National Front (UK)
|Deputy Leader||Steve Rowland|
|Headquarters||Kingston upon Hull|
|European Parliament group||None|
Red, white and blue
|Politics of United Kingdom
The National Front (NF) is a British far-right political party for whites only, opposed to non-white immigration, and committed to a programme of repatriation. While denying accusations of fascism, it has cultivated links with neo-Nazi cells at home and abroad, and the British police and prison services forbid their employees to be members of the party.
The NF was founded in 1967. By 1976, it had up to 14,000 paying members, and won nearly 20% of that year's local election votes in Leicester. In the 1979 general election, the NF fielded 303 candidates, polling 191,719 votes. Following that election, Margaret Thatcher's right-wing policies attracted many NF supporters to join, or rejoin, the Conservatives, and the party has since been in decline. In 2010, it put up 17 candidates for the general election and 18 candidates for the local elections, but none were elected.
The party has never won a seat in Parliament, and its few council seats have only been obtained through defection and appointment.
- 1 Policies
- 2 History
- 3 Electoral performance
- 4 See also
- 5 Footnotes
- 6 Bibliography
The National Front has been described as fascist and neo-fascist in its policies. In his book, The New Fascists, Wilkinson, comparing the NF to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), comments on its neo-fascist nature and neo-Nazi ideals:
"The only other case among the western democracies of a neo-fascist movement making some progress towards creating an effective mass party with at least a chance of winning some leverage, is the National Front (NF) in Britain. It is interesting that the NF, like the MSI, has tried to develop a 'two-track' strategy. On the one hand it follows an opportunistic policy of attempting to present itself as a respectable political party appealing by argument and peaceful persuasion for the support of the British electorate. On the other, its leadership is deeply imbued with Nazi ideas, and though they try to play down their past affiliations with more blatantly Nazi movements, such as Colin Jordan's National Socialist Movement, they covertly maintain intimate connections with small neo-Nazi cells in Britain and abroad, because all their beliefs and motives make this not only tactically expedient but effective."
The cornerstone of the National Front's manifesto since 1974 has been the compulsory repatriation of all non-white immigrants:
"The National Front advocates a total ban on any further non-White immigration into Britain, and the launching of a phased plan of repatriation for all coloured immigrants."
In the past, the National Front did not oppose white immigration into Britain. Ted Budden, a former organiser for the party in the 1980s proclaimed that white immigrants such as Poles in Britain would not be repatriated, adding: "Ah, it's the Poles who are the most forthright in the fight against coloured immigrants everywhere". The National Front's manifesto has also called for white emigrants to the Commonwealth countries to return to Britain, claiming: "These immigrants should be given completely free entry into Britain and full rights of British citizenship". The National Front in its political manifestos published in 1997 and 2001 reiterated its pledge to repatriate "all coloured immigrants and their offspring". The party's policy as of 2012 on immigration remains unchanged in regards to its compulsory repatriation policy for non-whites:
"The National Front would halt all non-white immigration into Britain and introduce a policy of phased and humane repatriation."
The party, however, now opposes further white immigration into Britain, excluding some cases:
"In regards to white immigration, this would only be allowed where there are particular reasons such as the possession of particular skills or in the case of political refugees."
Unlike non-white immigrants, the National Front has no policy to repatriate white immigrants already settled in Britain. While supporting withdrawal from the European Union, the National Front wants to create greater cultural links between Europe, what it calls the "White nations". The party claims to stand for "white family values" and the "Fourteen Words", a white nationalist slogan that states: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The party works in open cooperation with the white supremacist and neo-Nazi website Stormfront.
In recent years the party has been in conflict with the British National Party over such issues as the BNP's attempts to present a more moderate image, such as shifting its policy from compulsory to voluntary repatriation and opening its membership to non-whites. The NF's former national chairman, Tom Holmes, condemned the BNP as no longer being a white nationalist party for having a Sikh columnist in its party newspaper.
According to its 2010 general election manifesto, the National Front's policy on environmental issues includes enacting legislation to protect existing green areas and to also seek to expand their size and number, particularly in cities.
The party supports the use of capital punishment for crimes of murder, rape, paedophilia, and terrorism. It would reintroduce Section 28, and support the recriminalisation of homosexuality. The party adopts a strongly pro-life stance, describing abortion as a "crime against humanity" and would repeal the 1967 Abortion Act.
