|Acting Leader||Jayda Fransen|
|Split from||British National Party|
Red, white and blue
|House of Commons||
0 / 650
|House of Lords||
0 / 724
0 / 73
0 / 21,259
Britain First is a far-right and British nationalist political party and movement formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party (BNP). The party was founded by Jim Dowson, an anti-abortion campaigner linked to Ulster loyalist groups in Northern Ireland. Its leader is former BNP councillor Paul Golding, but acting leader of the party Jayda Fransen is currently standing in for Golding who has taken six months leave from the party since November 2016.
Britain First campaigns primarily against multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisation of the United Kingdom, and advocates the preservation of traditional British culture. It attracted attention by taking direct action such as protests outside homes of Islamic extremists, its "Christian patrols" and "invasions" of British mosques. It has been noted for its online activism. The party has previously contested elections to the House of Commons, the European Parliament and the mayoralty of London, but was unsuccessful.
- 1 History
- 2 Electoral history
- 3 Protests and actions
- 4 Policies
- 5 Controversies
- 6 Killing of Jo Cox and possible proscription
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Britain First was founded by Jim Dowson, who ran a call centre in Dundonald, East Belfast, for the BNP. Dowson's links with the BNP as a fundraiser ended acrimoniously in October 2010 when he was accused of groping a female activist. A former Calvinist minister, Dowson is a Scottish Christian fundamentalist. Based in Ballygowan, Northern Ireland, he also led an anti-abortion campaign, the UK Life League.
Other former officials from the BNP joined Dowson in the formation of Britain First. Its current chairman, Paul Golding, had been a councillor in Sevenoaks, Kent, in 2009–11 representing the BNP, as well as the BNP's Communications Officer. Britain First was launched through the "British Resistance" website in May 2011. Others involved in Britain First's launch included the former South East regional organiser of the BNP, Andy McBride, and Kevin Edwards, a former BNP councillor and organiser in Wales.
The party's structure is similar to that of Ulster loyalist groups in Northern Ireland, insofar as the group has a political wing backed up by a paramilitary action force (named "Britain First Defence Force"). The action force's members assume titles such as "provost marshal", and a document written by Jim Dowson said that "I have lived in the worst trouble spots of Belfast; I have had high powered machine gun fire rip bricks from my house and have been injured by grenade attack. Sometimes we had to defend our homes from the traditional enemy, other times from the forces of the state, the police and army."
In November 2015, Britain First claimed that its Facebook page had over a million "likes", more than any other British political party and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. At the end of November, Facebook briefly closed the Britain First page for breaching its community guidelines. The group also had to remove two photos published without permission. It later called Facebook "fascist".
National People's Party
In November 2011, Britain First announced the registration of a political party, the "National People's Party", with Golding named as leader, Edwards as nominating officer and McBride as treasurer. However the Electoral Commission register shows Britain First listed itself from November 2011 as a political party, with the same roles for the three officers, and no current or past listing for a National People's Party, so it is not clear whether the National People's Party has a separate existence. The Britain First website carries a constitution for the Party stating, among other things, that "The campaign group Britain First will ... be entitled to put forward a representative to sit on the Standing Committee", a six-person group "tasked with the direction of the Party and running all its affairs".
Northern Ireland offshoot
The principal figures in Britain First, Dowson and Golding, launched a new political party in Northern Ireland in April 2013. Dowson was registered with the Electoral Commission as the Protestant Coalition's leader, and Golding as its treasurer. However, Dowson stated at the launch that the Coalition had no one leader.
Golding had flown into Belfast in December 2012 to help co-ordinate protests over the decision by Belfast City Council to limit the flying of the Union flag over Belfast City Hall. Dowson had been prominent in the protests, and at the time of the launch, was awaiting trial for public order offences, as was another of the Coalition's founders, Willie Frazer.
The website and logo of the Protestant Coalition closely resembled those of Britain First, although neither site explicitly mentioned an organisational link.
