”

--you’ve guessed it, by January this fear has evaporated, no mention.

  • “Lexit may be seen as a betrayal of solidarity with the left in the EU: Syriza and Podemos in Spain are trying to change the institution, not leave it. Syriza’s experience shows just how forlorn that cause is”

--by January based on electoral gains for the Left in Portugal and Spain “there is a glimmer of hope for change in Europe”.   Though this doesn’t really refute the earlier sentiments, does it?.

 

Whatever the validity of Jones’ arguments in July, the fact that by January he doesn’t return to, never mind rebut them, speaks volumes. If important enough to mention in July, why not January? If they weren’t, why mention them in the first place? He does, however, have new arguments in January that merit examination. Firstly, half the article is devoted to how Labour, by supporting the ‘In’ campaign, can take advantage of Tory divisions. Even if true, a tawdry unprincipled argument of little interest, to me anyway. I have no dog in that fight. Second, he talks of the Labour left needing to engage with two initiatives, one being the ‘Democracy In Europe Movement 2025’ (DiEM25) headed by Yanis Varoufakis, formerly Greece’s Finance Minister. Alignment with Varoufakis was reiterated in two recent Jones Tweets calling for an ‘In Vote’ and creating “a democratic Europe”[9]. It is irrelevant whether Jones’ about-turn on the EU was a considered ploy or just indicates his literary diarrhoea and tendency to make it up as he goes along. I suspect the latter: he is nowhere near clever enough for the former to be likely. The substance of Varoufakis’ movement does need analysing, however, which I do below before looking at Green policy.

 

(5)     DiEM 25: ALL POWER TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT?

Launched in Berlin 9/2/16, this initiative is so ambitious it puts Trotsky’s plans for the Fourth International into the shade. Despite talk of democratization, this is a top-down movement: the purpose of a Pan-European “conversation, that DiEM will make possible and promote, is to develop a Pan-European consensus on how to address serious problems and crises afflicting Europe as a whole. Once this consensus emerges, through the medium of DiEM, we have no doubt that it will seek ways to express itself, including electorally…we consider the model of national parties which form flimsy alliances at the level of the European Parliament to be obsolete…European democrats must come together first, forge a common agenda, and then find ways of connecting it with local communities and at the regional and national level”[10]. In other words, creating an (elite) intellectual vanguard first, and then a new party. Were I uncharitable, I would say Varoufakis’ experience of being undermined by Syriza colleagues has led him to abandon political parties altogether, prematurely

Despite the fact there is no consensus, few troops and a conversation has barely had time to begin, in February 2016 DiEM25 released its apocalyptically toned Manifesto: ‘The EU will be democratized. Or it will disintegrate!’. Various ‘Immediate’ demands include calls for EU Council Meetings to be ‘live-streamed’ and “all documents pertinent to crucial negotiations e.g. trade-TTIP….to be uploaded on the web”. If these demands are not met, what? No answer. How can DiEM25 enforce them? No answer either. Leaving that to one side, DiEM25 have another set of demands: concerning five realms: public debt, banking, inadequate investment, migration and rising poverty. “All five realms are currently left in the hands of national governments powerless to act upon them”. There is a solution: within twelve months “DiEM25 will present detailed policy proposals to Europeanise all five while limiting Brussels discretionary powers and returning powers to national Parliaments, to regional councils, to city halls and to communities”. Even at face value preposterous: central powers are to be expanded while simultaneously given back to national parliaments? In the five realms they are powerless on? Or other areas? And how does this fit with ‘Europeanising’ them? That phrase can only mean the EU centre taking control of those realms.

While you’re pondering that, within two years a ‘Constitutional Assembly’ is to begin the process (ended by 2025) of transforming Europe “into a full-fledged democracy with a sovereign Parliament respecting national self-determination and sharing power with national Parliaments, regional assemblies and municipal councils”.  And if conflict ensues? A sovereign body does not share power with others, and Varoufakis either knows this and is being disingenuous (a common trait among EU supporters) or doesn’t, therefore is merely politically illiterate. Neither option appealing. So, is Varoufakis aware the sovereignty of one parliament might conflict with another? Former co-thinker Thomas Fazi has convincingly argued he is, and has provided a lucid analysis, drawing on the work of Lorenzo Del Savio and Matteo Mameli[11]. The national level, whether it be parliaments or parties, is irrelevant for Varoufakis. Yet as Fazi comments, due to linguistic barriers, geographical distance and cultural differences, a genuine Europe-wide representative democracy via the European Parliament will not decrease popular alienation but will enhance the possibility of ‘oligarchic capture’ of those institutions. The consequence would be a ‘depoliticised’ democracy, hardly comforting. By ignoring politics at the existing level of national parliaments and parties Varoufakis renders his movement an irrelevant pipe-dream at best, a diversion at worst.

