The National Front (NF) is a far right whites-only political party whose major political activities were during the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1979 general election, the party received 191,719 votes, 0.6% of the overall vote. The party accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission in 2007 detailed national profitability. It stood 17 candidates in the 2010 General Election and 18 candidates for the 2010 local elections. The party failed to gain any representation at local or national level.
The party says it stands for "white family values" and the "Fourteen Words", a white nationalist slogan that states: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The party works in open cooperation with the white supremacist and neo-Nazi website Stormfront.
The party claims to fundamentally stand for the decentralization of power to local areas in the name of democracy, and the decentralization of the education system to support the rights of parents. Supporting freedom of speech, freedom of press, the right to fair trial, freedom from arbitrary arrest and the right to stand for public office with no financial limitation. The National Front also stand against immigration into the United Kingdom and would introduce a policy of compulsory repatriation of all those of non-European descent as well as closing the borders to all further immigration. The party claims to stand against "American imperialism", and would withdraw from NATO and the European Union. The party supports the use of capital punishment for crimes of murder, rape, paedophilia and terrorism and would reintroduce Section 28, as well as supporting the recriminalization of homosexuality. The party adopts a strongly pro-life stance, describing abortion as a "crime against humanity" and would repeal the 1967 Abortion Act. The NF claims to oppose all economic and cultural imperialism: "Nations should be free to determine their own political systems, their own economic systems and to develop their own culture." Its constitution expresses the fact that it is run by a National Directorate rather than a direct chairman where it is described in section 2 as: "The National Front consists of a confederation of branches co-ordinated by a National Directorate. Additionally a Central Tribunal appointed by the National Directorate is responsible for acting as a final court of appeal in internal disciplinary matters and for acting as a disciplinary tribunal for cases brought directly against individual party members by the National Directorate."
Ideologically, the NF is not a National Socialist party, but a White Nationalist party and is self-described as a broad-church movement. It claims that its skinhead phenomenon is no more.
The party is critical of the historical accuracy of the Holocaust, and is inclined towards Holocaust denial, but claims that it has no official view about it and defends the right over any historian on the subject. In recent years the party has been in conflict with the British National Party over such issues as the BNP's attempts to present itself with a more moderate image. The NF's former national chairman, Tom Holmes, condemned the BNP as no longer being a white nationalist party for having a Sikh columnist in their party newspaper.
Late 1960s: Formation
A move towards unity on the far right had been growing during the 1960s as groups worked more closely together. Impetus was provided by the 1966 general election when a moderate Conservative Party was defeated and A. K. Chesterton, a cousin of the novelist G. K. Chesterton and leader of the League of Empire Loyalists (LEL), argued that a patriotic and racialist right wing party would have won the election. Soon Chesterton opened talks with the 1960s incarnation of the British National Party (who had already been discussing a possible deal with the new National Democratic Party) and agreed a merger with them, with the BNP's Philip Maxwell addressing the LEL conference in October 1966. A portion of the Racial Preservation Society led by Robin Beauclair also agreed to participate (although the remainder threw their lot in the NDP, its house political party under David Brown) and so the NF was founded on February 7, 1967.
Its purpose was to oppose immigration and multiculturalist policies in Britain, and multinational agreements such as the United Nations or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as replacements for negotiated bilateral agreements between nations. The new group placed a ban on neo-Nazi groups being allowed to join the party, but members of John Tyndall's neo-Nazi Greater Britain Movement joined as individual members by a policy of entryism to circumvent the ban.
Early 1970s: Growth
National Front march in Yorkshire, 1970s.
The National Front grew during the 1970s and had as many as 20,000 members by 1974. It did particularly well in local elections and polled 44% in Deptford, London (with a splinter group), almost beating the incumbent Labour candidate, who only won due to the split in the vote. It came third in three parliamentary by-elections. In only one of these instances — the Newham South by-election, 1974 (where the candidate was former Young Communist League member Mike Lobb) — NF outperformed the Conservatives.
Its electoral base largely consisted of blue-collar workers and the self-employed who resented immigrant competition in the labour market or simply the appearance of immigrants. The party also attracted a few disillusioned Conservatives, who gave the party much needed electoral expertise and respectability. The Conservatives came particularly from the Conservative Monday Club group within the Conservative Party that had been founded in hostile reaction to Harold Macmillan's "Wind Of Change" speech. The NF fought on a platform of opposition to communism and liberalism, support for Ulster loyalism, opposition to the European Economic Community, and the compulsory repatriation of new Commonwealth immigrants that were able to come over to Britain because of its unique passport system of the period that allowed Commonwealth citizens to Britain as equal citizens.