Departure of Jim Dowson
In July 2014, founder Jim Dowson left Britain First. The Daily Mirror and The Independent wrote that Dowson left because of the party's "mosque invasions", which he considered to be “provocative and counterproductive”, as well as “unacceptable and unchristian” and "just as bad" as Anjem Choudary. Paul Golding reacted to this by saying that Britain First was, "as far as right-wing organisations go, relatively scandal-free”.
Britain First itself denied the Mirror's story, calling it "chief communist newspaper and lover of all things anti-British". The party claimed to have published a farewell letter from Dowson, in which he cited fatigue and the safety of his family as his reasons to leave.
2014 European elections
In 2014, the party registered the phrase "Remember Lee Rigby" for use in the 2014 European elections. The chair of the Electoral Commission later issued an apology "for the offence that has been caused" by accepting the registration. When questioned by Andrew Neil on the BBC's Daily Politics about the offence caused to Rigby's mother, Paul Golding said "We apologise to the mother of Lee Rigby, but it was a major act of terrorism, it was a big public event. He was a serving soldier".
Britain First stood candidates for the 2014 European elections in Wales and Scotland. It encouraged English supporters, in the absence of a Britain First candidate, to instead vote for the English Democrats or the UK Independence Party (UKIP), while warning against voting for the BNP. The party came 8th of 11 in Wales, with 6,633 votes (0.9%), and 7th of 9 in Scotland with 13,639 votes (1.02%, more than the BNP).
Rochester and Strood by-election, 2014
Britain First stood its first parliamentary candidate for the Rochester and Strood by-election on 20 November 2014, nominating its Deputy Leader, Jayda Fransen. The party had been active in nearby Gillingham in opposition to a planned mosque.
Royal Mail refused to deliver a leaflet for the party because it believed it to be illegal. The company said it could refuse to carry election mail if it considered the contents threatening or abusive.
UKIP won the by-election. Britain First finished 9th of 13 candidates, with 56 votes (0.14%), finishing below the Monster Raving Loony Party (with 151 votes, 0.38%) and above the Patriotic Socialist Party (with 33 votes, 0.08%). At the count, the BBC News reporter Nick Robinson was criticised on Twitter for taking a selfie with Fransen, stating that he did not know who she was and that he would check before appearing in any future photographs.
London mayoral election, 2016
On 27 September 2015, Paul Golding announced that he would stand as a candidate in the 2016 London mayoral election. He received 31,372 or 1.2% of the vote, coming eighth of twelve candidates. During the victory speech of Labour's Sadiq Khan, he turned his back.
Protests and actions
Action against Islamists
In May 2013, following the murder of Lee Rigby, Britain First released a video threatening to place Islamist cleric Anjem Choudary, who was accused of radicalising Rigby's killers, under citizen's arrest if the Metropolitan Police would not arrest him
On 5 January 2015, Chelmsford Magistrates Court found Paul Golding guilty of harassing the sister-in-law of a man allegedly linked to the 7 July bombings, having mistakenly turned up at her house instead of his. He was fined £325 and a further £100 for wearing a political uniform.
In February 2014, Britain First conducted what it called "Christian patrols" in an area of Tower Hamlets, East London, to counter continuing Muslim Patrols which had first come to media attention in 2013. Around a dozen or so Britain First activists recorded themselves holding a banner proclaiming "We Are The British Resistance" and emptying cans of beer outside a mosque to "bait" Islamic extremists operating in the area. A video uploaded onto social media showing the event gained national media attention in the UK, and the patrol was condemned by Muslim and Christian leaders in the area.
Entry of mosques and distribution of leaflets and Bibles
In May 2014, members of Britain First invaded ten Bradford mosques, as well as ones in Glasgow, Luton and East London. They made statements of the action of perceived Muslim grooming gangs in the area, accusing the community elders of failing to stop the gangs, while handing out Army Bibles[clarification needed] and proselytising Christianity and telling one member to "reject the false prophet Muhammad and read the Bible". They also went to a Labour office to inform them that "they had been warned". In response, the Member of Parliament for Bradford West George Galloway said, "This is a grave and national issue. We demand full police action and protection of Mosques and worshippers." The police said that they were investigating.
