Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has divided the British far-right, with the faultlines mirroring those of the split between civic nationalists and ethno-nationalists. Much of the civic nationalist side of the British far-right, even those who have travelled to Moscow in recent years, have turned against Russia and thrown support behind Ukraine. The ethno-nationalist tendency has largely supported Putin’s invasion, despite slightly weaker ties to Moscow.
One prominent ethno-nationalist to back the invasion is former British Nationalist Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin, who is now editor of the British Freedom Party (BFP)’s newspaper. Griffin has long been a supporter of the Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine. Griffin’s former protege Mark Collett, now leader of Britain’s largest fascist organisation Patriotic Alternative (PA), has also been expressing support for Russia, indicating his opposition to NATO and claiming he would enjoy political freedom in Putin’s Russia.
The conflict in Ukraine is being discussed extensively on Telegram, with figures across the far-right expressing their opinions on the topic. Irish far-right YouTuber Keith Woods wrote one post, which was shared by prominent figures in PA, where he argued the best possible outcome of the conflict would be a rapid Russian victory, so as to limit the number of dead white people. Ethno-nationalists have been divided, with anti-racist campaigners Hope Not Hate claiming some neo-Nazis have been using Telegram to discuss travelling to join the neo-Nazi Azov Batallion to join the conflict on the Ukranian side. This is very much a minority position among British fascists. Most of the British volunteers for the Ukrainian military do not hold far-right worldviews, although many undoubtedly support militarism.
Prior to the invasion, concerns British neo-Nazis could volunteer for the Azov Batallion led to counter-terror police being deployed at the departure gates of at least one airport to question passengers about the reasons for travelling to Ukraine, according to The Guardian.
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, known as Tommy Robinson, who has been wined and dined in Moscow and regularly appeared on Russia Today, has expressed support for Ukraine. Yaxley-Lennon has also repeated Russian claims that Ukraine has biological weapons laboratories, shared videos of Putin and Russia Today articles. Yaxley-Lennon told his 150,000+ followers on Telegram, he had “come to the conclusion that the Ukraine/Russia conflict is just another Cold War episode that includes diversity hires on both sides.”
Yaxley-Lennon’s bankruptcy will be discussed in the High Court on 22 March after a judge ordered him to answer questions on his finances. Police have said the arson attack on his vehicle in Telford was an isolated incident and not linked to a wave of attacks.
Another British nationalist to have visited Moscow in previous years is Britain First (BF) leader Paul Golding. Golding was convicted of a terrorism offence after returning from a visit to Russia, for failing to reveal the password of an encrypted device. BF has been largely quiet about the conflict, telling followers: “Despite the crisis in Ukraine, we are still going to cover domestic issues.” Although BF has expressed their disappointment at Chechen soldiers being deployed by the Russians and opined that Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine if Trump was still the American president, an opinion popular on the far-right.
Hard-right figures closely associated with the Brexit vote, which is believed to have been influenced by Russia, such as former United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, have generally come out in support of Ukraine and NATO.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer was accused by Prime Minister Boris Johnson of failing to prosecute notorious peadophile Jimmy Savile when Starmer was Director of Public Prosecutions. This has been described as a smear and been shared extensively by the British far-right. Starmer has received death threats and been confronted by a mob which included prominent anti-vaxxers, someone who had attended an Alpha Men Assemble training session and a former Conservative Party councillor. Some far-right activists on Telegram called for Starmer to be hanged or “executed”.
The Southend West by-election was contested by a number of minor right-wing parties. UKIP’s candidate was hard-right citizen journalist Steve Laws who has built an online following from hanging around the docks in Dover filming migrants arriving in the UK. Laws was the most successful of the minor right-wing candidates, winning 400 votes. The English Democrats’ Catherine Anne Blaiklock got 320 votes, the BFP’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen picked up 229 votes as an independent, Ben Downton from the Heritage Party got 236 votes, Christopher Anderson from the anti-lockdown Freedom Alliance got 161 votes and Graham Moore from the English Constitution Party picked up 86 votes.
Fascist party PA, who are yet to be registered with the Electoral Commission (EC) so are unable to stand themselves, are claiming to have halved the winning Conservative Party (Tories)’s vote. PA distributed 14,000 leaflets encouraging people to vote for the Tories because they welcome migrants and refugees to the UK. February also saw the leadership of PA have their accounts with digital bank Monzo closed.
In their monthly livestream, PA’s leaders revealed they have another application to be registered as a political party with the EC and are preparing to start contesting elections once they eventually get their application accepted. Scottish PA activist Tony Girling appeared on the livestream to explain how he is doing community activism in the Clackmannanshire North ward, which he intends to contest in the future.
