Jane Birdwood, Baroness Birdwood

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The Baroness Birdwood
Born Joan Pollock Graham
(1913-05-18)18 May 1913
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Died 28 June 2000(2000-06-28) (aged 87)
London, United Kingdom
Occupation Political activist, publisher
Spouse(s) Christopher Birdwood, 2nd Baron Birdwood

Jane Birdwood, Baroness Birdwood (18 May 1913 – 28 June 2000), born Joan Pollock Graham, was a far-right political activist in the United Kingdom who took part in a number of movements. She was the second wife of Christopher Birdwood, 2nd Baron Birdwood.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the daughter of a singer from Hull and a mother from Newcastle,[1] although according to her Searchlight obituary she was the daughter of a Scottish aristocrat.[2] The family returned to Britain when she was 10 and settled in Yorkshire.[3]

She changed her name to Jane while working in the BBC Gramophone Library in order to avoid confusion with Joan Graham, a radio actress of the time.[2] During the war she worked for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), originally in Brussels and then in the early post-war period in Hamburg. Remaining in Germany, she joined the Red Cross in 1947, becoming secretary to Lieutenant Colonel, the Hon Christopher Birdwood.[2]

They began an affair; she was cited as a co-respondent in Birdwood's divorce case and became his second wife after the divorce was finalised in 1954. Her husband was the son of Field Marshal William Birdwood, 1st Baron Birdwood); after his father died he succeeded to the title[3] in 1951.

Political activities[edit]

Initially serving only as a worker for her husband's passion, international aid, she expanded her political involvement after becoming a widow in 1962. She was a member of the League for European Freedom, an anti-communist group that sought to aid refugees from Eastern Europe. Her activities also brought her into contact with such groups as the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations and individuals such as Yaroslav Stetsko.[2]

Around the same time, she allied herself with campaigns to support public decency, and was briefly associated with Mary Whitehouse, becoming chairwoman of the London branch of the National Viewers' and Listeners' Association.[2][4] In this role, she attempted to launch a number of prosecutions against productions and writers that offended her sense of taste, including the producers of the theatrical revue Oh! Calcutta! and actor John Bird, the author of the play Council of Love, whom she accused of blasphemy.[3][2]

Lady Birdwood became involved in campaigns against trade unions, setting up the Citizens Mutual Protection Society in the early 1970s, which launched a failed attempt to run a private postal service. She took a leading role in several far-right pressure groups, including the Immigration Control Association, Common Cause, the British League of Rights (of which she was General Secretary) and Self Help, the latter attempting, unsuccessfully, to charge Arthur Scargill with sedition.[3]

Following her departure, she was associated with the National Front for a short period. She also worked with Ross McWhirter at this time on his magazine Majority, and became a vocal critic of the Provisional Irish Republican Army after his murder. She also devoted much time to the World Anti-Communist League.[2]

One of her major failed efforts had her calling for the UK to enforce the Edict of Expulsion against English Jews in 1290, insisting the edict had never been revoked, although successive British governments had, in fact, overturned the edict, beginning with Oliver Cromwell.[citation needed]

She stood in the 1983 by-election in Bermondsey as an independent candidate, winning 69 votes, and attacked her opponents by labelling the Tory candidate a "multiracialist" and the National Front candidate a "socialist".[2] She was equally unsuccessful when she stood as a British National Party candidate in the 1992 general election in Dewsbury. Through much of her later life, she published the journal Choice, which presented a right-wing stance but was generally independent of any political party.[5]

Later activities[edit]

In March 1994, Birdwood was prosecuted for violating the Public Order Act 1986 by publishing her pamphlet The Longest Hatred, which denied the Holocaust and claimed the existence of a subversive conspiracy in Britain involving Jewish bankers.[1][6] According to the prosecution, Birdwood admitted to police that she had written the Foreword, edited it and was responsible for its publication and distribution.[6] She was sentenced to 3 months in prison, suspended. Three years earlier, in 1991, she had been convicted of distributing antisemitic literature with the intention of stirring up racial hatred.[1] According to Birdwood, the victims of the Holocaust died from typhoid.[3]

Birdwood continued to lead British Solidarity as a pressure group, publish Choice and run a publishing venture, Inter City Researchers, until late 1999 when she was forced to stand down for health reasons. After her retirement most of these concerns passed into the hands of her associates, the former National Front co-leader Martin Webster and Peter Marriner, also a former British Movement activist.[2]

Elections contested[edit]

Date of election Constituency Party Votes  %
24 February 1983 Bermondsey 'Independent Patriot' 69 0.2
10 April 1986 Fulham England Demands Repatriation 226 0.6
1992 Dewsbury British National Party 660 1.1

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Nigel Fountain Obituary: The Dowager Lady Birdwood, The Guardian, 30 June 2000
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Nick Lowles "A very English extremist", Searchlight magazine, August 2000
  3. ^ a b c d e Obituary: The Dowager Lady Birdwood, The Daily Telegraph, 29 June 2000.
  4. ^ Jonathon Green and Nicholas J. Karolides. Encyclopedia of Censorship, Infobase Publishing, 2005, p.172
  5. ^ Details of collection held in British Library
  6. ^ a b "Dowager, 80, accused of stirring up racial hatred". The Independent. 18 March 1994. Retrieved 19 August 2016.