In July 2014, Britain First entered the Crayford Mosque in South London, demanding that its segregated entrances be removed, with Golding saying, "When you respect women we’ll respect your mosques." A volunteer of the local Muslim association called Britain First "filthy people creating trouble in our society." Two addresses were raided during the police investigation of this action, which led Britain First to protest at Bexleyheath Police Station. They sought to gain publicity by claiming that Golding was arrested for this protest, although the Metropolitan Police said that they had spoken with him and no arrests had been made. Golding was jailed for eight weeks in December 2016 for breaking a court order banning him from entering mosques or encouraging others to do so.
In August 2014, after a report which revealed that over 1,400 children had been sexually abused in Rotherham, mainly by Pakistani men, Britain First protested inside the headquarters of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council with a banner saying "Justice for victims of Muslim grooming".
Claimed defence of Nigel Farage
In May 2014, Britain First announced that it would be deploying "hundreds of ex-British Forces" alongside "several armoured ex-army Land Rovers" to protect the UKIP leader Nigel Farage after he had been opposed on the street by supporters of Scottish independence. Whilst acknowledging that UKIP and Britain First were "rival" right-wing organisations, it stated that the two parties remain "patriots together" and as such it was willing to "put our men and our resources at UKIP's disposal".
In March 2015, a group of anti-UKIP protesters went to a pub where Farage and his family were dining and allegedly scared his children into running away. Later that month Britain First went to that group's meeting in London "to give these traitors their comeuppance". No injuries were reported, but a 48-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assault.
Jews in London
In 2015, Britain First offered "solidarity patrols" in areas of London with high Jewish populations while blaming anti-Semitism on Islam. The Community Security Trust, an organisation against anti-Semitism, has warned Jews not to become involved with Britain First, and has likened this policy to similar ones by the English Defence League and the BNP, saying that all of these groups were opposing Muslims more than supporting Jews.
Britain First visited the French port of Calais in the middle of 2015, during a period of attempted migration to the United Kingdom via the town. Afterwards, the party was approached by the documentary maker Ross Kemp to feature in a documentary film about the contemporary rise in nationalism. The party rejected Kemp's offer, calling him a "leftwing actor"; a producer responded by saying that Kemp listens to all opinions. At the same time, the organisation were recorded for a BBC Three documentary titled "We Want Our Country Back".
Britain First's stated aim is to protect "British and Christian morality", and is "committed to preserving our ancestral ethnic and cultural heritage" while it also "supports the maintenance of the indigenous British people as the demographic majority within our own homeland", that "Genuine British citizens will be put first in housing, jobs, education, welfare and health". The party self-styles itself as "loyalist".
Paul Golding disputes interpretations that Jesus was pacifistic or liberal, justifying his belief by citing Jesus' apparent violence against the money lenders and his statement that he came to bring a sword rather than peace. Christian denominations across the UK have condemned the group as blasphemous to Christian teachings.
It also campaigns against Islamism, immigration and abortion. Under the subheading of "Is Britain First against all Muslims or just extremists?", it claims that:
Britain First is not against individual Muslims, but specifically against the doctrine and religion of Islam itself as an ideology. The Koran and Islamic doctrine promotes hatred, violence and intolerance against non-Muslims. "Jihad" is the most talked about issue in the Koran. Women are oppressed in Islam. The death penalty applies to homosexuals. Marriage to children is allowed. Muslims who died fighting non-Muslims are promised 72 virgins in paradise. Sharia Law prescribes stonings and amputations. Halal slaughter is barbaric and evil. We are against these principles of Islam, not individual humans who have been led astray by this barbaric "religion".
Its claimed objective is "to save this country and our people from the EU, politically correct, multicultural insanity that is now engulfing us". It said in 2015 that Muslims are the only community not integrating, and that "Jews don't cause any problems".