While I admired Varoufakis’ style in telling EU Finance Ministers where to get off, he is no model of consistency, but stumbles from one panacea to another: most recently his great hope was the “United States…which must provide, perhaps for the last time, the missing agency” (a Global Surplus Recycling Mechanism to stabilize capitalism)[12].   Speaking of Trotsky, as I did earlier, at least his ‘Transitional Programme’ (1938) showed some understanding of the need to bridge the gap realistically between here and now and the ultimate goal. Varoufakis does not seem to understand this kind of thing in the slightest: hence making unrealistic demands of institutions they have no incentive to comply with.

Varoufakis and his creature DiEM25 are not important in themselves, but as the best case ‘ideal type’ representative of the democratization argument. Yet as we have seen most Labour/union supporters of the EU merely pay lip service to democratization, their basic line is to ignore worrying policies like TTIP and centralization generally, cherry-picking EU policies they like as though these will persist. Not so much naïve as reflecting deep pessimism about the possibilities of getting support within the UK for radical policies.

 

(6)     GREEN PARTY POLICY: A CRITIQUE

In 1990 a motion to withdraw from the EU was narrowly defeated at the Green Party (hereafter GP) conference, which I thought then was a great mistake. Had Greens the nerve to advocate EU withdrawal, that may well have helped create the political space to make a breakthrough, conjoining radical politics with an anti-EU stance. Instead, Greens vacated that space, some of which was later colonized by UKIP. Since then Green policy has been contradictory: practically accommodating to the EU in many areas, contrasting party policies with others, while remaining within. All encapsulated in the ‘Three Yeses’ policy adopted in 2013: Yes to a referendum, Yes to the EU and Yes to major change within the EU. My contention is the first two are inconsistent with the third. The rationale for such a policy is various. Firstly, Greens were actually getting elected to the European Parliament, and joined a Europe-wide Federation of Green Parties (formalized 2004). It also has to be said that the lavish wages allowances and such available in the European Parliament are inevitably corroding. It was this de-radicalising effect that initially led German Greens to propose rotation in elected positions after all. Dropping that policy was one more nail in the German Green’s coffin, and sadly rotation has never even been tried in the UK. I have never agreed with Green MEPs (or any others) having the right themselves to allocate such funds, this should always be a party matter: but it never has been. Secondly, on a more positive note, having elected MEPs allowed Greens to influence (however minutely) policy in a way denied the Greens until Caroline Lucas (a former MEP) was elected to Westminster in 2010. The third reason is similar to that affecting Labour and the unions: a basic pessimism about getting change in the UK alone means the EU offers a better prospect. As we shall see, this motivation still applies today.

At this point, a mea culpa on my part: while perturbed at the general pro-EU drift of GP policy, concentrating on other areas, and the fact that even in Green Left (of which I am a member) anti-EU positions are held by only a minority, I did not pay attention to the nuts and bolts of that policy. I probably should have, but in any event rectify that now. Before looking at pro-EU arguments by some Greens, I review GP policy as a whole, not least to substantiate my outline summary above. The Europe policy (part of the ongoing ‘Policies For a Sustainable Society’) can be found on the Party web-site at http://policy.greenparty.org.uk  Numbering refers to policy sections therein.

Early on they sort of grasp the subsidiarity nettle, saying “many issues currently decided at the EU level should be dealt with at a more appropriate level for effective action, which might be local, national or global” (EU120). Which begs the question: who decides which is which, and how is this to happen? There is no unequivocally clear answer, in that the areas they outline are ambiguous and open to interpretation and contestation. It is not as if the GP does not know the reality of “subsidiarity in the European Union at present, a top down distribution of a fraction of power accumulated at the centre” (EU390). They state the ‘European level’ should “safeguard basic human social and political rights” (EU121), indeed “high standards of human and civil and social rights” (EU212) and “cooperation to regionalize the industrial base, services and resources” (EU212). All these beg definition because not only is there no universal agreement about rights, in the real world, rights often conflict. Who, exactly, is to decide what ‘high standards’ are? There is the unproven assertion that air pollution “can best be resolved at the European level” (EU121), but this is not obvious, and a basic confusion of Europe-wide with European, which in this case means imposed. The European level is supposed to “promote sustainable, non-exploitative, self-reliant local and regional economies” (EU121). Yet this does not happen currently, indeed as we shall see such economies will be resisted at the ‘European level’. This is the reality which confounds the GP recognition that “subsidies are sometimes necessary to protect local, regional and national economies and the environment, and we will support them in these instances” (EU413). The contrast between what the GP supports and EU reality is at times staggering: try telling Greece that “each member state government should be entirely free to set its own levels and methods of taxation, public spending and public borrowing” (EU425). Conversely, do the GP really believe that EU members will “initiate programmes to support local economies against market centralization” (EU426)? I don’t, but if they did, they’d get the Greek treatment.

