Monday, 23 November 2009

Wrexham Leader: Crowds boo EDL in Wrexham

This report from the Leader

FOUR people were arrested during a demonstration held in Wrexham on Saturday afternoon.

About 80 marchers gathered in the town centre, congregating at the Elihu Yale pub.
The march had been arranged by an organisation called the Welsh Defence League, saying it was against Muslim extremism. Critics of the demonstration accused those taking part of being right wing extremists.

People from a number of other areas had been expected to travel to Wrexham to boost the ranks of the demonstrators.

When a large flag of St George with the word England was unfurled on the street outside the pub and the demonstrators started to sing the English national anthem, they were met with a sustained chorus of booing from passing shoppers.

There was a large police presence from early on in the day, with officers on foot patrol and in regular convoys of vehicles from a number of forces including North Wales, Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

During the march, police closed off Regent Street for a period and worked to ensure that potentially volatile groups were kept apart.

Temporary Deputy Chief Constable Ian Shannon said: "I am pleased with the success of the police operation today.

"Our aim had always been to allow the protest to pass peacefully while taking into account the rights of the people of Wrexham to go about their normal business.

"I would like to thank them for their patience and understanding for any disruption that was caused.

"People have a right to protest, but our priority is to safeguard the public and maintain order, which I am pleased to say we achieved today."

Divisional commander Ruth Purdie added: "Apart from the minor disruption, the people of Wrexham were able to go about their usual business safely and without hindrance.

"There were a number of unrelated events in the town today and I'm pleased say these were able to go ahead without hindrance.

"Within a very short time of the demonstration taking place police had escorted the marchers away from the shopping area and the town was back to normal."

A number of groups opposed to the demonstration organised a counter event at Queen's Square, called Wrexham Communities Festival. It featured a wide range of attractions and promoted the message that the town was against racists.

BNP at EDL protest in Wrexham

Now the racist thugs masquerading as the English Defence League have left Wrexham, it's time to examine these two images.

In the first picture Plas Madoc BNP councillor Malcolm Hughes (left) is deep in conversation with an unknown man as both keep watch on the Wrexham Communities Festival.

In the second picture, the unknown man is part of the EDL protest.

Does anyone recognise this guy?

How close is the local BNP (Hughes is married to top BNP candidate Ennys Hughes) to the EDL?

PS A big thanks to the EDL for failing to realise they were in Wales and completely alienating the town. Singing the English national anthem while waving the St George's flag in a town like Wrexham was a red rag to a bull. Ordinary shoppers were disgusted at their hooligan antics, told them to go back to England and booed them for the short while they stayed in town before being bussed back to Bolton.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Griffin contradicts Murray over ex-soldiers scam group

So, who's telling the truth about the Wrexham-based BNP front organisation Soldiers Off The Street?

In the words of Nick Griffin:

“It’s politically beneficial for us to be seen with these

organisations. We are also involved in other veteran organisations

such as Help For Heroes and Soldiers Off The Street. It definitely

doesn’t hurt the party to be connected to these groups.”

This is in sharp contrast with Bill Murray's earlier comments:

"A couple of BNP members have been helping out on a voluntary basis

but the party offered help and I turned it down. I don't think it is

right that any political party be involved with charities."

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

BNP Bill is kosher!

The BNP's former Welsh organiser Bill Murray (pictured left) is in The Leader today trying to defend his Soldiers Off The Streets scam.

But Murray merely digs the hole that bit deeper...

He says he left the BNP in August and launched the SOTS on August 24. NOT TRUE. Murray is on numerous BNP and other websites after that date claiming to the BNP Welsh Organiser and appealing for support from the BNP for his charity. To date there has been no official announcement of his, ahem, retirement.

He also says the premises are rented from "a member of Ennys Hughes's family not involved in politics". Ennys Hughes told the Independent that it was her mother's property, yet Ennys herself has been touting the empty offices round town to prospective renters. The rent for two months on a town centre office would be prohibitive for a new organisation with no income. How much is Murray paying in rent if it's a commercial transaction rather than one BNPer doing a favour for another?

He also says "a couple of BNP members have been helping out on a voluntary basis but the party offered help and I turned it down. I don't think it is right that any political party be involved with charities. I left the BNP in August and don't want any further connection with them." So the BNP has lost its Welsh organiser at a crucial time. How sad.

He also comes out with a classic: "SOTS is 100% kosher* - 100% genuine."

* Bungalow Bill may not know that kosher is a Yiddish word that means "the selection and preparation of foods in accordance with traditional Jewish ritual and dietary laws". That would get anti-semitic BNPers choking on their Cornflakes.


