Painter, who enjoyed a distinguished career in the Army, being decorated for his services during the Korean War, and later as a cab driver, was initially a leading member of the Conservatives in Tottenham and had stood as a candidate for them in the Greater London Council. A supporter of Enoch Powell, he was involved with the Conservative Monday Club, although he resigned from the group (and the Tories) in 1972 when the Club began a process of removing its most extreme members. Following his resignation Painter joined the National Front rapidly rising to a post on the NF Directorate by 1974.
He made a weak start as a party candidate for Tottenham in the February 1974 general election he finished with 1270 votes (4.1%), behind the National Independence Party candidate. An improvement was shown in the October election when he captured 2211 votes (8.3%) in the same seat. It has been argued that the vote was as much a personal one for Painter, a popular businessman in Haringey, as it was an endorsement of the NF.
He became a prominent figure in the 'populist' wing of the NF, opposing John Tyndall and Martin Webster. He wrote an article in a 1974 issue of Spearhead entitled 'Let's Make Nationalism Popular' which extolled the virtues of this path. It was followed by a rebuttal from Tyndall who described Painter's arguments as "sheer unadulterated claptrap". Whilst espousing populism Painter would tell Martin Webster that "I am a national socialist at heart. Only I am careful". The 'populists' however would begin to outvote Tyndall on the Directorate and Painter would dismiss Tyndall as a 'tin pot Führer'
Painter was believed by The Guardian to be a potential rival leader, however, he instead supported John Kingsley Read. Kingsley Read came under bitter attack from the hardliners who regained control of the party in 1976. "Kingsley Read, Roy Painter and other ex-Conservative populist's" left to form the short-lived National Party. Painter was appointed to the Directorate of the National Party.
Painter rejoined the Conservatives in 1978, although his role with them was confined to local politics.
Elections contested 
|Date of election||Constituency||Party||Votes||%||Source|
|February 1974||Tottenham||NF||1270||4.1||The Guardian 2 Mar 1974|
|October 1974||Tottenham||NF||2211||8.3||The Guardian 12 Oct 1974|
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