I find many GP policy aims appealing (just as well given I’ve been a member for 28 years!), the problem is that they have no realistic transitional strategy to get there other than the implicit mirage of a Green majority in the EP. In parallel with this, exhorting current national governments to do things they have no intention of doing, or, if they did, would be stamped on. In this context, GP policy is inappropriately abstract and unrealistic while appearing otherwise. I agree wholeheartedly that “tariff barriers and quotas should be gradually introduced on a national and/or regional bloc level, with the aim of allowing localities and countries to produce as much of their goods and services as they can themselves” (EU443). My objection is simple: this will not and cannot happen within the EU. I have no problem up to a point with “a democratically accountable and controlled European Confederation of Regions, based on Green principles” (EU302). Though the problem is that confederations by definition are voluntary, so where does this word ‘controlled’ come from? Unless you mean control by the regions, but as we shall see this is not consistent with other aspects of GP policy. It is naïve to imagine any of this can arise if you “reconstitute the EU” (EU302). How, exactly, does the GP imagine the EU will ‘reconstitute’ itself, liquidating its own power? We are told “regions should also have the right to define themselves, where appropriate across national frontiers…through referenda” (EU393). Dependent on the approval of who? For example is Spain really going to accept Basque independence, or France Corsican?

A further contradictory policy is belief the European Council of Ministers “should seek to make decisions by consensus” (EU320), immediately followed by support for non-consensual Qualified Majority Voting (EU321). While the European Commission’s powers are to be reduced (EU310) potential conflict between the European Parliament and Council of Ministers is made more likely by supporting “the extension of ordinary legislative procedure with the European Parliament…to all issues where the Council decides by Qualified Majority Voting” (EU326), indeed the “powers of the European Parliament should be extended to give its members greater oversight of the work of the EU” (EU333). Oversight and more voting will inevitably be at the expense of national parliaments and governments, how could it be otherwise?

The fact national parliaments get no positive mention in this policy is telling.  The European Parliament itself is to decide on the wording for referenda on a future European Constitution defining “the values, objectives powers, decision-making procedures and institutions of the EU” (EU356/352). The only area where the policy wholeheartedly (if transiently) accepts national level democracy is in the area of having referenda on Monetary Union (EU423) and a new European Constitution (EU354). But given the European Parliament decides the rules, question, and even date, of any referendum we can see where power lies (EU356). Ironically, not only does this undermine national parliaments, being serious about decentralization would mean regions being the voting basis, surely? Yet they are not.

Looking at all this in the round, leaving aside pressure/interest groups, there are six potential competing centres of power within the EU: the European Parliament, European Commission, European Council of Ministers, the Regions, national Parliaments and finally the European Court of Justice (ECJ). While adding the meaningless qualification that “care should be taken not to duplicate the roles of existing courts in member countries”, the nub is this: “the role of the CJEU should extend as appropriate within the competencies of the EU” (EU342). Not only can these judges not be removed by nation states, the policy states that judicial “candidates should be nominated by the Committee of Regions…Appointments shall be made by the European Parliament” (EU346). The blatant intent is to undermine nation states, not really to give real power to the regions (else power would be genuinely decentralized elsewhere) but undermine the nation state in favour of supranational EU institutions. Technically, decentralization as a function of centralization.

Above I have concentrated on areas where I either disagree with the principle, or am sceptical about the practice. Opposition to NATO for example, or a European Army, and European Monetary Union, I fully support. If the GP was arguing for decentralization and self-sufficiency as part of an anti-EU programme aimed at seeking mass support across Europe for undermining/bypassing the EU, I would not demur. Yet the simultaneous support for EU institutions, particularly the EP, is intended to give the EU legitimacy it does not deserve. Internationalism does not mean the liquidation of nations, but voluntary cooperation between them and also groups within those nations. A simple point, but one that seems to have eluded those writing GP policy.

