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|Politics of the United Kingdom
Britain First is a far-right British nationalist political party and movement formed in 2011 by former members of the British National Party. Britain First campaigns primarily against mass immigration, multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisation of the United Kingdom, and advocates the preservation of traditional British culture. The group is inspired by Ulster loyalism and has a vigilante wing called the "Britain First Defence Force". It attracted attention by taking direct action such as protests outside homes of Islamists, and what it describes as "Christian patrols" and "invasions" of British mosques. The party was founded by Jim Dowson, an anti-abortion campaigner linked to loyalist militants.
- 1 History
- 2 Protests and actions
- 3 Policies
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Britain First was created by Jim Dowson, who ran a call centre in Dundonald, East Belfast, for the British National Party (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 British National Party 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.
Britain First's Facebook page had over 700,000 "likes" in April 2015, with media reporting how it is more popular on the website than the pages of any of Britain's other political parties and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Hope not Hate estimate that two million people per day interact with material from the Britain First Facebook page.
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.
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 of 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).
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.
Use of royal symbols
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 use of the crown symbol, and about selling merchandise implying that it was British-made.
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.
Britain First's campaign for the by-election drew attention when the party uploaded a photo of Fransen together with local activists from the UK Independence Party (UKIP). UKIP responded by saying that the activists were not aware of the implications of the photograph, while Fransen said that the UKIP activists asked for the photo and that she was under the impression there were strong similarities between the two parties.
Royal Mail refused to deliver a leaflet for the party because it believes 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 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.
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 under citizen's arrest if the Metropolitan Police would not arrest him. The Daily Mail claimed that the video had instead resulted in Choudary and his family being placed under police protection.
On 5 January 2015, Chelmsford Magistrates Court found Paul Golding guilty of harassing the sister of a man 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 the "Christian Patrol" in an area of Tower Hamlets, East London, with a high Muslim population, 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 entered 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 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, Bradford West MP George Galloway said, "This is a grave and national issue. We demand full police action and protection of Mosques and worshippers." Police are 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 in police investigation of this entrance, which led Britain First to protest at Bexleyheath Police Station. The group sought to gain publicity by stating that Golding was arrested for this protest, although the Metropolitan Police confirmed that they had spoken with him and no arrests had been made.
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".
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 summer 2015, during a period of attempted mass 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", while 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".
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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".
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." This is most likely referring to Leon Trotsky, who used the term in 1933, but the word has been used prior to Trotsky.
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.
- "About Paul Golding". Britain First. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- "Britain First". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "Britain First: A Future For British Children". Britainfirst.org. Archived from the original on 23 December 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- Britain First: "Northern Ireland politics rocked by launch of new Unionist/Loyalist political party", press statement (no date). Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- 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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- A comparison of the sites as of 24 April 2013 is shown here.
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