Friday, 23 October 2009

BNP linked to "charity" helping ex-soldiers

This story appeared in today's Independent - it's comical how the organisation in question is attempting to distance itself from the BNP.

Questions over former BNP member's help for ex-soldiers

Friday, 23 October 2009

A former BNP member is facing questions about his political past after setting up an organisation to help homeless ex-soldiers.

Soldiers Off The Street (SOTS) was founded earlier this year by the BNP’s former Welsh secretary Bill Murray and his wife Marie. Despite the couple’s previous political involvement there is no mention of the party on the SOTS website.

SOTS operates out of an office in Wrexham which is owned by the mother of the BNP’s lead candidate in the recent European elections.

Ennys Hughes, the BNP member whose mother owns the building, says that the property was applied for in the normal manner through an estate agent, and that SOTS is ‘just like any other tenant, anyone could have applied and got it... the building has been in our family for 25 years, I think at one point Plaid Cymru were in there.’

Despite this, local campaigners have expressed concern over the possibility of links between the organisation and the BNP and have raised questions about how money contributed by the public is to be used.

Dan Roberts, a spokesman for the campaign group Wrexham Against Racism and Fascism, said: "There is no mention on the website that this organisation was set up by key BNP personnel. We're concerned that money that's given in good faith by the general public could be used to fund the BNP's own hateful campaigning."

Campaigners from the have written to the Charities Commission expressing their concern that SOTS could be the ‘latest and possibly most troublesome example of astroturfing’.

Astroturfing is the establishment of an artificial grass-roots campaign which claims to be spontaneous but is actually formally planned and disguises its origins.

In response to the allegations Murray says that he left the BNP around a month before the charity was founded. He stated: "I left because I wanted to set this up (SOTS) because I think it’s scandalous the way ex-service personnel are treated."

He denies any existing links with the BNP claiming he resigned from the party on the 15th of August this year because ‘politics is all dirty’ and he’d ‘had enough of policies and wanted to help people’.

Murray states that the claim the organisation is a front for the BNP is "rubbish" saying "let them go to the police if they believe that’s the case".

He also says that on setting up the organisation he was offered support from the BNP but turned it down because "I don’t believe any political organisation should be involved with a charity".

Murray says that though no one involved with SOTS is currently a member of the BNP, he would have no objection to party members being involved.

The SOTS website contains a prominent advertisement on its front page for FEBA, or Forward Edge of Battle Area, a Scottish organisation that has received support from the BNP. Nick Griffin originally claimed on the BNP website that the party gave £25,000 worth of help to the Scottish charity. It was later discovered that the donation amounted only to £3000.

Tommy Moffat, founder of FEBA said: "If the BNP want to make a difference the door is open. I have been assured by BNP sources that we will not be politically involved with them, it is only a donation."

The BNP is facing continued criticism for promoting members’ donations to charities including the Royal British Legion and Help For Heroes.


There are several unanswered questions arising from this article:

1. Bill Murray, who runs the Soldiers off the Streets with his wife, was still calling himself the Welsh organiser of the BNP on 29 August 2009 - The SOTS organisation was already up and running with its office in 21a Chester St, Wrexham, at that time. How genuine is Bill Murray's resignation from the BNP?

2. If it's a voluntary organisation, why hasn't it helped some of these ex-soldiers? That doesn't cost anything.

3. If the arrangement between SOTS and Ennys Hughes's family is purely commercial, how are they paying the rent on a town centre office if there's no money coming into the organisation? Are we really to believe that the organiser of the Welsh BNP and the party's lead candidate entered a commercial deal to rent out property?

4. What guarantees do we have that this organisation isn't channelling money into the BNP?

Friday, 28 August 2009

Anti-fascism isn’t working - Red Pepper article

This is an interesting contribution to the debate on how best to combat the BNP. The ideas of "community unions" and moving away from automatically supporting the Labour Party are particularly useful. Until and unless we have credible left political alternatives for working-class communities, the BNP will cynically pick up the anti-establishment vote.

Anti-fascism isn’t working

The British National Party’s continuing electoral advances have propelled the party onto the national stage and initiated a debate about why it is achieving historically unprecedented results for the far right in Britain. What is driving its recent successes, how might it be stopped and what is the role of the left in this effort? This debate is essentially over strategy: about our relation to anti-fascism and what it ought to be in today’s conditions. There is one question that is not being asked, though: is ‘anti-fascism’ the answer to the BNP? Keiron Farrow says it isn’t

The statistics are telling. The BNP now has 60 local councillors and a similar number of parish councillors. By comparison, previous fascist groups had managed three councillors in total in the previous 80 years (this is without counting the seats won and subsequently lost by the BNP). The party has one member on the London Assembly, and now two MEPs in Europe.