A common sight in England in the 1970s, the NF was well-known for its noisy demonstrations, particularly in London, where it often faced anti-fascist protestors from opposing left-wing groups, including the International Marxist Group and the International Socialists (later the Socialist Workers Party). Opponents of the National Front claimed it to be a neo-fascist organization, and its activities were opposed by anti-racist groups such as Searchlight.
The NF was led at first by Chesterton, who left under a cloud after half of the directorate (led by the NF's major financer, Gordon Marshall) moved a vote of no confidence in him. He was replaced in 1970 by the party's office manager John O'Brien, a former Conservative and supporter of Enoch Powell. O'Brien however left when he realised the NF's leadership functions were being systematically taken over by the former Greater Britain Movement members in order to ensure the party was really being run by John Tyndall and his deputy Martin Webster. He and the NF's treasurer Clare McDonald led a small group of supporters into John Davis' National Independence Party, and the leadership passed to Tyndall and Webster.
Mid 1970s: Success and infighting
The NF's success in the 1973 West Bromwich by-election shocked many when the NF candidate finished third on 16%, and saved his deposit for the only time in NF history. This result was largely due to the candidate Martin Webster's own adopted 'chummy' persona for the campaign as "Big Mart", and the NF flooding the areas with hired coachloads of supporters over the four weeks of the by-election at the party's expense. The party thereafter enjoyed respectable results, even if it could not win any seats.
In 1974, the ITV documentary This Week exposed the neo-Nazi pasts (and continued links with Nazis from other countries) of Tyndall and Webster. This resulted in a stormy annual conference two weeks later, where Tyndall was booed with chants of "Nazi! Nazi!" when he tried to make his speech. This led to the leadership being passed to the populist John Kingsley Read. A standoff between Read and his supporters (such as Roy Painter and Denis Pirie) and Tyndall and Webster followed, leading to a temporary stand-still in NF growth. Before long, Read and his supporters were forced out by intimidation tactics of Tyndall's Honour Guard, and Tyndall returned as leader. Read formed the short-lived National Party, which won two council seats in Blackburn in 1976.
A National Front march through central London on 15 June 1974 led to a 21-year-old man, Kevin Gately, being killed - and dozens more people (including 39 police officers) being injured - in clashes between the party's supports as well as members of anti-fascist organisations.
A police ban on a NF march through Hyde in October 1977 was defied by Martin Webster who separately marched alone carrying a Union Jack and a sign reading “Defend British Free Speech from Red Terrorism”, surrounded by an estimated 2,500 police and onlookers: he was allowed to march as 'one man' did not constitute a breaking of the ban. The tactic split the Anti-Nazi League in two and made a farce of the ban whilst attracting more media publicity for the Front.
During 1976 the movement's fortunes improved. A campaign was launched in support of Robert Relf, who had been jailed for refusing to remove a sign from outside his home declaring that it was for sale to English buyers. In the May local election the NF's best result was in Leicester, where 48 candidates won 14,566 votes, less than 20% of the total vote. By June, the party's growth rate was its highest ever. In the May 1977 Greater London Council election, 119,060 votes were cast in favour of the NF and the Liberals were beaten in 33 out of 92 constituencies.
Late 1970s: Riot and downfall
If anything encapsulated the NF under Tyndall and Webster it was the events of August 1977, when a large NF march specifically went through the largely non-white areas of Lewisham in South East London under an inflammatory slogan claiming that 70% of muggers were black whilst 70% of muggers' victims were white.
As the NF was then contesting the Birmingham Ladywood by-election, such a large march elsewhere was construed as being deliberately to provoke trouble. 270 policemen were injured (56 hospitalised) and over 200 marchers were injured (78 hospitalised) in an attempt to destroy the local police station. The march saw the first use of riot shields on British soil outside of Northern Ireland.
The event is often referred to by anti-fascists as the Battle of Lewisham along similar lines to the previous Battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley. In fact, most of those who took part in the riot that day were not members of any anti-fascist or anti-racists groups, but local youths (both black and white).
