Understanding the causes of racist extremism is important. So it is nice that the government’s Prevent strategy, whose remit is usually limited to monitoring and demonising Muslims, is appointing its first ever employee to examine the foundations of right-wing racism.
Leicestershire’s Prevent co-ordinator explained: “There is a lot of fog around the far right…” (August 25, Leicester Mercury). There certainly is, and none more so than around the worrying undertakings of Tory extremists like Iain Duncan Smith.
An early warning of IDS’s extremism came in 1992, when Norman Tebbit relinquished his parliamentary seat in Chingford to IDS he famously stated: “If you think I’m rightwing, wait until you meet this guy.” This from a man who was a long-time participant in the notorious Monday Club, a group renowned for its vehement racism.
In 1995 IDS courted the far-right when he met senior figures in the French Front Nationale “and later drank with them in a bar at Westminster” to discuss their shared opposition to the European Union. Ominously, this meeting had been set-up by the ultra right-wing Western Goals Institute.
IDS then took his radical anti-EU activism forward as a vice president of the hard-right Conservatives Against a Federal Europe, where he served alongside fellow MPs and vice presidents like John Bercow, Andrew Hunter, and Sir Richard Body.
Hunter, like many Tories, is a hardened racist and a 1995 report carried in The Observer demonstrated that he had worked for the Apartheid South African intelligence services, in work closely allied to that being undertaken by Western Goals.
Laying aside the Labour Party’s own contribution to extremism (an illegal war on Iraq); in late 2000 foreign secretary, Robin Cook, accused William Hague of failing to stand up to extremism, especially his refusal to close down the far right publication Right Now and for appointing Monday Club darling John Bercow to his frontbench.
During IDS’s successful bid for the Tory leadership in the summer of 2001, controversy around extremism struck again, which led to the sacking of a local vice chair of his leadership campaign for manning a BNP helpline.
The individual in question was Edgar Griffin, the father of the privately educated BNP leader Nick Griffin, and husband to BNP employee Jean Griffin – a woman who just a few months earlier had stood against IDS for his seat in Chingford.
In spite of such fresh charges of racism, none of this stopped IDS from accepting enthusiastic campaign support from the deputy chairman of the Monday Club, Andrew Hunter. “They are a viable group within the party and they are, in a sense, what that party is all about,” IDS told The Telegraph on September 2, 2001.
By October however IDS had been forced into making an about-face, in order to rebrand the Tories as the less-nasty party, suspending the Monday Club from the Conservative party — apparently because of its decades long promotion of inflammatory views on race.
One of the three MPs forced to resign from the club (but not from parliament) was Andrew Hunter, who also dropped his position as a patron of Right Now – a magazine being edited by the former leader of a Nazi party in Ireland.
Of course many Monday Club acolytes remained safely ensconced within Tory circles, like Sir Richard Body, who in April 2001 courted infamy by publishing his racist book England for the English.
Shortly thereafter, Body stood down as a Tory MP having served in parliament for the best part of 35 years. He is now a proud member of the racist English Democrats and chairman of a right-wing journal edited by Derek Turner, called The Quarterly Review. Fittingly The Quarterly Review is based at the same house in Sudbury as Bloomfield Books, one of Britain’s most extremist anti-Semitic publishing houses.
One can only conclude from this brief overview of extremism that a good starting point for the Prevent strategy’s fresh focus on the far right would be to root out and expose its leading proponents within parliament.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 31st August.