With regards to racism, they state that: "Britain First is home to thousands of patriots from ethnic minorities from all over the world who share our defence of British values and culture. The word 'racism' was invented by a communist mass murderer to silence European opposition to 'multi-culturalism', so we do not recognise its validity."
On the EU, the party claims:
The European Union is a leftwing, socialist political project that will eradicate all individual national identities in Europe under an avalanche of mass immigration and political correctness. The EU will destroy political independence across Europe, leaving every country ruled from Brussels by an unelected bureaucracy. In opposing the EU, we and our European sister nations are striving to maintain our ancient cultures and freedoms.
A number of sources have criticised Britain First on various grounds. Some sources have noted the openly militaristic and violent nature of the group, particularly in recruiting and training ex-soldiers, and unlawfully wearing political uniforms. Members of the group, including its founder Jim Dowson, have stated their desire for a religious war in the UK.
A 2014 report on the links between Britain First and terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland said that behind populist Facebook posts "lies a small but dangerous group of religious fundamentalists intent on starting a 'Holy war'".
In 2016, after the group held "Christian patrols" in a primarily Muslim area of Luton, all major Christian denominations and organisations in the UK rejected Britain First and its ideology. The group was accused of "hi-jacking the name of Jesus Christ to justify hatred and spread fear". That same year, a petition to the Home Office was launched urging a ban on the group.
Britain First has also attracted derision and condemnation for social media posts. These included a post which falsely labelled Afghanistan's first female police officer, who was murdered by the Taliban, as a terrorist, and posts falsely linking the burqa and terrorism. In March 2015 an American veteran stated his intention to sue for libel after the group shared a 'photoshopped' image of him. In the original image, the veteran was holding a sign reading "Boycott bigotry"; in the version shared by Britain First the sign reads, "Boycott bigotry and kill all non-Muslims". Britain First also received criticism for posing for a photograph with naval cadets in Nottingham, and then adding a caption falsely claiming that their activists were protecting the children.
In addition to this, Britain First publishes media falsely labelling Muslims, who happened to be protesting against Islamopobia and bigotry, celebrating cricket results, or not even there, as "extremists".
In August 2014, the Cabinet Office wrote to Britain First requesting that they remove an image of the British crown from their merchandise. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had previously requested that the crown be removed from Britain First's online accounts. In response, Golding called the ASA a "toothless quango with no power which no one takes any notice of" and responded that the group's solicitors had deemed the crown distinct enough to be used without breaching regulations. The ASA published a ruling on 4 March 2015 upholding complaints about Britain First's use of the crown symbol, and about their selling merchandise falsely implying that it was British-made.
Killing of Jo Cox and possible proscription
On 16 June 2016, Jo Cox MP was fatally shot and stabbed outside a library in Birstall, by a man who eyewitnesses claimed shouted "Britain first" as he carried out the attack. One witness told BBC News that he was uncertain whether the suspect was shouting "Britain first" or "put Britain first". Another man said that he did not hear the words at all. The party issued a statement denying any involvement or encouragement in the attack and suggested that the phrase "could have been a slogan rather than a reference to our party". The group's leader, Paul Golding, condemned the attack, saying, "We hope that this person who carried it out is strung up by the neck on the nearest lamp post. That's the way we view justice."
Following this, the far-right organisation National Action (which lauded Cox's assassin) became the first far-right group to be proscribed as a terrorist organisation in December 2016. In November, several months after Cox's murder, the Labour MP Louise Haigh said that the House of Commons should open a debate on the issue of Britain First's proscription, saying to The Independent that "the threat and violence of the extremist political right is of serious concern", adding that "we need a full and frank debate in this country about how such hate-filled, violent extreme right organisations are threatening and undermining the values we hold dear". Following this debate, Haigh received a number of death threats, saying that on one day "an individual went through every one of my YouTube videos and said he would not rest until I was murdered. If that is not evidence that Britain First should be proscribed as a terrorist organisation, I am not sure what is".