The NF sought to expand its influence into the 'white dominions' of the Commonwealth. In 1977 overseas organisations were set up in New Zealand (the New Zealand National Front), South Africa (the South African National Front) and in Australia (the National Front Australia ). A Canadian organisation was set up (National Front of Canada) but it failed to take off.
1979 was a disastrous year for the National Front. The rise to prominence of the newly reinvigorated Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher was a factor. Thatcher's tough right-wing stance on immigration and law and order had caused the NF's support to haemorrhage. Many ex-Tories returned to the fold from the NF or its myriad splinter groups in particular after her "swamping" remarks on the ITV documentary series World In Action on 30 January 1978:
"...we do not talk about it [immigration] perhaps as much as we should. In my view, that is one thing that is driving some people to the National Front. They do not agree with the objectives of the National Front, but they say that at least they are talking about some of the problems...If we do not want people to go to extremes... we must show that we are prepared to deal with it. We are a British nation with British characteristics."
Also Tyndall insisted on using party funds to nominate extra candidates so the NF would be standing in 303 seats in order to give the impression of growing strength. This brought the party to the verge of bankruptcy when all the deposits were lost: most 'candidates' were candidates in name only, and did no electioneering whatsoever.
Front Deputy Leader Martin Webster claimed two decades later that the activities of the Anti-Nazi League played a key part in the NF's collapse at the end of the 1970s, but this claim runs contrary to events: for the Anti-Nazi League collapsed in early 1979 amid claims of financial impropriety, with former celebrity supporters such as Brian Clough disowning the organisation. Furthermore, the NF stood their largest number of parliamentary candidates at the 1979 general election only a few months later, and met with surprisingly far less opposition than in previous elections.
Most damning of all, a full set of minutes of National Front Directorate meetings from late 1979 to the 1986 "Third Way" versus "Flag Group" split, deposited by former NF leader Patrick Harrington in the library of the University of Southampton, revealed that during the party's post-1979 wilderness years they were in the habit of "tipping off the Reds" in order to give their activities greater credibility with the public by being attended by hordes of angry protestors. This fact was later confirmed by MI5 mole Andy Carmichael, who was West Midlands Regional Organiser for the NF during the 1990s.
Thus, the three important factors in the NF's collapse were Margaret Thatcher's "swamping" speech designed to cream off the NF vote in key marginal constituencies, John Tyndall's rash diktat on the NF standing in 303 seats, and the collapse of the ANL.
Tyndall's leadership was challenged by Andrew Fountaine after the disaster. Although Tyndall saw off the challenge, Fountaine and his followers split from the party to form the NF Constitutional Movement. The influential Leicester branch of the NF also split around this time, leading to the formation of the short lived British Democratic Party. In the face of these splits, the NF members finally rebelled and expelled Tyndall after he demanded even more powers within the party he'd just about bankrupted. He was replaced ostensibly by Andrew Brons: but the real leader was Martin Webster, who much to everyone's surprise, backed the expulsion. After failing to win the rights to the NF name in the courts, Tyndall went on to eventually form the British National Party. Tyndall and his acolytes had been banned from the original BNP.
1980s: Two National Fronts
The party rapidly declined during the 1980s, although it retained some support in the West Midlands and in parts of London (usually centred around Terry Blackham). The party tried in vain to gain support in Northern Ireland on several occasions. The party effectively split into two halves during the 1980s, after they had expelled Martin Webster and his partner Peter Salt. On one side were the Political Soldier ideas of young radicals such as Nick Griffin, Patrick Harrington, Phil Andrews and Derek Holland, who were known as the Third Way. They had little interest in contesting elections, preferring a revolutionary strategy.
The opposition NF Flag Group contained the traditionalists such as Ian Anderson, Martin Wingfield, Tina 'Tin-Tin' Wingfield, Joe Pearce (initially associated with the Third Way faction) and Steve Brady, who ran candidates under the NF banner in the 1987 general election. The Flag Group did some political dabbling of their own, and the ideas of Social Credit and Distributism were popular, but the chief preoccupation was still race relations.
Having two parties within one saved the NF from oblivion after 1979, when the phrase "let a thousand initiatives bloom" was coined to allow internal diversity in the hope of recapturing support, but it led to clashes. In the 1989 Vauxhall by-election, Harrington stood as the Official National Front candidate against Ted Budden for the Flag NF, both sides cat-calling at one another during the declaration of the result. By 1990, the Political Soldiers had fallen out with one another, splintering into Harrington's Third Way and Griffin's International Third Position (ITP), leaving the Flag Group under Anderson and Wingfield to continue alone. Griffin's pamphlet "Attempted Murder" gave a very colourful - if biased and somewhat bitter - overview of this period of the NF's history.