Its overall vote has risen in successive local, general and European elections. At locals it has risen to an average of around 15 per cent, while in the European elections the party polled 943,598 votes nationally, 6.2 per cent of the total (up 1.3 per cent on 2004). At Westminster level there are three constituencies where the aggregate ward votes at the 2008 local elections put it in first place.

The BNP had 10,000 members at the end of 2007 – a figure that is likely to have risen since – providing it with a large and expanding activist base. It is not, by national standards, a huge organisation; it is a ‘large small party’ – at best the sixth biggest in the country. Nor, despite its advances, does it pose any immediate threat of gaining serious power. The real danger lies elsewhere, as will be outlined later.

Nonetheless, if the BNP’s absolute vote is giving pause for concern, it is its trajectory that is truly worrying. The European elections saw its national vote rise by almost a fifth against a background of falling turnout. The small falls in its absolute vote in some areas, including the North West and Yorkshire and Humber, where it won its seats, are misleading as they ignore the lower turnout and factors such as the impact of moving from an all-postal ballot to a traditional election. To exaggerate the significance of these absolute figures risks obscuring the party’s continued increase in its vote nationwide and breakthrough successes in county council level.

Failed approaches
Contemporary anti-fascism is represented by two main groups, with broadly similar approaches. First, there is Hope not Hate, an umbrella group for unions and individuals within the broad labour movement but open to all. This group was formed by the Searchlight Network. Second, Unite Against Fascism (UAF), an organisation set up by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and National Assembly Against Racism, which also has some union and other backing. For the SWP, UAF is clearly designed to continue in a similar vein to the Anti-Nazi League, and is not shy of drawing on the ANL’s reputation and experience.

Both groups concentrate their activities on two main approaches: first, exposing the criminal records, past activities and political beliefs of leading BNP members, candidates and activists; and second, calling on people not to ‘vote Nazi’. Instead electors are urged to vote anyone but BNP (with slight differences in how this is interpreted by each group), in an attempt to raise turnout and block the BNP electorally. This approach formed the basis of both groups’ failed interventions into the London mayoral and European elections.

What is wrong with these two approaches? The most obvious objection is that they don’t work. They don’t work today and they haven’t worked for some time. This isn’t to say that they haven’t worked in the past, just that they cannot form the central core of an anti-BNP strategy in today’s conditions.

Exposing the BNP’s various criminal and political records has had no discernible impact. In a country in which more than 40 per cent of all men can expect to have some form of criminal conviction during their lifetime, pointing out to voters in the sort of areas the BNP targets that a candidate has a conviction for assault or theft is likely to have a limited impact. If this were not the case we would today be seeing declining BNP votes and councillors not being returned post-exposure. But we’re not. We’re seeing a steadily rising vote and increasing re-elections.

This tactic has been pursued over the past decade on a scale never seen before. Every section of the media has got in on the game, every candidate has been hammering home their BNP opponents’ convictions. If this strategy was ever to make an impact it would have done so in these almost ideal conditions; instead the far right vote continues to rise. We have to conclude that this approach is ineffective.

Exposing past political views – for instance, BNP leader Nick Griffin’s association with Holocaust denial in the 1990s and earlier – has suffered a similar fate. Griffin has proved adept at moderating his most extreme opinions for the benefit of the media. He will now acknowledge the Holocaust as a historical ‘fact’ and, as he put it to the Observer in 2002, he claims that the only reason ‘people like me’ are not always ‘polite and reasonable’ on the subject is ‘frustration with how it is used to prevent any genuine debate on questions to do with immigration, ethnicity and the cultural survival of the western nations’.

In doing so, he can effectively neutralise the issue. If, despite his denial of Holocaust denial, an interviewer presses on regardless, it permits Griffin to turn the tables and ask if he or she wants to talk about politics. The same thing happens on a larger scale electorally

As with the exposure of BNP candidates’ criminal convictions, if this approach of bringing up the death camps and Nazi Germany was going to have any impact it would have done so in the especially favourable conditions of recent fevered mass media scrutiny of the BNP. This approach did find success in the three or four decades after the second world war, when a real folk memory of the sacrifices made by millions was still alive. Today, in different conditions, it cannot, has not and will not make the same inroads on BNP support.

