HOPE not hate

Political

Britain First (BF)

Paul Golding at a Britain First protest outside Regent’s Park Mosque in April 2015Paul Golding at a Britain First protest outside Regentís Park Mosque in April last year

Ideology: Counter-Jihadist/Evangelical Christian/Nationalist
Membership: Estimated at 800-1000 (though levels of activism and membership vary)
Leadership: Paul Golding (leader), Jayda Fransen (deputy), Jim Dowson (funder)
Publications: A bi-monthly newspaper called Britain First for which the group debits subscribers monthly
Online: Website, Facebook and Twitter. The party now has over one million Facebook “likes”
Areas active: Belfast, Burton, Bradford, Cardiff, Chesterfield, Coventry, Cumbernauld, Derby, Dover, Dudley, Dundee, Glasgow, London, Preston, Rotherham, Sheffield, Stoke, Thanet
Britain First

Britain First was engulfed in utter confusion as to what it actually stood for. Is it a Counter-Jihadist street movement like the EDL or is it an anti-immigration and anti-immigrant party like the BNP? Attempts to intertwine both are confusing for everyone, in particular for the group’s active members.

The party’s submission to the Electoral Commission was breathtakingly under-detailed and what could be gleaned from it is that Britain First is being driven almost solely for the personal and financial advantage of Golding and Fransen.

2015 was an extraordinary year of over-exposure in the media and yet, as with the year before, the party reaped few rewards. In part, this is down to the temperamental nature of its leadership and an inability to commit to serious political work.

Neither Golding nor Fransen seem clear or in agreement on where the party is heading. Having outshone both the competition in the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) neither is certain which direction the group should take. The decision to not fight the General Election as a political party but to instead to offer their uniformed services to UKIP was both a financial and face-saving decision.

The party is far too reliant on, and at the mercy of, social media for funding and publicity.

The reappearance of Jim Dowson, the group’s founder, appears to confirm the party was in financial distress. Dowson also compounded the party’s political instability by making demands that the group’s utterances now be modelled on his own political and social activities.

Quite simply, outside of the realm of bought and paid for social media approval and improbable scare stories about its size and reach, Britain First left very little footprint that will not be expunged by the new Pegida UK or a by resurgent nationalist party.

Although the party ditched much of its paramilitary style and curtailed its mosque invasions and provocative street patrols, it failed to firm up its political credibility by continuing to look for cheap publicity and obsessing over its finances. Surprisingly, and perhaps to test Dowson’s patience, the group did a Christian patrol in East London near Christmas and were chased from the area by wary locals.

Golding and Fransen seem determined to push ahead with demonstrations against the building of mosques, normally marching with wooden crucifixes, but the rumblings from their conference floor in November painted a picture of a growing unease among the membership with Golding’s behaviour and egotism and the general all round lack of political engagement in favour of more “religious extremism.” Dowson’s interventions appear most unsettling to, and unwelcomed by, the membership, too.

Having dragged Golding and Fransen into fruitless negotiations with Stephen Lennon that ended in acrimony and further bruised Golding’s ego, Dowson’s own utterances on abortion and women’s rights are markedly out of step with former EDL activists inside the party. Dowson also imposed a Hungarian anti-abortionist on the party’s annual conference for a near two-hour borefest.

Prospect for 2016

Golding is standing in the London Mayoral election and plans to campaign almost completely online. Britain First also faces an enormous test with the reappearance of Stephen Lennon, a far more assured and charismatic character than anything Britain First can offer the far right or the public. Pegida UK will be an enormous financial and political stress for BF and may force Golding further to the right and back into old BNP territory.

Sources inside the party claim that it is not just Lennon’s new group that may harm Britain First, but also Fransen’s own ambitions.

Last updated February 2016


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