Around this time, the NF lost much of its white power skinhead support as a result of the group's support for non-white radicals such as Louis Farrakhan. The former supporters either moved to the British National Party, the rapidly declining British Movement, or to the White Noise umbrella group Blood and Honour.
Griffin and Holland tried to enlist the financial aid of Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi, but the idea was rejected once the Libyans found out about the NF's reputation as fascist (a third of Libya's male population was exterminated by Benito Mussolini's troops during World War II). However, the NF received 5,000 copies of Gadaffi's Green Book, which influenced Andrews to leave the NF to form the Isleworth Community Group, the first of several grassroots groups in English local elections whereby nominally independent candidates stand under a collective flag of convenience to appear more attractive to voters
1990s and 2000s
In the 1990s, the NF declined as the British National Party (BNP) began to grow. As a result of this, Ian Anderson decided to change the party name and in 1995 relaunched it as the National Democrats. The move proved unpopular. Over half of the 600 members continued the NF under the reluctant leadership of previous deputy leader John McAuley. He later passed the job on to Tom Holmes. The National Democrats continued to publish the old NF newspaper The Flag for a while, and finished 47 votes ahead of the NF at the Uxbridge by-election of 1997 in which the candidates were the respective party leaders. The NF launched a new paper The Flame, which is still published irregularly, but Anderson kept all the old NF printing equipment.
The party fielded seven candidates at the 1997 general election. Notably, the NF and BNP did not stand against each other in any seat at that election. It fielded 13 candidates at the 2005 general election, none of whom saved their deposit.
The National Front gained a local council seat on 3 May 2007 when candidate Simon Deacon was elected unopposed to Markyate Parish council, near St Albans (there were 10 vacancies but only 9 candidates). It had been 32 years since the NF's only previous councillor was elected. However Deacon soon defected to the British National Party, after becoming disillusioned with the direction of the NF. The NF had hoped that Tom Holmes could also win the Nelson ward council seat on Great Yarmouth Borough Council; he polled 22.9% of the votes cast.
There has been a repositioning of the NF's policy on marches and demonstrations since the expulsion from the party in 2007 of Terry Blackham, the former National Activities Organiser. These have been reduced in favour of electoral campaigning. In the London Assembly election, 2008 held on 1 May, Paul Winnett of the NF polled 11,288 votes (5.56% of those cast) in the Bexley and Bromley constituency. In the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency, Tess Culnane polled 8,509 votes (5.79% of those cast) coming ahead of the UK Independence Party. Tess Culnane also stood in the atypical Haltemprice and Howden by-election, 2008 held on 10 July, coming fourth with 544 votes (2.3%).
In December 2009, the group was accused of placing homophobic stickers around the popular gay area of Canal Street (Manchester).
In January 2010, Tom Holmes resigned the leadership and handed over to Ian Edward.
In February 2010, when the BNP had to change its constitution to allow non-whites into the party because of a High Court decision, the NF claimed to have received over 1000 membership enquiries from BNP members and said that local BNP branches in Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire had discussed switching over to the NF. Reactionary BNP members like Chris Jackson and Michael Easter have joined the NF. In March 2010 the NF gained its first ever councillor in Rotherham, John Gamble, who was originally in the BNP and the England First Party (EFP).
However, it appeared that John Gamble was expelled from the NF because he was facing some disciplinary charges and the NF withdrew its whip.
On 14 September 2010, the NF publicity officer, Tom Linden, shared a debate with the Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA, John Dallat, on BBC Radio Foyle about the support the NF had in Coleraine. This gave the NF a chance to air its views, which resulted in the NF Coleraine organiser, Mark Brown, "thanking" John Dallat for helping the NF double its support in Coleraine through enquiries and membership.
In October 2010, a parish councillor from Harrogate, Sam Clayton, defected from the BNP to the NF. This gave the NF its first councillor on the parish council and other BNP councillors have initimated they are going to adopt the NF whip. However, on 29 November 2010, it was revealed that Clayton had resigned as parish councillor for Bilton in Ainsty with Bickerton ward.