‘Pin-striped Nazis’ and their ‘henchmen’: The links between UKIP and the fascists

5 05 2015


One of the most worrying developments we have seen in this election campaign has been the emergence of fascist groups acting as ‘muscle’ or henchmen for UKIP. This mirrors the classic pattern of far-right organising where an electoral party is backed up on the street by gangs of thugs, intimidating opponents and pushing forward the party agenda.

There has been a spike in attacks on rival political parties and anti-UKIP campaigners as the election has come closer, especially in Thanet, where Nigel Farage is hoping to be elected.

However, this disturbing link-up between, as BNP splinter group Britain First put it, “UKIP at the ballot box, Britain First on the streets” will not evaporate once the election is over. It is definitely something for anti-fascists and anti-racists to keep our eyes on and attempt to counteract.

The links between UKIP and the fascists


Britain First attempt to invade a Beyond UKIP meeting

When Britain First tried to break into a Beyond UKIP meeting in London on 30th March, the mainstream media took note. The Metro reported that they “stormed a building in north London” and repeated the threat made by their leader: “This is a warning to the left-wing of politics in this country.” The Independent added some detail reporting that the ten members of Britain First, “dressed in its green and black merchandise”, made a series of threats along the lines of “We’re going to get you” against activists who had performed a ‘Diversity Cabaret’ a week previously in a pub in Downe, Kent, where UKIP leader Nigel Farage had been having his lunch. The broadsheet had already carried an article about one Beyond UKIP activist who had received “at least 100 abusive messages and phone calls, including death threats.”

Britain First’s retaliation for protests against UKIP is indicative of a longer term relationship between fascist groups and the right-wing political party and part of a wider pattern of fascist violence related to electoral politics.

UKIP and the fascists: making connections

Many prominent figures on the far-right including Nick Griffin (ex-leader of the BNP), ‘Tommy Robinson’ (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, ex-EDL leader) and Britain First’s Paul Golding, have told their members to vote for UKIP. Tommy Robinson has hinted at secret meetings with UKIP, and the take-over of one UKIP branch by EDL members has been leaked.

But it is Britain First who have been most explicit about their support for UKIP, a political position that has developed over some six months, if not longer. In the November 2014 Rochester by-election they described themselves as a ‘wing’ of Farage’s party: “UKIP at the ballot box, Britain First on the streets – a winning combination.” The UKIP-fascist connection goes back further. Farage’s South Thanet campaign manager, Martyn Heale, a Kent County Councillor, used to be a member of the National Front. It is not a big secret; it has been reported in the The Guardian and The London Review of Books, no less.

Fascists and UKIP’s election campaign

Pointing out the racist, homophobic or sexist statements of particular UKIP members is something of a national sport. Such exposure can chip away at the credibility of an electoral party. More significant is the dependence upon fascist groups in UKIP’s electoral campaign. Not only are there examples of fascists joining UKIP’s electoral campaign, such as English Volunteer Force members going out knocking on doors for them in Waveney, but fascist groups have functioned as enforcers or “henchmen” for UKIP in words used by Beyond UKIP activists.

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 12.20.35

This is most obvious in the South Thanet constituency contested by Farage. In Margate on 28th February, Britain First arrived in an “armoured land rover” to protect the UKIP leader from the “left-wing rabble” demonstrating against the rise of European racist and fascist parties on the day of UKIP’s Spring conference. Journalist Oscar Webb reporting on the anti-UKIP protest/march in Margate noticed that “standing in a group outside the entrance to the conference centre were members of Britain First”. They were, he continued, “literally guarding the entrance to the UKIP conference.” They barked the usual limited fascist repertoire at the marchers, many of whom were local people: “Traitors!”, “We’re English! Where were you born?!” and “Commie scum off our streets”. This role as UKIP heavies has been taken up by Britain First elsewhere, including a pre-election meeting in Hove, East Sussex, which was blockaded by anti-racists, and has extended to harassment and intimidation of electoral candidates and campaigners going about their political business, especially in Kent.

Other fascist groups, have like Britain First, become UKIP’s enforcers. Along Lindenthorpe Road, Broadstairs, on the Saturday afternoon of 25th April, Labour Party members were working the doorsteps. With less than two weeks to Polling Day, it was an important campaigning weekend. According to eyewitnesses quoted in Kentonline, “two cars pulled up at either end of the road … a group of men got out of the vehicles” and “began shouting abuse and intimidating them.” Then, “they also ripped up party literature and shouted ‘Ukip, Ukip’ as they left the scene.” The men were identified in Kentoline as EDL splinter group the South East Alliance. On that same Saturday afternoon of 25th April, fascists shouted abuse at the Thanet Stand Up To UKIP stallholders in Broadstairs town centre and scattered their literature.

The Daily Mail also carried a piece about the far-right’s pro-UKIP activities on 25th April. It exposed how former EDL Regional Organiser Gary Field used a mugging technique, spraying deodorant in the face, to disable a female Labour canvasser. The Mail then reported the most important observation – EDL members were seen within UKIP’s cordon at the Broadstairs Pavilion; they were either part of or “enjoyed the protection of UKIP’s security teams”.

Harassment and intimidation has already shaped UKIP’s electoral profile. Anti-austerity and anti-racist activist Bunny La Roche, who took Farage to task on Question Time in December 2014 has since been the subject of a sustained campaign of threats over social media. One group, Women Defy UKIP, explained that the treatment of Bunny La Roche has meant they restrict their activism to social media. They use ridicule but add: “You have to laugh, but UKIP are dangerous. There are some genuinely scary people in there. They are like pinstriped Nazis…”


For more UKIP-fascist links than you would ever want to see, check out the Purple Rain blog.

To get involved in the fight against racism and fascism, contact your local AFN group or email: afncontact@riseup.net



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