Its constitution expresses the fact that it is led by a National Directorate rather than a chairman, and that the National Front is a party of democracy and freedom of speech. Section 2 says: "The National Front consists of a confederation of branches co-ordinated by a National Directorate. Additionally a Central Tribunal appointed by the National Directorate is responsible for acting as a final court of appeal in internal disciplinary matters and for acting as a disciplinary tribunal for cases brought directly against individual party members by the National Directorate." It claims that its skinhead image is a thing of the past, that the party is critical of the historical accuracy of the Holocaust, and is inclined towards historical revisionism, but claims that it has no official view about it and defends the right of free speech for any historian of the subject.
Late 1960s: formation
A move towards unity on the far right had been growing during the 1960s as groups worked more closely together. Impetus was provided by the 1966 general election when a moderate Conservative Party was defeated and A. K. Chesterton, a cousin of the novelist G. K. Chesterton and leader of the League of Empire Loyalists (LEL), argued that a patriotic and racialist right wing party would have won the election. Acting on a suggestion by John Tyndall, Chesterton opened talks with the 1960s incarnation of the British National Party (who had already been discussing a possible deal with the new National Democratic Party) and agreed a merger with them, with the BNP's Philip Maxwell addressing the LEL conference in October 1966. A portion of the Racial Preservation Society led by Robin Beauclair also agreed to participate (although the remainder threw in their lot with the NDP, its house political party under David Brown) and so the NF was founded on 7 February 1967.
Its purpose was to oppose immigration and multiculturalist policies in Britain, and multinational agreements such as the United Nations or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as replacements for negotiated bilateral agreements between nations. The new group placed a ban on neo-Nazi groups being allowed to join the party, but members of John Tyndall's neo-fascist Greater Britain Movement were allowed to join on an individual basis.
Early 1970s: growth
The National Front grew during the 1970s and had between 16,000 and 20,000 members by 1974, and 50 local branches. Its electoral base largely consisted of blue-collar workers and the self-employed who resented immigrant competition in the labour market and for scarce housing. Some recruits came from the Monday Club within the Conservative Party that had been founded in reaction to Harold Macmillan's "Wind of Change" speech. The NF fought on a platform of opposition to communism and liberalism, support for Ulster loyalism, opposition to the European Economic Community, and the compulsory repatriation of new Commonwealth immigrants who had entered Britain under the British Nationality Act, 1948. In May 1973, in a by-election in West Bromwich West, the National Front candidate, the party's National Activities Organizer, Martin Webster, polled 4,789 votes (16.2%), a result which shook the political and media Establishment.
A common sight in England in the 1970s, the NF was well known for its street demonstrations, particularly in London, where it often faced anti-fascist protestors from opposing left-wing groups, including the International Marxist Group and the International Socialists (later the Socialist Workers Party). Opponents of the National Front claimed it to be a neo-fascist organisation, and its activities were opposed by anti-racist groups such as Searchlight. The NF was led at first by Chesterton, who left under a cloud after half of the directorate (led by the NF's major financer, Gordon Marshall) moved a vote of no confidence in him. He was replaced in 1970 by the party's office manager John O'Brien, a former Conservative and supporter of Enoch Powell. O'Brien, however, left when he realised the NF's leadership functions were being systematically taken over by the former Greater Britain Movement members, in order to ensure the party was really being run by John Tyndall and his deputy Martin Webster. O'Brien and the NF's treasurer Clare McDonald led a small group of supporters into John Davis' National Independence Party, and the leadership of the National Front passed to Tyndall and Webster.
Mid 1970s: height of party and success
Between 1973 and 1976 the National Front performed better in local elections, as well as in several parliamentary by-elections, than in general elections. No parliamentary candidates ever won a seat, but the party saved its deposit on one occasion.
The NF sought to expand its influence into the 'white dominions' of the Commonwealth. In 1977, overseas organisations were set up in New Zealand (the New Zealand National Front), South Africa (the South African National Front) and in Australia (the National Front Australia ).
A Canadian organisation was also set up (National Front of Canada) but it failed to take off.
Already by 1974, the ITV documentary This Week exposed the neo-Nazi pasts (and continued links with Nazis from other countries) of Tyndall and Webster. This resulted in a stormy annual conference two weeks later, where Tyndall was booed with chants of "Nazi! Nazi!" when he tried to make his speech. This led to the leadership being passed to the populist John Kingsley Read. A stand-off between Read and his supporters (such as Roy Painter and Denis Pirie) and Tyndall and Webster followed, leading to a temporary stand-still in NF growth. Before long Read and his supporters seceded and Tyndall returned as leader. Read formed the short-lived National Party, which won two council seats in Blackburn in 1976.
