The Guardian reports: In late January, a column of demonstrators marched in driving sleet through the West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury, chanting: “Britain First, fighting back.”
Although the group has amassed more than 1.4m Facebook likes, greater than any other UK political party, the number of actual boots on the ground for Britain First, a relative newcomer on the far-right scene, was not that impressive. Just 120 supporters assembled to march from the train station to the town hall, escorted by many police and jeered by many residents.
Yesterday Thomas Mair from the West Yorkshire town of Batley, a mile north of Dewsbury, appeared at Westminster magistrates court and was charged with the murder of MP Jo Cox.
There has been considerable speculation that the 52-year-old may have had links to far-right groups. Whatever the truth, there is no doubt that an extreme right-wing element has established a disturbing foothold in the post-industrial social landscape of West Yorkshire.
According to experts, at least seven far-right groups united by racist ideologies are active in the region, an area dominated by Leeds and Bradford. Activists pinpoint a hardcore cohort of 100 prominent individuals able to cite the broader backing of thousands of social-media supporters.
Among the far-right organisations in West Yorkshire are the virulently anti-Muslim English Defence League (EDL), which claims to have established “divisions” in Leeds, Huddersfield, Halifax and Dewsbury, along with the British Movement (BM), a small but ultra-violent group considered extreme even by the standards of the British far right.
Other organisations include National Action, a neo-Nazi nationalist youth movement that openly advocates violence and whose strategy document reportedly makes reference to Hitler.
The neo-Nazi National Front, which advocates repatriation for non-whites, has a presence. Anti-racism activists also point to the Britain Democratic Party, a modest organisation founded by a group of former BNP politicians including Andrew Brons, former MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, who has hosted seminars on racial nationalism. The Yorkshire Infidels belong to a regional network of far-right nationalists whose marches have descended into violence. [Continue reading…]