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, a magazine published by the (London) Anti Racist-Anti Fascist Co-ordinating Committee (a Federation of the Anti-Fascist Committees that had sprung up all over London in the mid 1970s). In 1979 CARF merged with Searchlight to become an insert (with separate editorial control) at the back of the magazine but this arrangement ended following disagreements in the early 1990s over allegations that Searchlight was promoting pro-Zionist/pro-Israeli groups who the CARF Collective regarded as racists.
The British National Party made a complaint to the Charity Commission of England and Wales about Searchlight and the associated Searchlight Educational Trust. The two anti-fascist bodies were investigated as it had been 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. The charity agreed to follow the Commission's recommendations, after the complaint was upheld in 2003 with the Commission deciding that there was a need for a greater distinction between the public activities of Searchlight magazine and the educational trust. No action was taken against Searchlight.
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.
Since Searchlight split with HOPE not hate in September 2011, Searchlight has opposed co-operation with the state.
Larry O'Hara commented in a book on political organisations published in 1994: "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.
Also, in 1984, editor Gerry Gable was commissioned by the BBC to provide research materials 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 asserted 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 and Gable. 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. The case against Gable was dropped.
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".
Relations with other anti-fascist groups
The magazine has hostile relations with some other anti-fascist groups in Britain. The magazine group was originally part of the steering committee of Unite Against Fascism and 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. The best known defectors were Ray Hill, and Matthew Collins, now of the HOPE not hate campaign.
Most of its material, however, comes from informers who do so because of feuds with their fellow right-wingers and not from any conviction of Searchlight's cause.
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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 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.,
In the Autumn of 2014 Searchlight launched a standalone online arts magazine called Searchlight Magazine Arts The site contains interviews, articles, songs, fiction and documentaries, and celebrates the diverse arts movement in the UK and further afield. The aim of the magazine is to tell the arts stories no one else is telling and to put a wry slant on a range of unusual topics and causes.
- White Noise by Nick Lowles, 96 pages (13 November 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
- "Searchlight Educational Trust". web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 1 September 2004. 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.
- Gable, Sonia. "No money no hope: BNP accounts reveal financial disaster zone". Searchlight. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- 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, No.130, April 1986, p2
- Wilson, Jamie (22 December 1999). "Who will listen to his story now?". The Guardian. London.
- First published in the New Statesman 15 February 1980, reproduced in Lobster magazine, issue 24 December 1992
- Jewish Chronicle 23 October 1987
- 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
- Ross Wynne-Jones (30 April 2008). "Our two-week grand tour to beat racism". Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 7 October 2008. Retrieved 4 July 2008.
- 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.
- "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 Arts: new arts website from Searchlight". 1 September 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2015.