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- "Britain First: A Future For British Children". Britainfirst.org. Archived from the original on 23 December 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
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- Britain First Statement of Principles
- "European elections: Party-by-party guide". BBC News. 8 May 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2014.
On its website, the party promises to promote a "robust and confrontational" message about the need to leave the European Union, end immigration and put British workers first.
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- Golding, Paul (November 2016). "Jayda Fransen temporarily assumes leadership of Britain First". Britain First. Retrieved 21 January 2017.
- Tomchak, Anne-Marie (9 October 2014). "#BBCtrending: The rise of Britain First online". BBC News. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
- BNP money man quits after model accuses him of groping her in hotel room. Daily Record. 31 October 2010.
- Exposed: Scottish BNP No.2 unmasked as man behind Britain First Defence Force's sickening invasion of mosques. Daily Record. 26 May 2014.
- Sophie Madden, "Former BNP Councillor Paul Golding heads Britain First nationalist movement", News Shopper, 8 June 2011
- BNP website Archived 29 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine.
- Introducing Britain First British Resistance. 26 May 2011
- Withnall, Adam (10 November 2015). "Britain First far-right group claims to be 'first political party' to reach 1 million likes on Facebook". The Independent. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
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- Andrew Griffin (30 November 2015). "Facebook took Britain First's page down. But then it gave it back". The Independent. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
- Duell, Mark (30 November 2015). "Far-Right group Britain First accuses Facebook of 'fascism'". Mail Online. Retrieved 2 December 2015.
- "The Britain First Leadership Team". Britain First. 21 November 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- "National People's Party official public launch". Britain First. 21 November 2011. Retrieved 20 April 2013.
- Register of political parties at Electoral Commission website
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- Connla Young, "Union flag protesters launch new party" Archived 30 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine., The Irish News, 25 April 2013
- Deborah McAleese, "Former BNP man and Nick Griffin ex-crony Paul Golding flies to Belfast for loyalist flag protest", Belfast Telegraph, 15 December 2012
- A comparison of the sites as of 24 April 2013 is shown here.
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- Chris York, "Britain First Denounced By Every Major Christian Denomination In The UK", Huffington Post UK, 30 January 2016
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- See, for example, Sean Morrison, "Far right Britain First leader shares fake video of 'London Muslims celebrating Paris terror attack'", London Evening Standard, 22 April 2017; Aubrey Allegretti, "Britain First’s Facebook Video Showing ‘Muslims Attack Welsh’ After Euro 2016 Violence Ridiculed", Huffington Post, 14 June 2016.
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- "ASA Ruling on Lionheart GB". asa.org.uk. 4 March 2015.
- Various (16 June 2016). "U.K. MP dies after being shot by an assailant who reportedly shouted ‘Britain First’ before attack". National Post. Canada. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "Jo Cox MP dead after shooting attack". BBC News. 16 June 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- "Cox Witness Says No One Shouted Britain First". LBC. 17 June 2016. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- Richard Hartley-Parkinson (16 June 2016). "MP Jo Cox shot outside Birstall library by man shouting 'Britain First'". Metro. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
Britain First obviously is NOT involved and would never encourage behaviour of this sort.
- Danny Boyle (16 June 2016). "Britain First party leader 'just as shocked as everyone else'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
Jo Cox is obviously an MP campaigning to keep Britain in the EU so if it was shouted by the attacker it could have been a slogan rather than a reference to our party - we just don't know.
- Forster, Katie (16 June 2016). "Jo Cox dead: Britain First denies involvement in attack on Labour MP". The Independent. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
- Lyons, James (11 December 2016). "UK to issue first ban on far right". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 15 December 2016. (Subscription required (. ))
- Bulman, May (25 November 2016). "MP calls for Britain First to be listed as a 'terrorist organisation' following the murder of Jo Cox". The Independent. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- Pidd, Helen; Perraudin, Frances (15 December 2016). "Female MP received death threats for calling for ban on Britain First". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2016.