Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
British National Front
It was founded on February 7 1967 under the chairmanship of A. K. Chesterton, a cousin of the novelist G.K. Chesterton and former leader of the League of Empire Loyalists, with the purpose of opposing immigration and multiculturalist policies in Britain. The new movement brought the LEL into permanent coalition with the 1960s incarnation of the British National Party and the Racial Presevation Society. It grew during the 1970s and had as many as 20,000 members by 1974. It did particularly well in local elections and polled 44% in Deptford, London (with a splinter group), almost beating the incumbent Labour candidate, who only won due to the split. Similarly, it came third in three parliamentary by-elections, outperforming the Liberals.
Its electoral base largely consisted of blue-collar workers and the self-employed who resented immigrant competition in the labour market. The party also attracted a few disillusioned Conservatives, who gave the party much needed electoral expertise and respectability. The NF fought on a platform of opposition to communism and liberalism, support for Ulster loyalism, opposition to the European Economic Community, and, most notoriously, the compulsory repatriation of new Commonwealth immigrants. The chief ideologue of the NF (and editor of Spearhead magazine from 1976-80) was Richard Verrall. A common sight in the 70s, the NF was well-known for its noisy demonstrations, particularly in London, where it often faced anti-fascist counter-marchers from opposing groups, including the Anti-Nazi League.
The NF was led at first by Chesterton. He gave way in 1970 to John O'Brien, a former Conservative and supporter of Enoch Powell. Poor performances in the 1971 local elections saw O'Brien forced out and the leadership passed to John Tyndall and Martin Webster. Another poor showing in 1974 saw the leadership pass to the populist John Kingsley Read, although before long he and his supporters were forced out and Tyndall returned. (Read would form the short-lived National Party (UK).)
1979 was a disastrous year for the National Front as it was totally eclipsed by the rise to prominence of the newly reinvigorated Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher, whose tough right-wing stance on immigration and law and order saw support haemorrhage. Many ex-Tories returned to the fold. Tyndall saw his leadership challenged by Andrew Fountaine and, although Tyndall saw off the challenge, Fountaine and his followers split from the party to form the NF Constitutional Movement. The influential Leicester branch of the NF also split around this time, leading to the formation of the British Democratic Party. In the face of this meltdown Tyndall was replaced as leader by Andrew Brons, with Tyndall promptly leaving the NF to form his own New National Front, which would provide the basis for the British National Party (which has since pushed out the NF as the dominant far-right party in Britain).
The party rapidly declined during the 1980s, although it retained some support in Northern Ireland during this period. Its opponents view it as a skinhead party with barely concealed neo-nazi views - something which the Front itself has vociferously denied. Internally, the NF was dominated during the 1980s by the Political Soldier ideas of young radicals such as Nick Griffin and Derek Holland. Despite popular and media perceptions, the NF actually lost a lot of skinhead support as a result of the support shown for non-whites such as Louis Farrakhan and Ayatollah Khomeini. These lost followers moved towards the British National Party, the British Movement or simply to the skinhead umbrella group Blood and Honour. Under the leadership of the Political Soldiers the NF lost interest in contesting elections, preferring a more revolutionary strategy. In opposition, the NF Flag Group contained the traditionalists who even ran candidates under the NF banner in the 1987 general election. By 1990 the Political Soldiers had drifted away into such groups as the Third Way (UK), and the ITP International Third Position, leaving the Flag Group to take control, with leadership passing to Ian Anderson and Martin Wingfield.
The 1990s saw the NF decline as the BNP began to grow. As a result of this, Ian Anderson decided to change the party name and in 1995 relaunched it as the National Democrats. The move proved unpopular and around half of the 600 membership broke with Anderson to continue the NF under the leadership of John McCauley. The National Democrats continued to publish the old NF newspaper The Flag, whilst the NF rump launched a new paper The Flame. Both are still published irregularly.
The current NF
The fortunes of the National Front have subsequently waned, although it still exists as a small party, and fielded seven candidates at the 1997 General Election. The NF's current National Chairman is Tom Holmes.
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