I am equally unimpressed by the absence of explicit anti-capitalism, for me such is integral to Green politics. Despite this important absence, policies like genuine decentralization and self-sufficiency would genuinely undermine the EU if implemented, but the fact the GP don’t either realise or accept this is unfortunate. Though hardly accidental: one reason I define myself as Left/Green rather than just Green is the traditional far left understood only too well the necessity of confronting powerful interests, and mobilizing support to do so, within a strategic context that does not see the state (any state,including the EU) as a neutral instrument. Which is where Lukacs and Lenin (or indeed Henri Weber’s famous interview with Nicos Poulantzas[13]) come in. The point is not to disavow GP policy on the EU, but to keep the attractive bits and help them become reality. Which will mean leaving the EU, using the momentum of that departure to galvanise sympathisers within the EU to make genuine decentralisation and confederation come about.

Given the above policy framework, it is little surprise that GP luminaries have lined up to support the EU. Caroline Lucas makes the point that the Tory “government are the loudest cheerleaders for TTIP, and ministers would happily create an equally dangerous bilateral deal with the US if we left the EU”[14]. I agree: but of course if/when we leave the EU we can tear up this treaty with a change of UK government, something we cannot do while staying in the EU. She also makes the same point many Labour supporters do “exit would leave many of the things we hold dear—be it maternity pay, the right to join a trade union or providing refuge to those seeking sanctuary—in peril”. Quite possibly: but only if you think a progressive government could never be elected in the UK, which is again unbridled pessimism. A draft letter circulated by Caroline Lucas’ office to be sent to papers (19/2/16) is even more vacuous. It says that “in a fast-changing world we need international rules to control big business and finance”. Indeed: yet TTIP which the EU is covertly negotiating is all about big business and finance controlling governments. Then there is the non-sequitur that “only by working with our European neighbours can we tackle climate change, protect wildlife and reduce pollution”. Really? What would stop an independent UK doing all this? Nothing at all. Then we have the canard that EU countries have agreed to “share sovereignty”—yet not only is such not possible, the GP policy above as we have seen involves ceding such. How being in the EU helps the UK to meet the challenge of “international terrorism” is asserted, not explored. After all, the US cooperates with the EU while not formally joined, and while indelicate, it has to be mentioned porous EU borders both externally and internally made it easy for ISIS murderers to travel to Paris from Belgium (and back in one case).   Is that not why France moved to suspend Schengen border arrangements? Or are we supposed to forget this? The letter concludes by saying a “better EU is possible: where corporate influence is curtailed, where more power is held locally, and citizens have a real say”. Yet this is not the content, or thrust, of GP policy: Lucas evidently hopes voters do not know this. Understandable, but dishonest.

Amelia Womack, Green Deputy Leader, heading the Green Yes campaign, is equally unimpressive. Claiming that “just as Caroline Lucas has been working to shake up and democratize parliament, the Green MEPs have been doing the same at the EU level”[15]. If the EP is democratized, how does that affect national parliaments? No answer. There is also the claim that as an internationalist party the GP believes in working with like-minded people. Indeed, but why restrict this to the EU? Then pessimism kicks in: “by exiting, we’d be facing a whole new raft of deregulation and slashing of…workers’ and environmental rights”. Maybe: but this could be resisted locally, whereas very real proposals/policies to undermine those rights at the EU level cannot. Speaking of TTIP, Womack is at her most dishonest, saying this “deal is signed at both European and state level—it’s down to our own Parliament to accept it, or not”. The idea this would be voluntary is incredible: no way would the UK be allowed to ‘opt out’, Qualified Majority Voting would ineluctably apply.

Rather more honest is Green Left’s Mike Shaughnessy, who admitted that “probably the vast majority of the political left will campaign to remain in the EU…with the vague idea promoted by the more radical elements of changing the system from within. It is not clear to me how this will be achieved, and I doubt it is really possible anyway, given the anti-democratic nature of the EU beast. ‘A People’s Europe’ is the slogan, but this is just a pipe dream at best, dishonest at worst”. Couldn’t have put it better myself! Shaughnessy will vote to stay because the No campaign is dominated by the Little England/nationalistic/racist tendency. Which need not necessarily be the case. He concludes by saying “in the end I’m going to go with my emotions….I am going to vote to remain, although I have to say, with not much enthusiasm for the EU of the corporates”[16]. These sentiments should, logically, lead him to vote no, but as he says, it’s an emotion thing.