A National Front march through central London on 15 June 1974 led to a 21-year-old man, Kevin Gately, being killed and dozens more people (including 39 police officers) being injured, in clashes between the party's supporters and members of 'anti-fascist' organisations.
The National Front was also opposed to British membership of the European Economic Community, which began on 1 January 1973. On 25 March 1975, some 400 NF supporters demonstrated across London in protest against EEC membership, mostly in the Islington area of the capital.
During 1976 the movement's fortunes improved, and the NF had up to 14,000 paid members. A campaign was launched in support of Robert Relf, who had been jailed for refusing to remove a sign from outside his home declaring that it was for sale only to English buyers. In the May local election the NF's best result was in Leicester, where 48 candidates won 14,566 votes, nearly 20% of the total vote. By June, the party's growth rate was its highest ever. In the May 1977 Greater London Council election, 119,060 votes were cast in favour of the NF and the Liberals were beaten in 33 out of 92 constituencies.
A police ban on an NF march through Hyde in October 1977 was defied by Martin Webster, who separately marched alone carrying a Union Jack and a sign reading "Defend British Free Speech from Red Terrorism", surrounded by an estimated 2,500 police and onlookers. He was allowed to march, as 'one man' did not constitute a breaking of the ban. The tactic attracted media publicity for the Front.
Late 1970s: riots, in-fighting and decline
If anything epitomised the NF under Tyndall and Webster it was the events of August 1977, when a large NF march went through the largely non-white area of Lewisham in South East London under an inflammatory slogan claiming that 85% of muggers were black whilst 85% of their victims were white. As the NF was then contesting the Birmingham Ladywood by-election, such a large march elsewhere was construed by some as an attempt to provoke trouble. 270 policemen were injured (56 hospitalised) and over 200 marchers were injured (78 hospitalised), while an attempt was made by rioters to destroy the local police station. At this march, riot shields were used for the first time in the UK outside Northern Ireland. The event is often referred to by 'anti-fascists' as the Battle of Lewisham. In fact, many of those who took part in the riot that day were not members of any 'anti-fascist' or 'anti-racist' group, but local youths (both black and white).
At the same time, Margaret Thatcher as opposition leader was moving the Tory party back to the right and away from the moderate Heathite stance which had caused some Conservatives to join the NF. Many ex-Tories returned to the fold from the NF or its myriad splinter groups, in particular after her "swamping" remarks on the ITV documentary series World In Action on 30 January 1978:
- "... we do not talk about it [immigration] perhaps as much as we should. In my view, that is one thing that is driving some people to the National Front. They do not agree with the objectives of the National Front, but they say that at least they are talking about some of the problems.... If we do not want people to go to extremes... we must show that we are prepared to deal with it. We are a British nation with British characteristics."
Also, Tyndall insisted on using party funds to nominate extra candidates so that the NF would be standing in 303 seats to give the impression of growing strength. However, it brought the party to the verge of bankruptcy when all of the deposits were lost. Most candidates were candidates in name only, and did no electioneering.
National Front deputy leader Martin Webster claimed two decades later that the activities of the Anti-Nazi League played a key part in the NF's collapse at the end of the 1970s. The NF stood its largest number of parliamentary candidates at the 1979 general election only a few months later, and met with far less opposition than in previous elections.
Most damning of all, a full set of minutes of National Front Directorate meetings from late 1979 to the 1986 "Third Way" versus "Flag Group" split, deposited by former NF leader Patrick Harrington in the library of the University of Southampton, revealed that during the party's post-1979 wilderness years it was in the habit of "tipping off the reds" in the hope of giving its activities greater credibility with the public, through being attended by hordes of angry protestors. This was later confirmed by the MI5 mole Andy Carmichael, who was West Midlands Regional Organiser for the NF during the 1990s.
Tyndall's leadership was challenged by Andrew Fountaine after the 1979 debacle. Although Tyndall saw off the challenge, Fountaine and his followers split from the party to form the NF Constitutional Movement. The influential Leicester branch of the NF also split around this time, leading to the formation of the short lived British Democratic Party. In the face of these splits, the party's Directorate voted to oust Tyndall as Chairman after he had demanded even more powers. He was replaced by Andrew Brons: but the 'power behind the throne' was Martin Webster who, somewhat surprisingly, had supported his old ally's deposition. After failing to win title to the National Front name in the courts, Tyndall formed the British National Party.
1980s: two National Fronts
The party rapidly declined during the 1980s, although it retained some support in the West Midlands and in parts of London (usually centred around Terry Blackham).