During the livestream PA leader Collett revealed the fascist party were reorienting away from targeting anti-lockdown protests because Covid restrictions had been lifted in Britain. Collett announced a new leaflet which PA intends to distribute on protests about ‘grooming gangs’ and in areas where they think this topic can bring in new supporters. This follows Tommy Robinson’s large Telford protest which PA leafleted and a protest in Hull, organised by a Facebook group with nearly 4,000 members called ‘UNITED HULL. Hull Action Against Grooming gangs.‘ which Yorkshire PA attended and leafleted.
PA’s East Midlands region claims to be holding weekly events. During February they visited a hotel housing migrants, went leafleting on several occasions, did a banner drop over a motorway about vaccine mandates. They also claim to have held a fitness event in Nottinghamshire and did a joint fitness event with PA’s Yorkshire region and some the West Midlands groups, which saw a large group of PA activists scramble up Wild Boar Clough in Derbyshire at the end of February. A video of the scramble, which was done in pouring rain, was shared on several video sharing platforms and on Telegram.
The PA Eastern region opposed a proposed solar farm in North Hertfordshire, held a public speaking workshop and visited a Roman fort on a hike. Essex PA activists held a social event. The Eastern region also did a joint banner stunt with the London region outside West Ham’s stadium highlighting Black footballer Kurt Zouma’s animal abuse.
In February PA London said they held several events and took new members on trips to the National Gallery and British Museum. They also claim to have appointed a fitness officer.
The relatively new PA North East region went for a walk and litter pick in Durham. They also visited the Beamish Museum and claimed to have delivered parcels to the homeless and gone leafleting in several places in their area. Like the London and Eastern region’s joint stunt, they also took a photograph of a banner in front of a local football stadium.\ PA’s North West region still does not have a regional organiser and continues to do leafleting and banner stunts in Barrow and Furness, targeting a hotel housing migrants, much to the annoyance of the local MP. This has again generated local media coverage for PA. The North West region claims to have identified a number of future candidates for local elections and plans to support them either as PA candidates or as independents.
Scotland’s PA region held gym sessions, went leafleting, went hiking and did some litter picks. They also produced several videos promoting PA for alt-tech platforms. In the South East of England, PA still does not have a regional organiser but does have an admin officer in place. The region held a hike in Arundel. The South West, who will be losing their regional organiser as she is moving to Scotland to live with PA’s national administration officer Kenny Smith, went hiking and did a camping trip with the West Midlands group.
In Wales, PA has a new regional organiser using the screen name Ross Gogg. Gogg has replaced Joe Butler who remains an officer. The region has two leafletting teams for the north and south of the country and have been protesting against migrants being moved into hotels.
The Staffordshire branch of the West Midlands group is targeting a former British National Party (BNP) held ward in Stoke on Trent. The branch leafleted and went litter picking in the ward. In Birmingham, the Black Country branch went on a hike. The region also did a banner drop over the M6 motorway in Staffordshire.
In Yorkshire, the PA region protested against a hotel housing migrants in Scarborough. On Saturday 19 February they attended the re-launched Yorkshire Forum discussion event, which was addressed by Yorkshire PA’s Alek Yerbury. The Forum was organised by James Lewthwaite of the British Democrats, the other speakers were Steve Crosby from Belfast, Mike Whitby of British Voice and Lady Michèle Renouf. Renouf claimed three former BNP councillors attended the event in a report she wrote for Heritage and Destiny magazine.
Far-right party Britain First (BF) are contesting local elections in a handful of places. Former Generation Identity (GI) activist Nick Scanlon, who is now involved in GI-splinter Identity England (IE) has started canvassing in south east London. BF leader Paul Golding, Chelsea hooligan Andy Frain and IE leader Charlie Fox all joined a leafletting session. BF have also been canvassing in Manchester. In February, BF visited Northern Ireland to make films about migrant hotels. Golding also gave a speech to activists in the North East of England.
The other GI-splinter Local Matters has launched a campaign against Coca Cola, called “Coca Killer” which is reminiscent of anti-globalisation activists campaigns against the firm.
A formerly prominent British fascist, Simon Sheppard, who hosted many of the British far-right websites in the late 1990s and early 2000s, was convicted for trying to trick girls into a “bizarre sex experiment” and has been remanded awaiting sentencing.
Former Sunderland Defence League leader William “Billy” Charlton, 57, from Gateshead, who spoke alongside Yaxley-Lennon at a rally in Sunderland, was jailed for three years for distributing an image of a child performing a sex act with animal.
Conrad Howarth, 41, from Nelson in Lancashire, pleaded guilty to gathering terrorist material and possessing extreme pornography. Howarth was jailed for four-and-a-half years. Connor Burke, 19, from Bexleyheath, London was jailed for three-and-a-half years for sharing a bomb-making manual, disguised as Minecraft handbook, on a Telegram group. David Musins, 35, from North London was charged with being a member of proscribed neo-Nazi group National Action after it was banned.
A convoy of vehicles drove along motorways in south west England at the start of February expressing their solidarity with the Canadian truckers protests.