What Lucas and Womack have to say on the other hand hardly convinces, interestingly neither spell out the full centralist thrust of GP policy, preferring instead to emphasise a supposed correspondence with some Green principles. I prefer to stick with those principles, in their entirety, and follow Green/decentralist aspects of GP policy to their logical conclusion. Exiting the EU.

(7)      A MOMENT OF GREAT OPPORTUNITY: AND DANGER

There is a historic opportunity, indeed responsibility, for those opposing the EU from a Left Green standpoint to articulate our views, however unlikely that such a standpoint will ever be reflected in output from the BBC (Brussels Broadcasting Corporation) and other mainstream media. On the positive side, exit from the EU opens up political possibilities not seen since the 1970s, a tantalizing prospect.   I am glad to say the SWP has again come out for a No vote, arguing “our role in the referendum is to try to carve out space for an internationalist No campaign”[17]. Some unions and other Leftists have too, though using the blunt instrument (preaching to a deaf choir) of a letter to the Guardian. After criticizing EU pro-capitalist policies, including TTIP, they posit an alternative “positive vision of a future Europe based on democracy, social justice and ecological sustainability, not the profit-making interests of a tiny elite”[18]. Par for the course, a rejoinder ‘Founding Statement’ from the pro-EU ‘Another Europe is Possible’ group does not mention TTIP or pro-capitalist policies, instead claiming “an exit at the current time would boost rightwing movements and parties and hurt ordinary people in the UK”. They talk of an “alternative economic model” (what?) and “far-reaching democratic reforms of the European institutions”[19]. They are correct in one thing: if the Left/Green case against the EU does not get made, any referendum victory for the No side will be pyrrhic: to get a hearing for our broader agenda, Left/Green opponents need to get involved now.

As the history of European referenda show, there is no trick too low for EU supporters, whose main trump card is, as we see daily ‘Project Fear’, warning of the dire consequences of democracy. Some who seek to present themselves as honest brokers in this campaign are anything but: Hope Not Hate director Nick Lowles is a long-time pro-EU propagandist, exposed in Notes For the Borderland as author of an infamous document offering to drip-feed stories to the press[20]. More controversially, were I advising the pro-EU camp, I would suggest planting supporters inside the ‘No’ ranks, so if the electorate votes to leave Plan B can be put into operation. I am deeply troubled by Boris Johnson, who I wouldn’t trust to tell the time of day. He is indeed a passionate and eloquent speaker, with firmly-held beliefs: but the only thing he really believes in is Boris Johnson. It is as well to raise the BJ issue now, rather than later, as the words he has used so far allay no suspicions. On 21/2/16 he stated to camera that “I want to be in a reformed EU”—I certainly don’t. In the Daily Telegraph (22/2/16) he wrote it is “time to seek a new relationship in which we manage to extricate ourselves from most of the supranational elements”. Careful words, indicating to me his main aim is not leaving the EU, but becoming Prime Minister. The way this would work is almost simplicity itself: a victory for the Leave side in a referendum would surely lead to David Cameron resigning. The way would be clear for Johnson, who has already elevated himself above sharing a platform with EU opponents, to seize control of the Tories and after another ‘negotiation’ process use a second referendum to cancel out the first. That David Cameron doesn’t like the idea is irrelevant: he would by then be a discarded toff chillaxing in the dustbin of history. Alternatively, or in tandem, BJ’s EU dancing partners could spin out negotiations for so long that a new General Election would be imminent, after which on current form the leadership of Labour, Tories, Lib Dems (and Caroline Lucas if re-elected) would all be pro-EU.

