Robert Relf

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For the cricketer, see Robert Relf (cricketer). For the rugby league player, see Robert Relf (rugby league).

Robert Relf (born 1924) is a far right English 'race martyr' who briefly became a cause célèbre for the tabloid press in the 1970s. Relf also had a long history of involvement in far-right politics in the United Kingdom.

Early years[edit]

Relf spent most of his working life as a bus driver[1] although he also had a spell as a paratrooper.[2] He was involved in far-right activity in the Midlands during the 1960s and was arrested in 1965 as a suspect in a cross burning incident. Following this incident he was invited onto Midlands Today to present his point of view, an appearance widely condemned by anti-racist campaigners in the region.[3]

House sale controversy and aftermath[edit]

Relf first came to national attention in 1976 when he advertised his house in Leamington Spa as being 'For Sale - to an English family only'.[4] The sign had initially read "Viewing. To avoid animosity all round positively no coloureds" before Relf amended it.[5] Relf was found to be in breach of the Race Relations Act and was jailed for contempt of court when he refused to take it down.[6] Relf's plight was taken up by the tabloid press as an example of the supposedly draconian nature of race legislation and there was an outcry that Relf was imprisoned for his actions. Demonstration were held, particularly in the Midlands, demanding his release, although counter-demonstrations endorsing the sentence were also organised.[7] One such event in Handsworth ended in a riot with 28 arrests as National Front and anti-fascist demonstrators clashed when their respective marches met.[8] However fervour for Relf's cause soon died after articles about his background began to appear in the Sunday Times, revealing that Relf had been a member of the British Movement and had served as a bodyguard to Colin Jordan as well as attempting to organise a UK branch of the Ku Klux Klan.[9]

Relf, who staged a hunger strike during his incarceration,[10] was released from prison the same year, although by now much of the popular support that he had gathered had died away. He would go on to rejoin the British Movement, although he left due to his dissatisfaction with the leadership of Michael McLaughlin and instead devoted much of his energies to the World Union of National Socialists, at the time led by Povl Riis-Knudsen. He also been associated with the National Front and it became his main area of domestic activity after he left the BM (although he had also been courted by the National Party who, along with the NF and BM, played a leading role in the campaign for his release).[11]

Having gained notoriety Relf continued to perform publicity stunts, notably in September 1978 when he was handed a £10 fine for refusing to wear a motorcycle helmet in protest at the legal exemption from the requirement for Sikhs.[12] Relf was jailed soon afterwards for publishing racial hatred materials, and immediately went on hunger strike, sparking another NF led campaign for his release.[13] He helped to set up White Nationalist Crusade, an attempt to create an umbrella movement for the far right in Britain, although this proved unsuccessful and he briefly led his own White Power Movement the following year.[14]

Later years[edit]

Relf largely disappeared from public life until 1991 when he again became involved in controversy, this time over a letter sent to the Conservative Party in Cheltenham. In the letter Relf attacked local Tories for their decision to endorse John Taylor, a black man and current member of the House of Lords, as their candidate for the 1992 general election. Relf suggested that those who had chosen Taylor should be 'strung up' because Taylor wanted 'a nation of half breeds'.[15] Taylor failed to win the traditionally Conservative seat of Cheltenham in the 1992 election, losing to Nigel Jones of the Liberal Democrats.

In 2002 Relf was jailed for a week after refusing to complete a census form because he was not happy to indicate his nationality as "British", preferring "English".[15] He had originally been fined for the offence but refused to pay on principle.[1] Later that same year he was fined for sending postcards deemed to be offensive to Warwick police station. Relf had sent the cards after reading a story that the local police had removed a poster promoting an Saint George's Day event.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Pinder, Rachel (5 January 2002). "Jail Threat for Census Rebel; Former Leamington Man in 'English' Protest Has 28 Days to Pay Fine". Coventry Telegraph  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Rate Rebels Home Siege". The Sunday People  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). 12 August 2001. Retrieved 9 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Gavin Schaffer, The Vision of a Nation: Making Multiculturalism on British Television, 1960-80, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 106
  4. ^ ITN - Birmingham man advertising house for sale to English family only stays in jail
  5. ^ Les Back & John Solomos, Race, Politics and Social Change, Routledge, 2002, p. 61
  6. ^ 'Facing the Crisis'
  7. ^ Back & Solomos, Race, Politics and Social Change, p. 62
  8. ^ Tahir Abbas, Frank Reeves, Immigration and Race Relations: Sociological Theory and John Rex, I. B. Tauris, 2007, p. 138
  9. ^ Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations, 2002, p. 184
  10. ^ Christopher T. Husbands, Racial Exclusionism and the City: The Urban Support of the National Front, Routledge, 2013, p. 12
  11. ^ S. Taylor, The National Front in English Politics, London: Macmillan, 1982, p. 162
  12. ^ Taylor, op cit
  13. ^ taylor, op cit
  14. ^ Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations, 2002, p. 195
  15. ^ a b English census rebel jailed
  16. ^ Buggins, Arryn (28 November 2002). "Pensioner fined over postcards; Comments to police were racially offensive, court rules". Coventry Telegraph  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 9 September 2014.