Britain First (BF) is the brainchild of James Dowson, the man who was once dubbed ‘the person who owned the BNP’.
A shadowy figure in the world of evangelical Protestantism and anti-abortion activity, Dowson made contact with the BNP in 2007 offering his services as a man with a record of get-rich-quick schemes. Originally from Scotland, he’d set himself up in Belfast, Northern Ireland where he took a keen advantage of religious fervour.
Dowson’s anti-abortion activities and close relationship with Loyalist paramilitaries were seen as positive attributes by the BNP’s leadership, who were dazzled by Dowson’s patter and promises of riches.
Nick Griffin eventually moved the entire BNP operation to Belfast – under Dowson’s control – with Griffin’s daughter Jennifer entrusted to Dowson’s care. We dubbed Dowson as Griffin’s consiglieri in 2009 and meanwhile, as the party faltered after the 2010 local and government elections, anti-Griffin factions within the BNP saw Dowson as Griffin’s Achilles’ heel and began campaigning against him.
Dowson and the BNP parted company in October 2010 but it was another six months before BF was formed. In the intervening time Dowson preoccupied himself with trying to undermine the BNP at every opportunity.
In May 2011 Dowson, along with Paul Golding, a former BNP councillor and editor of the BNP’s flagship magazine, announced the formation of a campaign group to protect “British and Christian morality” and sent an internet and glossy mail shot to some 40,000 names that Dowson had allegedly acquired from his time with the BNP.
Hoping to gain an invitation to join rebel BNP MEP Andrew Brons in a new venture, Dowson also sent another glossy brochure attacking a number of high profile BNP officials during the BNP’s July 2011 leadership election. BF was born to attack Griffin.
Close to a thousand people responded to BF’s launch with either cash or membership, but very quickly, aside from a few regional meetings, it became apparent that the organisation was not interested in being the alternative to Griffin’s party. BF was more interested in fundamentally changing the direction of the far-right to a trajectory later followed by the British Freedom Party. BF is squeezed between its fascist roots and its religious ambitions.
Jim Dowson: Former Calvinist Minister who helped run the BNP between 2007-2010. Controversial businessman who has received funding from the European union in the past. Having built the BNP up, has made it his business to knock it down again. A powerful anti-Griffinite, if not an effective politician.
Paul Golding: The BF’s national chairman, Golding is former head of publicity for the BNP as well as a failed councillor in Sevenoaks, Kent. Golding was one of the high flyers in the BNP’s ‘Brat Pack’ during the last decade. Golding is the BF’s Chairman and a recent convert to Christianity which comes hand in hand with being a minor business partner of Dowson.
Andy McBride: Former South East regional organiser of the BNP, in 2010 McBride launched a series of factional attacks on Griffin’s enemies, before resigning in March 2011. McBride joined Dowson and Golding in plotting Griffin’s downfall and was a keynote speaker at last year’s “Way Forward” conference of the anti-Griffin crowd.
Kevin Edwards: Former BNP community councillor from Wales who quit the BNP over its violence.