The two referendum policy, like much Johnson spouts, wasn’t his idea, but that of somebody else, in this instance Dominic Cummings, Director of Vote Leave. This man has unaccountably [or perhaps not?] alienated Labour MPs Kate Hoey and Kelvin Hopkins so much they have left, and are now involved in the newer Grassroots Out campaign[21]. At the very least it can be conjectured that Cummings puts Tory Party unity (and interests) before the anti-EU cause. Unacceptable if so, just as Owen Jones seeking to play Labour Party politics with the issue was. That a second referendum is in Cumming’s mind is indicated by his tweet of 22/2/16 that invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon (i.e. seceding) “after Britain votes to leave would be madness and won’t happen”. Yet why should leaving after a vote be madness: unless you really think we shouldn’t leave. My observations may be wide of the mark: but I don’t think they are. In the Times (27/2/16) Johnson stated “what I want is to get out and then negotiate a series of trade arrangements around the world”. Asked about a second referendum he said “I don’t think it would be necessary”. This could be interpreted as dropping the idea: I’m not so sure. Former Tory leader Michael Howard hasn’t ruled a second referendum out, and in these changed circumstances (i.e. a No vote) I can easily foresee Johnson changing his stance again, supported as he would be in this by virtually all MPs bar a minority of Tories (I say minority as some voting No would probably change their position too). A vote to leave should be followed by actually trying to do so. Anything less would be treachery, perhaps worthy of the very European fate that befell Benito Mussolini?

The two referendum problem is but a pot-hole in the road: it is high time Leftists/Greens who oppose the EU stood up to be counted. The bottom line: this is not a battle about this policy, or that, safety or security, jobs or unemployment, it is about whether we believe people should have the right to self-government or not. In the EU or out. The stark choice was obliquely spelled out by EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in dismissing a challenge by Syriza: "to suggest that everything is going to change because there's a new government in Athens is to mistake dreams for reality… There can be no democratic choice against the European treaties"[22]. Substitute London (or Cardiff/Edinburgh) for Athens and there you have it.

 

Mine is not a Brit Left perspective, I favour both Scottish and Welsh independence. The inconsistency is how some Scots and Welsh Nationalists, who (rightly) want to uncouple from one state, the British, are prepared to sell that down the river to become subjects of another, the EU. If, after the referendum, England votes to leave the EU and Scotland and/or Wales doesn’t, let them stay (which might require another referendum!). Should Scotland and/or Wales (or any other EU country like the Czech Republic or even Greece) need help in future to exit the EU, let them have that too. True internationalism in action, not the ersatz proto-imperialist version the EU has to offer. I am supportive of democracy, not the current British nation state as such or the emerging EU one.

 

The major matter to be settled is now is not the shape of the post-EU referendum British state, but whether we are submerged within the EU or not. However the vote goes on 23rd June, our EU problem will not immediately disappear: but fresh battle-lines will be drawn. Step up to the plate, there’s a continent to play for!

 

[1] Georg Lukacs ‘Political Writings 1919-29’ Verso 2014 is latest reprint

[2] Notes From the Borderland issue 4 2001-2 p.7-29

[3] See the excellent ‘Stop TTIP’ published by Leave.EU February 2016

[4] On all this see Robin Ramsay ‘Prawn Cocktail Party‘ Vision 1998

[5] Tim Bale ‘Five Year Mission’ Oxford University Press 2015 p.215

[6] Channel Four News (Jon Snow interview of Corbyn) 16/9/15

[7] Observer 21/2/15

[8] Observer 21/2/15

[9] Owen Jones Tweets 20/2/16

[10] ‘DiEM25 is in the air—a preliminary Q&A 31/1/16 http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/

[11] ‘A Critique of Yanis Varoufakis’ Democracy in Europe Movement’ (DiEM25) www.socialeurope.eu/2016/02

[12] Yanis Varoufakis ‘The Global Minotaur’ Zed Books 2015 p.256

[13] Socialist Review (US) April-May 1978

[14] Guardian Comment is Free 16/7/15

[15] Green World Winter 2016: no page number, now on-line only.

[16] ‘EU Referendum: I’ve Finally Decided Which Way to Vote’ http://londongreenleft.blogspot.co.uk 20/2/16

[17] Socialist Review 404 (UK) July-August 2015 p.15 (Joseph Choonara), see also the dissenting view in Socialist Review 405 September 2015 p.16-17 (James Anderson).

[18] ‘EU is now a profoundly anti-democratic institution’ Guardian letter on-line 17/2/16.

[19] ‘The Progressive case for staying in the EU’ Guardian letter on-line 18/2/16

[20] Memorandum reproduced in full and analysed, Notes From the Borderland 5 2003 p.54-55

[21] See her interview in Sunday Telegraph 7/2/16 (Tim Ross)

[22] Cited in ‘Stop TTIP’ published by Leave.EU February 2016 p.13

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Welcome to Britain's premier parapolitical investigative magazine Notes from the Borderland (NFB). We have been producing the magazine since 1997 but some published material before then.

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