Searchlight's main focus is on the British National Party (BNP), Combat 18, the English Defence League (EDL) and other sections of the Far right in the United Kingdom, as well as covering similar entities in other countries. The magazine is published and edited by Gerry Gable.
The current Searchlight magazine was preceded in the early 1960s by a newspaper of the same name, edited by left-wing Labour Party Members of Parliament Reg Freeson and Joan Lestor with Gerry Gable as "research director". It ceased publication in 1967, but Gable, Maurice Ludmer and others stayed together as Searchlight Associates before re-launching a regular journal. The pilot issue of the new Searchlight appeared in February 1975, with Maurice Ludmer as its editor.
In the Ludmer years, Searchlight had a close relationship with CARF, the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, whose magazine was published as an insert from 1979.
Publisher Gerry Gable is known to have links with MI5. His leaked 1977 London Weekend Television memo stated that he had "given names I have acquired to be checked out by British/French security services". A 1987 profile referred to Gable's "wide range of contacts, including people in the secret services".
Since Searchlight split with HOPE not hate in September 2011, Searchlight has opposed co-operation with the state.
At the insistence of the British National Party, Searchlight and the associated Searchlight Educational Trust were investigated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales as a result of a complaint that claimed that the Educational Trust had been engaging in political activity incompatible with its charitable status.
The Commission's report stated that, in its opinion, the Searchlight Educational Trust had gone beyond the Commission's guidelines on political activities, and found there was a need for a greater distinction between the public activities of Searchlight magazine and the educational trust. The charity agreed to follow the Commission's recommendations, so no action was taken. Searchlight was, consequently, divided into three main bodies: Searchlight magazine, the monthly anti-fascist and anti-racist magazine; Searchlight Information Services (SIS), a research and investigatory body which briefs governments, politicians, journalists, and the police; and, finally, Searchlight Educational Trust (SET), a charity devoted to teaching the negative aspects of racism and fascism. SIS and SET later joined the HOPE not hate campaign and are no longer associated with Searchlight magazine.
Dr. Larry O'Hara, editor of Notes from the Borderland, and Left-wing critic of Searchlight, said in 1992 that
- "Without doubt there are matters on which Searchlight is usually reliable—election results, court-cases, as well as the occasional publication of primary source documents. Outline sketches of individual careers are of rather more mixed reliability. And When it comes to actual interpretation of the significance of events on the far Right, Searchlight is often very questionable indeed."
In his history of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), author Sean Birchall includes several instances of unreliability and questionable tactics by Searchlight. In the 1990s, Direct Action Movement, which worked with the AFA, was among the first to criticise Searchlight's motives and tactics.
Elsewhere, O'Hara also argued that Searchlight manufactured or exaggerated stories about anti-Semitism in order to secure funding from Jewish sources while also playing "dirty tricks" against other groups on the Left, such as the anarchist group Class War.
Also, in 1984, editor Gerry Gable was commissioned by the BBC to produce research for a BBC Panorama programme Maggie's Militant Tendency. The episode was to focus on a claim of right-wing extremism in the Conservative Party. Gable claimed that his research drew upon the information previously published in Searchlight. The claims by Gable that two Conservative party figures, Neil Hamilton and Gerald Howarth, were secret extremist Nazi supporters was met with libel action against the BBC. The programme had alleged (not admitted as evidence in court) that Hamilton gave a Nazi salute in Berlin while 'messing around' on a Parliamentary visit in August 1983. The Guardian reported that "Writing for the Sunday Times after the collapse of the case, he admitted he did give a little salute with two fingers to his nose to give the impression of a toothbrush moustache. "Somebody on the trip clearly did not share our sense of humour," he wrote."  The BBC capitulated on 21 October and paid the pair's legal costs. Hamilton and Howarth were awarded £20,000 each and in the next edition of Panorama on 27 October, the BBC made an unreserved apology to both.
Relations with other anti-fascist groups
The magazine has hostile relations with some other anti-fascist groups in Britain. The magazine group was original part of the steering committee of Unite Against Fascism, but resigned their position after differences over tactics. Recently, Sonia Gable has written critical articles on her blog about Searchlight's former creation, HOPE not hate, a highly visible civil rights campaign from whom it split in late 2011.
Despite this however, Searchlight magazine maintains friendly relationships with other groups, such as Australia's FightDemBack and some other groups.
Searchlight relies for its material on those involved in the far-right. This includes a range of infiltrators, defectors and casual informers.
Most of its material, however, comes from informers, such as Alan Harvey and Chris Brennan, who do so because of feuds with their fellow right-wingers and not from any conviction of Searchlight's cause.
In 2013 it was revealed that BNP member Duncan Robertson had been a Searchlight informer, in particular of the New Right group. Commenting on the matter, anarchist Larry O'Hara queried whether Gerry Gable was a beneficiary of Robertson's will.
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In the early years of the 21st century, Searchlight launched two interlinked anti-BNP and anti-racism campaigns, Stop the BNP and HOPE not hate. HOPE not hate has received endorsement and national publicity from the Daily Mirror newspaper, and revolves around an annual two week bus tour in the run-up to local elections.
Since Searchlight split from HOPE not hate, it has concentrated on publishing the results of its investigation, research and intelligence gathering and supporting direct action against fascist demonstrations, such as those of the English Defence League in Walthamstow on 1 September 2012 and Chelmsford on 18 August 2012. As well as articles exposing the BNP, EDL and the moves towards the formation of a new party spearheaded by the former BNP MEP and veteran fascist Andrew Brons, Searchlight has focussed on the areas where the far right and Conservative ultra right meet, such as the Traditional Britain Group, and the New Right, the powerhouse of far-right ideological development.