The party effectively split into two halves during the 1980s, after it had expelled Martin Webster. On one side were the Political Soldier ideas of young radicals such as Nick Griffin, Patrick Harrington, Phil Andrews and Derek Holland, who were known as the Official National Front. They had little interest in contesting elections, preferring a 'revolutionary' strategy.
The opposition NF Flag Group contained the traditionalists such as Andrew Brons, Ian Anderson, Martin Wingfield, Tina Wingfield, Joe Pearce (initially associated with the Political Soldiers' faction) and Steve Brady, who ran candidates under the NF banner in the 1987 general election. The Flag Group did some ideological work of its own, and the ideas of Social Credit and Distributism were popular, but the chief preoccupation was still race relations. Some hoped that having two parties within one might help to save the NF from oblivion after 1979. The phrase "Let a thousand initiatives bloom" was coined (meaning that internal diversity should be tolerated) in the hope of re-capturing support, but clashes occurred nevertheless. In the 1989 Vauxhall by-election, Harrington stood as the Official National Front candidate against Ted Budden for the Flag NF, both sides cat-calling at one another during the declaration of the result. By 1990, the Political Soldiers had fallen out with one another, splintering into Griffin's International Third Position (ITP) and Harrington's Third Way, leaving the Flag Group under Anderson and Wingfield to continue alone. Griffin's pamphlet "Attempted Murder" gives a very colourful – if biased and somewhat bitter – overview of this period of the NF's history.
Around this time, the 'official' NF lost much of its traditional English support as a result of its support for black radicals such as Louis Farrakhan. The former supporters either moved to the British National Party (BNP), the rapidly declining British Movement, or to the White Noise umbrella group Blood and Honour. Griffin and Holland tried to enlist the financial aid of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, but the idea was rejected once the Libyans found out about the NF's reputation as fascist (a quarter of Libya's adult male population was killed by Benito Mussolini's troops during World War II). However, the NF received 5,000 copies of Gaddafi's Green Book, which influenced Andrews to leave the NF to form the Isleworth Community Group, the first of several grass roots groups in English local elections, whereby nominally independent candidates stood under a collective flag of convenience to appear more attractive to voters.
An estimate of membership of the National Front in 1989 put adherents of the Flag Group at about 3,000 and of the 'Political Soldier' faction at about 600, with a number in between embracing Griffin's Third Position ideas. Griffin's own estimate, as stated in a TV documentary first broadcast in 1999, was that in 1990 his International Third Position had fifty to sixty supporters, while Harrington's Third Way had about a dozen.
1990s and beyond
In the 1990s, the NF declined as the BNP began to grow. As a result of this, Ian Anderson decided to change the party name and in 1995 re-launched it as the National Democrats. The move proved unpopular. Over half of the members continued with the NF under the reluctant leadership of previous deputy leader John McAuley. He later passed the job on to Tom Holmes. The National Democrats continued to publish the old NF newspaper, The Flag, for a while. The NF launched a new paper, The Flame, which is still published irregularly.
There has been a re-positioning of the NF's policy on marches and demonstrations since the expulsion from the party in 2007 of Terry Blackham, the former National Activities Organiser. These have been reduced in favour of electoral campaigning. In January 2010, Tom Holmes resigned the leadership and handed over to Ian Edward.
In February 2010, when the BNP had to change its constitution to allow non-whites into the party because of a High Court decision, the NF claimed to have received over 1000 membership enquiries from BNP members and said that local BNP branches in Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire had discussed switching over to them. Prominent BNP dissidents Chris Jackson and Michael Easter joined the NF in the latter half of 2009 while, more recently, the veteran nationalists Richard Edmonds and Tess Culnane have both rejoined the party.
On 14 September 2010, the NF publicity officer, Tom Linden, shared a debate with the Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA, John Dallat, on BBC Radio Foyle about the support the NF had in Coleraine. This gave the NF a chance to air its views, which resulted in the NF Coleraine organiser, Mark Brown, thanking John Dallat for helping the NF double its support in Coleraine through enquiries and membership.
Summary of general election performance
|Year||Number of Candidates||Total votes||Average voters per candidate||Percentage of vote||Saved deposits||Change (percentage points)||Number of MPs|
Local elections (1967–2012)
The National Front has contested local elections since the late 1960s, but only did particularly well in them from 1973, polling as high as 15%. It never won a seat, however. In the 1976 local elections the NF notably polled 27.5% of the vote in Sandwell, West Midlands, as well as over 10,000 votes in some councils. The May 1976 local election results were the most impressive for the National Front, with the jewel in the crown being Leicester, where 48 candidates won 14,566 votes, nearly 20% of the total. However, after 1977 the NF vote-share ceased growing and by 1979 had begun to decline.
