The Constitutional Movement was a right wing political group in the United Kingdom. It was formed in 1979 by Andrew Fountaine as the National Front Constitutional Movement, a splinter group from the National Front. Offering a more moderate alternative to the NF, the Constitutional Movement claimed to have 2000 members by 1980.
Within the National Front in the late 1970s there was a growing disaffection with the leadership of John Tyndall and his associate Martin Webster and in particular their adherence to neo-Nazi principles rather than what the critics believed to be the vote-winning alternative of a more populist British nationalism. Already by 1978 Andrew Fountaine had become the focal point for a number of members of the anti-Tyndall faction and their position was strengthened by the 1979 general election in which the NF put forward the greatest number of candidates in its history but failed to make any headway with the electorate.
The party was born in a time of serious division in the British far right and competed with a number of other parties for attention. Such was the confusion at the time that party operations were even based at Excalibur House (London, EC2), which continued to be the HQ of the main NF. Fountaine had split from the NF in opposition to what he claimed was the increasing Nazism amongst the leadership, the encouragment of links with violent subcultures such as football hooliganism and Nazi skinheads as well as a strong current of homosexuality which he claimed existed amongst the leadership. The new party ambitiously launched itself as an alternative to the Conservative Party and hoped to win votes and members from the right-wing of the Tories. Like the British Democratic Party, which broke away from the NF at the time, the party sought to distance itself from the vote-losing open Nazism that both groups associated with John Tyndall, Martin Webster and the other leaders of the NF. The Movement produced its own newspaper, Frontline News as well as a magazine Excalibur, the latter edited by Terry Savage, a veteran of the National Labour Party.
The party campaigned for the 1981 GLC election although the results proved disappointing and during the course of the campaign their Excalibur House HQ was damaged by a fire and a campaigner, Anthony Donnelly, was murdered in Hackney. Following this disastrous election Fountaine announced his retirement from politics, leaving the Constitutional Movement without a strong leader.
The failure of this campaign, in which the party lost out to both the original NF and the New National Front, saw the party go into decline. Not long after this the party was contacted by Tyndall, Ray Hill and Charles Parker as part of their Committee for Nationalist Unity initiative in which they were aiming to forge a united far-right group from the NNF, Hill's wing of the British Movement and other groups such as the Constitutional Movement. Although the group did not join this initiative it lost Robin May, the main organiser in the East End of London, to Tyndall's group. A number of party members followed May and joined him in attending the March 1982 meeting at Charing Cross Hotel in which Tyndall, Parker, Hill, Kenneth McKilliam and John Peacock announced the conversion of the Committee for Nationalist Unity into the British National Party.
The Constitutional Movement changed its name to the Nationalist Party soon after the formation of the BNP and under this title it contested five seats in the 1983 general election. However the Nationalist Party performed very poorly in this election and the next time the party hit the headlines was when one former member, Richard Franklin, was revealed as a Conservative candidate in local elections in 1983.
The Nationalist Party made its last appearance in a 1984 by-election in the Southgate constituency, with James Kershaw polling only 80 votes in a seat won by Michael Portillo. The party was gone soon after this, with most of the members joining the British National Party.
|Bethnal Green and Bow||AJ Wilkens||257||1.3|
|Brent East||RJ Marsh||328||1.5|
|Brent North||M Stubbs||226||0.7|
|Brent South||R Tainton||165||0.7|
|Brentford and Isleworth||GD Pearce||104||0.3|
|Ealing North||JA Murphy||159||0.4|
|Enfield North||RP Johns||130||0.4|
|Erith and Crayford||O Hawke||559||1.9|
|Harrow East||Leslie ED Le Croisette||296||1.3|
|Harrow West||BW Robinson||271||1.0|
|Holborn and St Pancras South||Paul T Kavanagh||218||1.5|
|Islington Central||P Holden||118||0.8|
|Islington North||SP Bowdidge||152||0.9|
|Islington South and Finsbury||FT Theobald||109||0.8|
|Lewisham West||Susan C. McKenzie||100||0.4|
|Newham North East||TS Bennett||173||0.7|
|Southgate||Mrs JE Izzard||189||0.7|
|Coventry South West||M Williamson||214||0.43|
|Hendon North||Bernard Franklin||194||0.52|
|Hull North||Robert Tenney||222||0.44|
|Southwark and Bermondsey||Susan McKenzie||50||0.15|
- S. Taylor, The National Front in English Politics, London: Macmillan, 1982, p. 91
- Richard Thurlow, Fascism in Britain A History, 1918-1985, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987, p. 291
- John Bean, Many Shades of Black: Inside Britain's Far-Right, London: New Millennium, 1999, p. 221
- Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2000, p. 188
- R. Hill & A. Bell, The Other Face of Terror - Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network, London: Collins, 1988, p. 91
- Hill & Bell, The Other Face of Terror, p. 92
- Bean, Many Shades of Black, p. 222
- R. Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940-2000, London: Pan, 2003, p. 539
- Hill & Bell, The Other Face of Terror, p. 162
- Hill & Bell, The Other Face of Terror, p. 163
- Hill & Bell, The Other Face of Terror, p. 163
- By-election result