• Doncaster candidates Andrew Stewart, Surjit Duhre and Paul Whitehurst are all active members in private Facebook group where Islamophobia and conspiracy theories are spread daily.
  • Below, we also expose Yorkshire organiser Roger Tattersall as having repeatedly shared far-right propaganda online.

Update: Following our exposé, the group has been deleted from Facebook.

HOPE not hate can reveal that three Brexit Party candidates in Doncaster are active members of the private Facebook group “Doncaster Brexit Party Supporters Group”, in which racist and conspiracy theorist posts, including claims of an Islamic “invasion” and racist abuse aimed at Labour MP Diane Abbott, are prevalent.

In particular Andrew Stewart, candidate for Doncaster North, is a regular poster in the group. Seemingly undeterred by the disturbing content within it, and has even been awarded a “badge” for his input. Brexit Party candidates Surjit Duhre (Doncaster Central) and Paul Whitehurst (Don Valley) have also posted in the group.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, as two out of three administrators of the group are former UKIP candidates, the group has, like the Brexit Party itself, turned increasingly anti-immigration. Content in the group regularly refers to Islamophobic conspiracy theories, or frames immigrants as inherently violent.

Fake News and Islamophobia

Group members have posted bizarre rants against immigration and references to a supposed “invasion” by Muslims, a common far-right conspiracy theory. On a post by current UKIP parish councillor Paul Bisett, a user commented saying that as a consequence of the immigration policy by the Tories, there’s a need “get troops together for the invasion of Islam they let in.!” Another comment claims that “the once Great Britain is Great no more thanks to the EU, mass migration, a Muslim invasion being fought from within and an ungrateful, spoilt and lost generation we’ve created just now!”

Another incoherent comment claims that “It was said that in the year 21 a terrorist sympathiser and a bunch of idiots run England into the grgroe [sic] with mass immigration disease pestilence starvation and homelessness”, and that “hordes of Fireigners [sic] were put upon the once English who lived and fought and died till the white faces were no more”.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott is the target of almost obsessive attacks in the group. Many of these posts are directly abusive, some of them by the group’s administrators. One comment under a post about Abbott potentially gaining power reads “Monkey in charge of the zoo springs to mind”, and another describes black Labour MP David Lammy “the male Equivalent of Diane Abbott”.

Other comments in the group state that “Civil War is inevitable”, and a claim that Labour Yvette Cooper is “going to be as popular as a foreskin at a Jewish wedding”. Another post contains a video of a group of men attacking a white woman in Bethnal Green in London, with the caption “NOTHING IN OUR MEDIA ABOUT WHITE GIRL KNOCKED OUT IN BETHNAL GREEN.”.

Demonstrably false claims about Muslims as well as the Labour party are also spread regularly in the group. One user claimed that Muslims do not need to pay council tax for part of their home used as prayer rooms, while another claimed that the Grenfell Tower was built in 2007/2008 “when Sadiq Khan was housing minister”. Khan has never been a minister and the tower was built in 1972. Occasionally comments suggest that a user thinks these fake claims are jokes, and dispute the fact. Overwhelmingly, however, commenters express anger and asks if they can share it onwards, suggesting they believe in its veracity.

UKIP moderators

Despite being a pro-Brexit Party group, a former UKIP candidate and current parish councillor, Mick Andrews and Paul Bissett, are two of the group’s three moderators. Both contribute activley and posts several times per week, while not taking action against the Islamophobic or demonstrably false claims made in the group.

Andrews ran as a candidate for UKIP in 2015, while Bissett remains a parish councillor of Edenthorpe Parish Council. Bissett is one of the most active members of the group, and has another saying “Anything I can do to help?” over a picture of a man resembling Guy Fawkes holding a match and a fuse.

Campaign Manager Shares Far-Right Content

Roger Tattersall (AKA Rog Tallbloke), Campaign Manager for the Brexit Party in Yorkshire & Humber, is also a member of the group. Tattersall officiated opening the Brexit Party Doncaster campaign office in Bennetthorpe last month dressed as Guy Fawkes.

From left: Paul Whitehurst, Surjit Duhre, Roger Tattersall and Andrew Stewart
From left: Paul Whitehurst, Surjit Duhre, Roger Tattersall and Andrew Stewart

We can also reveal that Tattersall has, on multiple occasions, shared far-right propaganda on his Twitter account, including a post from British nazi Mark Collett, as well as numerous posts from InfoWars conspiracy theorist Paul Joseph Watson and Canadian racist Stephan Molyneux, who is an avid promoter of differences in IQ between races. He has also shared the now suspended Theodore Beale (AKA Vox Day), an American misogynist and well known far-right activist.

Tattersall also runs a blog on which he promotes his scepticism towards mainstream scientific research on climate change. On the blog he publishes articles with titles such as “It’s about time to review the evidence for man-made global warming” and “Discovery of massive volcanic CO2 emissions puts damper on global warming theory” in which he often ascribes global warming to natural causes, and discredits the role of humanity in causing climate change.

Both Tattersall’s social media activity, and the Doncaster candidates’ membership of the Facebook group outlined above, is further evidence of the apparent tolerance of the Brexit Party towards conspiracy theories and incidents of racism within it. As active members of the Facebook group, it is questionable whether candidates such as Andrew Stewart can have avoided to take note of the abusive and conspiratorial rhetoric against Muslims and political opponents within it. The such gutter content has not been met with opposition by either administrators or candidates, which begs the question of what kind of politics the Brexit Party would bring to Doncaster.

You can find out more about the Brexit Party – and how to beat them – by reading our factsheet here.