Appealing to the status quo
These, though, are merely tactical problems, bred by past success and turned into conservative substitutes for effective intervention. Far more damaging on a strategic level is the second approach, calling on the electorate to ‘vote anyone but BNP’.

This position is a de facto appeal to support the status quo. It effectively calls on people to support the social conditions that have given rise to their radical discontent – to support the very same parties that have introduced and are pledged to maintain those conditions. In the bluntest terms, people will simply not vote for the parties they now blame for their situation and no amount of cajoling or mentions of the Holocaust will change that. The collapse in the Labour vote over the past few years makes this patently clear. The ‘anyone but BNP’ approach helps ensure that the conditions that are producing the BNP are going to remain in place. So we’re back at square one. And it allows the BNP to make all the running as the anti-establishment party during a once-in-a-lifetime time opportunity for anti-establishment parties to make a real breakthrough.

The way to undercut this is to work towards dealing with the root causes of the BNP support: in particular, the political abandonment of much of the working class in pursuit of the narrow section of the electorate classified as ‘swing voters’. Parties have privileged the interests of a section of the electorate that rarely shares the same interests as ‘core’ Labour voters in working-class areas. And this has led to the setting of parts of the same communities at each other’s throats in the fight for resources under the name of multiculturalism; the closing down of schools and hospitals; wages being driven down; debt; sub-standard housing; rising rents; under-funded services – all the conditions of our social life being attacked and commercialised by a class that has shown itself incapable, in the most basic terms, of being able to run the system for the benefit of all. This is what needs to be challenged as a priority, not people’s reactions to those planned and deliberate failures known as neoliberalism.

And this is where pro-status quo anti-fascism is falling down and demonstrating both a misunderstanding of where we are today and a real lack of political courage. A call to ‘vote to stop the BNP’ is, in most areas where it is raised, a barely-disguised call to vote Labour. That is why the unions are funding the millions of leaflets delivered by Hope Not Hate. (We can dismiss the suggestion that this slogan is also a call to vote Green. The BNP and Greens are not competing for the same vote. Nor need we dwell on those areas where the slogan translates into voting Tory or Lib Dem beyond imagining how an implied call to ‘Vote Thatcher to stop the National Front!’ would have been met.) An anti-fascism tied to support for the parties that have imposed the conditions people are protesting against is a failing anti-fascism. It is sacrificing all credibility by joining hands with the very establishment that people are so fed up with.

The combined party membership of mainstream parties has dropped from more than three million in the 1960s to barely half a million today and it is still falling. In conditions where large sections of the electorate are abandoning all the mainstream parties, for anti-fascists not to be supporting or initiating local projects that are prepared to confront rather than support the Labour Party is to politically abandon those communities to the BNP.

No platform?
Other aspects of current anti-fascist activism should also be questioned. This includes the widespread policy of ‘no platform for fascists’. Following the egging of Nick Griffin on College Green, at Westminster, the day after his election as an MEP, it has become evident that – beyond the confines of those who are already politically opposed to the BNP – ‘no platform’ has very little popular support.

In a country where the myths of democracy and freedom have a great hold over the public political imagination, a ‘no platform’ approach to the BNP is dangerous in a number of ways. First, via the functioning of that democratic myth, it associates the left with authoritarianism, violence and telling people what they can and cannot hear or read – exactly the sort of high-handed arrogance that is leading many people to reject the mainstream parties. Second, it acts as cover and support for top-down or state-led manoeuvres such as the closure of the BNP’s bank accounts by Barclays, which led to a Palestinian solidarity account being closed as well, or the plans by the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate the party’s constitution and membership rules.

How easy would it be to turn these initiatives against us? Already there are calls for a Berufsverbot for public sector workers, banning BNP members from those professions. This plays directly into the hands of the establishment. Of course, a community-led and supported refusal to allow the BNP to operate in their area is a very different matter, but we’re currently seeing a top-down version of ‘no platform’ substituted for this effective grass-roots one.

On a related note, Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) is an attempt to continue the cultural fight of the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism by holding music festivals and similar events. Again, questions need to be asked. The problem is that today they simply attract those who are already against the BNP. In the past they were real arenas of conflict, battlegrounds for the hearts of young people. Today that context no longer exists and the far right has no hold over the young – it lost that battle years ago. Energy and resources channelled into LMHR would be better off directed at helping to deal with the problems working-class communities face as part and parcel of squeezing the BNP.

