The National Front (NF) was formed in 1967 by fairly obscure organisations on the far-right. They created one of the most notorious and longest running racist racist organisations in the world.
The NF began life as an uncomfortable coalition of the conservative right, old fashioned imperialists and Hitler admirers. After becoming Britain’s fourth largest party by the mid seventies, the election of the right wing Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1979 General Election, saw the NF begin a headfirst dive. Its misfortune took it into a seedy world of factional strife, violent splits and at times, incredible ideological oddities.
John Hutchins Tyndall is the best known of all NF leaders. He led the NF from 1972-1974 and again from 1976-1980, when Martin Webster accompanied him in a double act that made the National Front a household name, synonymous with violence and neo-nazism. The party went into the 1979 General Election with an impressive 303 candidates but gained a disastrous average vote of little over 0.5%. The NF finally split into three warring factions in 1980, eventually leading to Tyndall and his hardline followers forming the rival British National Party (BNP) in 1982.
It is near impossible to accurately put a figure on the number of splits and leaders that the NF has had in over forty five years. Even the party’s own online history is grossly inaccurate. But the NF has provided almost every other tiny far-right organisation in the UK with all of its senior members (past and present,) including the BNP’s current leader Nick Griffin and of course its founder, John Tyndall.
A return to year zero
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the NF came close to complete extinction. But it has proved itself as a survivor and even though it is a shell of the organisation it once was it still attracts a working class membership that embraces a fanaticism for racism, ultra-nationalism and outright nazism.
Such is the nature of its membership and history, the NF is driven simply by the will to survive and to agitate on the perimiters of the law to build a mass movement in preparation for what it sees as the inevitability of a race war.
Since a short lived but startling period of ideological deviations in the mid 1980s under the leadership of Nick Griffin and Patrick Harrington, the NF has actively shunned political modernisation or anything remotely dynamic that could affect or change its dour image. Surviving on a tiny budget provided by a membership of 400, the Equality and Human Rights Commission did not bother to pursue the organisation like it did the BNP over its similar policy of allowing white members only.
A key presence at a number of “unity meetings”, the NF has made little headway in recruiting the ten thousand ex-BNP members and officials who have deserted the BNP. One notable exception is the ageing Richard Edmonds, who last graced the party in 1980. Former chair and current BNP MEP Andrew Brons recently spoke at an NF meeting, but made it quite clear that although he had some emotional attachment to the party, he had very little political respect for the organisation he once led.
Whilst the BNP has been critical of the rise of the English Defence League, the NF has been vehemently critical of what it describes as the EDL’s ‘Zionism’ and of their supposed ‘Anti-racism’. As a result, the NF has been keen to cosy up to the EDL’s close rivals, The ‘Infidels’. Newcastle NF organiser Simon Biggs was quick to use their muscle to intimidate trade unionists in the city, while Liverpool’s Peter Tierney – another former BNP official who recently moved to the NF – has joined up with a variety of neo-nazis, Infidels and some EDL members to run similar campaigns of harassment and intimidation.
Political opportunities and recognition remain incredibly limited for the NF. Although avowedly ‘democratic’, the party puts little faith in the parliamentary process, athough it has remained a legal organisation allowing it to receive regular electoral humiliations. Many of its most senior members in the 1980s and 1990s were driven to violent desperation at the then hopeless outlook for the far-right electorally Britain. Most notably in relation to Northern Ireland, NF members gave very real and active support to those prepared to indulge in terrorism.
The NF stood 40 candidates at the 2012 elections in England, Scotland and Wales, including three candidates for the Greater London Assembly (GLA) elections and a candidate for the Liverpool Mayoral elections. Although the NF’s average vote was under 5%, they did achieve noticeably high votes in former BNP strongholds, in particular Tipton Green in Sandwell (11.5%) and Deputy Chair Kevin Bryan’s very respectable 16% in his home borough of Rossendale.
Both candidates were formerly BNP candidates in these same wards. In February of this year however, the NF managed only three votes in a by-election seven votes less than the number of people who signed the candidate’s nomination papers!
Membership & Activity
The party’s £10 membership fee has not changed in nearly twenty years. The estimated 400 members are encouraged to agitate in local communities by the use of protests, localised leaflets and sales of the bi-monthly newspaper Britain First.
Few of the NF’s branches have ready access to party materials and the party is often seen as a drinking club.
Party areas of activity are limited by its small size but include:
- Sandwell and Dudley
- Newcastle & North Tyneside
The Party is led by an Executive Committee drawn from a Directorate, which advises the Chairman and Deputy Chairman. In 2010 both the Chair and Deputy Chair of the party were removed from their posts during a meeting held without their knowledge.
- Ian Edward, Chairman. An ex-BNP official from West London. An unspectacular record in the far-right, mainly a figurehead.
- Kevin Bryan, Deputy Chair. A loud middle aged street thug. Like Edward, a former low level BNP official.
- Richard Edmonds. One of Britain’s most infamous neo-nazis and Holocaust deniers, he returned to the party in 2011 having previously been the BNP’s second in charge for most of the 80s and nineties.
- Simon Biggs, Newcastle. Forty-something convicted burglar and race hater originally from south London. He has been in the NF and prison on and off since the 1980s. His rapid rise through the ranks was symptomatic of the NF’s overall decline.
- Peter Tierney, Liverpool. Also known as Peter Quiggins, he was the official NF mayoral candidate in Liverpool in 2012. Tierney was convicted of ABH in 2009 after attacking an anti-fascist. He became a millionaire when he sold Liverpool’s Quiggins Centre in 2006.
- Chris Jackson, North West. Ex North West regional organiser for the BNP, Jackson challenged Nick Griffin in a leadership election in 2007. Switching to the NF in 2009, Jackson is now the NF’s NW organiser.
- Tess Culnane, London. Veteran fascist and former “Nit-Nurse” Culnane has jumped backwards and forwards between the BNP and NF over a number of years. Served as an aide to Richard Barnbrook, the BNP’s one time Greater London Assembly member, where she was dubbed a “Nazi Granny” by the media.
- Blood & Honour
- Combat 18 /Racial Volunteer Force
- The ‘Infidels’
- [individuals of] The English Defence League
- British Movement