‘Rainy Fascism Island’
In the middle of April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to send tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda, over 4,000 miles away. The issue of migration continues to dominate British far-right activity, but the government’s racist policies severely limit the appeal of far-right parties to the electorate.
Fascist party Patriotic Alternative (PA) spent the month spreading the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, distributing over 100,000 leaflets to homes across the country and flying a plane, with a banner promoting the theory, over the largest football match of the year.
PA made repeated visits to a small village in Yorkshire, where the government is planning to convert an old airbase into a migrant detention centre.
Far-right parties Britain First and For Britain were standing candidates in the local elections being held at the start of May, so spent much of April campaigning. Former EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) promoted a protest against ‘grooming gangs’ to be held in Telford on 7 May.
Fertile ground for fascism, occupied by government
Britain is in the midst of a ‘cost of living crisis’, with rising prices, particularly food, energy and fuel prices, having an impact on household budgets. Prices have been rising for the past year and the war in Ukraine has exacerbated matters. This is the fastest rise in prices for 30 years, with some economists predicting UK inflation will reach 9% in April 2022.
Disillusionment with mainstream politicians appears to be growing with the Conservative government being dogged by a series of scandals. The Prime Minister and the Chancellor were both fined for breaching coronavirus lockdown rules. The right-wing media and several Conservatives have been campaigning for the police to investigate the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, who they allege also broke lockdown rules.
Several far-right parties stood candidates for the local elections being held at the start of May. A significant number of the far-right candidates in the elections were former members of the largely defunct British National Party (BNP), which continues to cast a long shadow.
Britain First were only contesting three council seats, in south east London, Manchester and Wales. For Britain were standing in 14 seats, well down from the 60 they contested in 2021.
Insular racists struggle to make friends
PA leader and former BNP director of publicity Mark Collett hosted several prominent American far-right figures onto his regular Patriotic Weekly Review (PWR) livestream. On 13 April, livestreamer Anthime Gionet, better known as Baked Alaska, appeared on PWR, in a coup for Collett who has struggled to attract prominent alt-right guests for some time. The editor-in-chief for Imperium Press, ‘Mike’, was a guest on the PA community stream on 24 April. Long-standing Collett associate, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was the guest on PWR on 27 April. American neo-Nazi Jason Köhne appeared on every PWR in April.
A report by investigative website The Ferret revealed PA’s Scotland regional organiser, butcher Simon Crane from West Lothian, hosted several prominent fascists on his regular PA Talk livestream. Last September Australian fascist Blair Cottrell appeared on the show. In November, Crane hosted American neo-Nazi academic Kevin MacDonald.
One of the founders of the banned neo-Nazi terrorist group, National Action, is on trial, accused of remaining a member of the group after the ban. During the ongoing trial, the court heard that Alex Davies from Swansea, visited the Buchenwald concentration camp in August 2016 where he made a Nazi salute in an execution chamber.
Anti-Semitic singer Alison Chabloz has been jailed for comments made on a radio station in July 2019. Chabloz was a close associate of French neo-Nazi Vincent Reynouard. Before his death, Chabloz was in correspondence with French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson and has written several articles supporting German Holocaust denier Horst Mahler.
French far-right party Rassemblement National’s London-based group, gathered in a central London pub to watch the French presidential election and support their candidate.
Prominent anti-Muslim hate preacher Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, was deported from Mexico at the start of April. Yaxley-Lennon had been attempting to visit the country on a holiday with his children and some associates.
British Army veteran Mark Ayres has spent two months in Ukraine fighting with the Azov Regiment. Ayres, who says he joined the unit by accident, claims he has challenged some Azov fighters over their neo-Nazi beliefs and says those he has met are not “monsters and psychos”. Ayres told Sky News: “A lot of them are decent guys, just with stupid views.”
The number of UK-based neo-Nazis fighting in the Azov Regiment appears to be relatively low for a handful of reasons. One factor is the proscription of National Action, the British neo-Nazi terrorist group which had close ties to Azov before it was banned. Another is the opposition to fighting in the conflict which has been promoted by PA leader Collett. In March, Collett made a video describing nationalists joining the conflict as ‘Walter Mitty’ characters.
Le Pen seems popular with British racists
The French presidential elections were extensively covered in the British media, with the prospects of Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen being discussed at length. The hard-right The Spectator magazine broke the news Zemmour would stand in the elections last November and has run complimentary interviews with him. Anne-Elisabeth Moutet wrote an article about Le Pen, headlined: ‘Le Pen drives Paris mad. That’s why her voters love her‘.
A survey by YouGov found that a substantial percentage of voters for the governing Conservative Party supported Le Pen, showing the extent to which her candidacy has been normalised. The results of this survey was reported by several outlets, with The Independent and The National highlighting the support for Le Pen from Conservative voters.
Ahead of the elections, commercial broadcaster Sky News published an article asking ‘How right-wing is Marine Le Pen?’ Telling readers that an ‘analysis of her policies delivers some surprising conclusions’. When the result of the elections were announced, many British media outlets celebrated Macron’s victory, while noting the gains made by Le Pen.
The military conflict in Ukraine continues to dominate discourse in mainstream media, with the far-right involvement attracting particular interest given Putin’s justification for the invasion. The right-wing, pro-NATO Daily Telegraph newspaper highlighted Russia sending ‘notorious’ neo-Nazi mercenaries to fight in Ukraine.
Anti-racist charity Hope Not Hate’s chief executive Nick Lowles wrote an article for The Metro, claiming the far-right is capitalising on political distrust with the Russia-Ukraine war.
Recent white nationalist interest in The Northman prompted an article in The Guardian, suggesting they were ‘reading too much into’ the film. The Guardian also covered the Peruvian prime minister’s praise of Hitler and subsequent wave of protest.
Cartoon villain becomes great hope for far right
Billionaire Elon Musk’s attempt to buy social media platform Twitter has attracted a significant amount of attention from the Anglophone far right. Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson) has used his Telegram account to celebrate Musk’s bid and the potential changes he might make to the platform, as have Britain First. Both Yaxley-Lennon and Britain First, who were both given high profile bans from the platform, set up new accounts on Twitter thinking they would be allowed to return. They were promptly banned again.
PA leader Collett dedicated two of his weekly two-hour livestreams to the topic of Musk’s bid and commented on it extensively on his Telegram account. Due to Musk’s comments about allowing free but legal speech on the platform and subsequent liberal outrage, many far-right activists optimistically saw this as a welcome reverse to the ‘deplatforming’ trend.
The French elections were also discussed extensively by far-right social media users. During April, Hope Not Hate produced reports on the online far-right narratives on immigration and Islam in the French elections, Zemmour’s rise on social media platforms and the role of the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory in the French elections.
A 19-year-old neo-Nazi who encouraged terrorism against Jews and Muslims was jailed for two years. The court heard the teenager had posted online about far-right killers Anders Breivik, Brenton Tarrant and Dylann Roof, as well as claiming the Holocaust was a hoax and that Jews controlled the world. The teen also shared Third Reich imagery.