Missing the real danger
What all the current anti-fascist approaches have in common is that they miss the real danger. This doesn’t lie in the BNP taking power, in the possibility of concentration camps or any of the other scare stories we’ve been hearing recently. It lies more immediately in the far right colonising the anti-mainstream vote and developing party loyalty, thereby blocking the development of an independent working-class politics capable of defending our conditions and challenging neoliberalism.

The BNP’s politics is being normalised, with the consequent racialisation of social issues and a massive shift to the right. Each step they take forwards knocks the ‘left’ backwards. This represents an immense defeat for the left – one that could take us decades to recover from and leave us as outsiders (even more so than today) in working-class communities, the very places that we all recognise as being key to real social change. That is what will happen unless the job of defending the needs of those communities is seriously taken on and our counter-productive, outdated ‘anti-fascism’ is discarded.

I offer a few positive suggestions towards a new approach.

1 Community unions
We could form ‘community unions’, unconnected to Labour, possibly funded by trade unions but with organisational independence assured, that would work directly on helping to meet the needs of those politically abandoned working-class communities where conditions are deteriorating by the day. These would be based around the self-identified needs and plans of those communities – which can only pit them head-to-head against the BNP and the political mainstream.

The types of small victories that can be won on this terrain should be viewed not only as being worthwhile in themselves, but also as contributing to the re-emergence of community confidence in political self-assertion, the necessary first steps towards achieving further-reaching change. There are already existing groups engaged in this sort of practical activity, such as the London Coalition Against Poverty, Haringey Solidarity and the Oxford and Islington Working Class Associations (see Red PepperOct/Nov 2007).

The need for these to be open membership union-type organisations rather than party membership-type groups is a simple practical one. People will join unions at work as they recognise collective needs that exist over and above the heads of political disagreements, and the same is true of community needs. And once there is widespread identification (even passive) of the needs of an area/workplace with the existence of a union it becomes very hard to shift; that identification becomes a power in itself. Parties are too narrow to play this role under today’s conditions – they exist on a different level – but there is no reason why they cannot play a role within these broader open groups.

2 Focus on policy
We should develop the ‘expose them’ model into one that, instead of revealing ineffective details about individuals, concentrates on why their polices will not deal with the social problems driving people into their arms. If we cannot make this clear to those already intensely concerned with these issues then our propaganda is failing and is at best talking to those who would never vote BNP anyway. This will require a direct challenge to Searchlight/UAF and other mainstream anti-fascists as they continue to empty their publications of all but the most inane type of content criticised above. This, of course, needs to be linked to the activity of the ‘community union’ type groups mentioned above.

3 Abandon Labour
Searchlight need to abandon their default pro-Labour position and use their existing networks and resources to get behind local campaigns, actively challenging the conditions that are breeding support for the far right. (This seems unlikely to happen.)

4 End the marches
Stop the marches, labelling, shouting, and so on. Marching into an area that you do not know and have no continuing interest in and shouting what’s right for that area is alienating and counter-productive. People do not like being told what’s best for them and will kick back against or simply ignore this sort of activity.

All of this can be performed without capitulating to racism and without writing off vast swathes of the population. It has to be.

taken from Red Pepper magazine

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

V for Victory - case against anti-fascists dropped

The arrest of three young Wrexham anti-fascists has prompted widespread anger after it emerged the police acted on a false complaint by the BNP.

The three had a stall in Wrexham town centre promoting their anti-racist and anti-fascist message on Saturday, 30 May, for a couple of hours when the BNP turned up. The BNP's chief bonehead in North Wales then started filming the three in an attempt to intimidate them away from the prime spot. When this didn't work, they called the police who arrived and decided there was no reason to move the three anti-fascists on.

Six weeks later - on July 13 - the police decided to arrest the three on the basis of allegations by the BNP that the three had threatened them and sworn at them. Nobody except for the BNP had witnessed, despite it being a busy Saturday outside the old Marks and Spencer store in town. Stranger still, this abuse had not been noted on Bill Murray's camera despite him filming the anti-fascists for the entire time they were present.

Despite the lack of evidence, all three were held in Wrexham police station and swabbed, photographed and fingerprinted. 

They were granted unconditional bail until August 7 but the very next day received a call to say that ‘no further action would be taken’. 

That, in itself, is no surprise given the total lack of evidence against the three. What is disturbing is that the police acted on a malicious politically motivated complaint by the BNP so readily.

Questions need to be asked:
1. Will the DNA swabs taken of the three now be destroyed?
2. Will the BNP be charged with wasting police time?
3. Why did North Wales Police arrest three activists on such weak evidence?
4. Why did it take six weeks to take action?