An article printed in The Independent on 23 April 2012 reported that the National Front intended to field 35 candidates in local elections – the highest number for 30 years – aiming to revive the 1970s 'glory days'. Among the NF candidates for the 2012 local elections was Derek Beackon in Thurrock with Mick Griffin of Tilbury Essex receiving the party's best result.
The National Front has never won a contested council seat in any election. However, in October 1969, two Conservative councillors, Athlene O' Connell and Peter Mitchell, defected to the National Front on Wandsworth London Borough Council, but they left only two months later, rejoining the Conservative Party. On 3 May 2007, a National Front candidate Simon Deacon was elected unopposed to Markyate Parish council, near St Albans (there were ten vacancies but only nine candidates). However, Deacon soon defected to the British National Party, after becoming disillusioned with the direction of the NF.
In March 2010, the NF gained its first ever councillor in Rotherham by defection: John Gamble, who was originally in the BNP and then the England First Party (EFP). However, not long afterwards he was expelled. Later the same year, a parish councillor from Harrogate, Sam Clayton, defected from the BNP to the NF. However, on 29 November 2010, it was revealed that Clayton had resigned as parish councillor for Bilton in Ainsty with Bickerton ward. As of mid-2011 the National Front had one parish councillor, who represented Langley Hill Ward on Langley Parish Council. However, in September 2011 it lost its councillor after the party failed to complete the necessary paper work.
In 2012, the National Front put forward Peter Tierney, a former BNP organiser, as a candidate to be the first elected mayor of Liverpool. Tierney came last out of twelve candidates with 556 votes (0.57%).
In the 2008 London Assembly election held on 1 May, the National Front stood five candidates, saving two deposits – Paul Winnett polled 11,288 votes (5.56% of those cast) in the Bexley and Bromley constituency. In the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency, Tess Culnane polled 8,509 votes (5.79% of those cast) coming ahead of the UK Independence Party.
In the 2012 London Assembly election held on 3 May, the National Front stood three candidates in two of the same constituencies in which it stood before – Greenwich and Lewisham and Ealing and Hillingdon – and Havering and Redbridge. The National Front lost all deposits and received large drops in the votes. At the same time, the National Front stood on the London list in which it came twelfth out of thirteen parties with 8,006 votes (0.4%).
General elections (1970–2010)
The National Front has contested general elections since 1970. The NF's most significant success in a parliamentary by-election was in the 1973 West Bromwich by-election: the NF candidate finished third with 16%, and saved his deposit for the only time in NF by-election history. This result was largely due to the candidate Martin Webster's own adopted 'chummy' persona for the campaign as "Big Mart".
In the 1979 general election the National Front fielded a record 303 candidates, polling 191,719 votes but saving no deposits. This plunged the party into financial difficulties. This is considered to be a major factor in the decline of the NF.[by whom?] The National Front fielded 60 candidates in the 1983 general election and received 27,065 votes. It saved no deposits, the average vote being less than 1% in each contested constituency. In 1987, the NF was split and only stood one candidate, in Bristol East, polling 286 votes (0.6%).
Since 1992, the National Front has never fielded more than nineteen candidates in a British general election (as few as five in 2001). None has saved their deposit, with their average percentage share of the vote being around 1%. However, in Rochdale during the 2010 general election, the NF candidate, Chris Jackson, polled 4.9% (2,236 votes), coming within a whisker of saving his deposit.
The National Front stood for the first time ever in the Scottish Parliament general election, 2011, fielding six candidates – one for the North East region and five for the constituencies. It gained 1,515 votes (0.08%) for the constituencies nationwide and 640 votes (0.2%) for the North East region. It failed to win any seats or save any deposits.
- British National Party
- National Front (UK) election results
- Nationalism in the United Kingdom
- National Front Australia
- National Democrats
- National Front (France)
- New Zealand National Front
- South African National Front
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- Councillors - John Gamble, Rotherham Borough COuncil
- Sam Clayton, National front
- Bilton in Ainsty with Bickerton parish council
- Elections, National front, May 2011
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- Walker, Martin (1977) The National Front (also expanded edition 1978) Fontana/Collins. This was written by a Guardian journalist of the period who interviewed many of the key players within the NF circa 1967–1977: e.g. Rosine de Bounevialle, Rodney Legg, John O'Brien, Roy Painter, John Kingsley Read, John Tyndall and Martin Webster, as well as the widow of Arthur K. Chesterton.
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- National Front website
- 2005 Manifesto
- 2010 Manifesto
- BBC 1975: National Front rallies against Europe
- 1975 video