Searchlight Magazine has a long standing affiliation with the arts, which was strongly championed by former editor Maurice Ludmer. In the past this included a regular monthly column “What their papers say” which took a satirical look at the current political landscape.
Searchlight runs regular benefit events which feature the work of folk singers, poets and other arts professionals. On 6 January 2014 it launched a new arts section on its website. This opened with the fictional diary of Greg Goode, a US national recently moved to London in search of the truth. The column, which runs monthly, features a bizarre blend of rhyming poetry, hyperbolic narrative and song.,
- White Noise by Nick Lowles, 96 pages (November 13, 1998), Publisher: Searchlight Magazine Ltd. ISBN 0-9522038-3-9.
- Searchlight for Beginners by Larry O'Hara, 30 pages (June 1996), Publisher: Phoenix Press. ISBN 0-948984-33-3.
- From Cable Street to Oldham-70 Years of Community Resistance edited by Nick Lowles, 165 pages (October 2007), Publisher: Searchlight Magazine Ltd. ISBN 0-9522038-7-1.
- Notes From the Borderland no 10, pp34–80, by Larry O'Hara and Heidi Svenson, Publisher: Larry O'Hara. ISBN 0-9537434-8-9, which explains in detail the split between Searchlight Magazine and HOPE not hate.
- Searchlight and the State
- David Renton, “The Anti-Nazi League as social movement” Paper at the New Socialist Approaches to History seminar at the Institute of Historical Research, 6 June 2005
- Arcadia Books
- First published in the New Statesman 15 February 1980, reproduced in Lobster magazine, issue 24 December 1992
- Jewish Chronicle 23 October 1987
- Gable, Sonia. "No money no hope: BNP accounts reveal financial disaster zone". Searchlight. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- "Searchlight Educational Trust". web.archive.org. Retrieved 28 June 2014.
- The Committee Office, House of Lords (10 April 2003). "House of Lords - Religious Offences in England and Wales - Written Evidence". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
- Paul Mercer, Directory of British political organisations 1994. Longman, 1994, p. 299.
- Sean Birchall, Beating the Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action (London: Freedom Press, 2010)
- Searchlight for Beginners by Larry O'Hara, 30 pages (June 1996) p. 27
- Searchlight for Beginners by Larry O'Hara, 30 pages (June 1996) p. 16.
- Searchlight, No.130, April 1986, p2
- Wilson, Jamie (December 22, 1999). "Who will listen to his story now?". The Guardian (London).
- Silver, Steve (July 2005). "Letter of resignation to UAF". Searchlight. Retrieved 12 December 2008.
- See:Gable, Sonia. "Glasshouses, stones and the thought police". Searchlight. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
Gable, Sonia. "A meagre dish served lukewarm". Searchlight. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
Gable, Sonia. "A cause for embarrassment?". Searchlight. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
Gable, Sonia. "Hate something, change something". Searchlight. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
- Bright, Martin (9 August 2012). "Tragedy of a serious split between anti-fascists". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
- R. Hill & A. Bell, The Other Face of Terror- Inside Europe’s Neo-Nazi Network, London: Collins, 1988
- Collins, Matthew Hate: My Life in the British Far Right, Biteback Ltd 2011
- BNP website
- http://thebackbencher.co.uk/a-strange-kind-of-glory-life-undercover/ Paul Scott, A Strange Kind of Glory: Life Undercover
- Searchlight May 2013
- Notes From The Borderland June 2013
- Ross Wynne-Jones (30 April 2008). "Our two-week grand tour to beat racism". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 4 July 2008.
Nick Lowles (17 April 2008). "Hope not Hate bus tour 2008: The day before". Searchlight. Retrieved 4 July 2008.[dead link]
- The Electoral Commission (2011). "Controlled expenditure by registered third parties at the 2010 UK Parliament election". Retrieved 15 February 2011.
- "Stop the EDL in Walthamstow and Chelmsford". Searchlight. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Gable, Gerry. "Editorial: investigating, analysing and campaigning". Searchlight. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Carter, Adam. "Familiar obsessions". Searchlight. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Gable, Sonia. "Where next for the far right?". Searchlight. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- N/A (N/A). "Searchlight No. 184: The International Anti-Fascist Monthly Incorporating Campaign Against Racism & Fascism (CARF)". Abe Books. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- Gable, Gerry (6 January 2014). "Starting the Arts section on our website". Searchlight Magazine. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- Goode, Greg (6 January 2014). "Political Diaries: The Outlandish World of Greg Goode. Part 1". Searchlight Magazine. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- Goode, Greg (3 March 2014). "Political Diaries: Anarchy in the UK? Part 3". Searchlight Magazine. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
- Searchlight magazine website
- Searchlight Information Services Press Pack
- Stop the BNP Searchlight's anti-BNP website
- Operation Wedge: Protecting and educating youth against racism
- The fight against Racism:Searchlight Article on Searchlight by the Connections history project.
- "Anti-fascist articles prove rich pickings" The Independent
- Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence Submission from Searchlight Information Services by Gerry Gable, vice chair of the Independent Advisory Group to the Diversity Directorate of the Metropolitan Police Service at Scotland Yard.
Anti-fascist criticism of Searchlight
- An article critical of Searchlight from the magazine Green Anarchist
- Searchlight and the State, Anarchy 36, 1983 - the first article alleging Searchlight editor Gerry Gable's links with British intelligence (also reprinted in KSL Bulletin 28, 2001)
- Albert Meltzer "Two Fascisms; Anti-Fascist Fascism" in I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels, AK Press