Published on Friday, 04 May 2012 20:30 Written by Adam Carter
In the first of a series of articles on the Conservative right, Searchlight examines the Traditional Britain Group.
This elite gathering is the latest meeting of the Traditional Britain Group, one of the few extant organisations on the ultra-right of the Conservative Party. Originally launched with little fanfare in the early 2000s, the Traditional Britain Group has been led by people with a long pedigree of activism in the murky fringes of the Conservative Party and extreme-right circles. Its membership and influence has been fairly small so far: Searchlight was aware of its presence at some of the Countryside Alliance demonstrations in 2002 and its members were active in the formation of the Conservative Democratic Alliance (the two organisations once shared a PO Box) in 2001 and at some other gatherings of like-minded ultra-conservatives such as the ‘Trafalgar Day’ conference in October 2006.
However there are signs that, following the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, the Traditional Britain Group may have undergone a revival. It has begun to attract a younger and more dynamic membership through the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter and could potentially become a rallying ground for some Tory and UK Independence Party (UKIP) members who are disillusioned with the leadership of their own parties, particularly on social authoritarian issues of race, immigration, the European Union and identity.
The main activities of the Traditional Britain Group until recently were social gatherings, particularly its annual dinners, which have featured a range of Conservative and right-wing speakers. In 2003 the guest of honour was Tony Martin, a farmer who in 1999 was convicted of the murder, later reduced on appeal to manslaughter, of a burglar in his home. He had been released from his five-year sentence in January 2003. In 2006 the speaker was Simon Heffer, former associate editor at The Daily Telegraph, a biographer of Enoch Powell and currently an online commentator for The Daily Mail.
In 2009 its meetings were addressed by Abba Seraphim of the tiny British Orthodox Church and by Gregory Lauder-Frost (see below) and Sam Swerling on ‘Immigration and the Decline of Britain’. In 2010, aristocratic TV personality Frances Fulford, veteran far-right barrister Adrian Davies (see profile in Searchlight February-March 2012) and Christopher Gillibrand, a Catholic conservative intellectual and director of the Institute for Innovative Ideas think tank, were among the speakers. Its 2011 meetings featured former British National Party member Stuart Millson and Gerard Batten, UKIP MEP for London. The 2012 AGM in March was also fixated on multiculturalism with a speech from Matthew Pollard, Executive Director of the anti-immigration pressure group Migration Watch.
The Traditional Britain Group professes to combine traditional Conservative thinking and radical anti-liberalism. This can be seen on its website home page, which features images of a host of conservative thinkers who presumably influence its thought, ranging from icons of conservatism such as Lord Salisbury, Bejamin Disraeli, Neville Chamberlain, Enoch Powell and Roger Scruton to icons of the radical right such as the German ‘conservative revolutionaries’ Oswald Spengler and Ernst Jünger, influential fascist philosopher Julius Evola, French New Right guru Alain de Benoist and contemporary Russian nationalist Alexander Dugin.
The strategic and ideological impetus behind the group is described on its website – a reactionary appeal to ‘traditional’ values aligned with a more radical position on social issues, especially race. “British traditions and heritage are under threat as never before. Political correctness and enforced multiculturalism have watered down our rich national character and have forced honest and intelligent people to hide their true feelings for fear of reprisals,” it says. The website also stresses the importance of youth and the modern media: “under a new generation of young, enthusiastic and passionate talent we offer a focal point to promote ideas, discussion, networking, education and action … through the use of modern media, the internet, marketing campaigns, meetings, university groups, lectures and social events.”
The group’s current president is Eton-educated former hereditary peer Lord Sudeley, who has been associated with a plethora of right-wing pressure groups. He is a former long-term chairman of the Monday Club, a vice-president of the ultra-conservative Western Goals institute and vice-president of the International Monarchist League.
Its vice-president is Gregory Lauder-Frost, who has a similarly extensive and chequered history on the far right and who was convicted of several charges of theft while working for Riverside Health authority in 1992. His activism has included Western Goals, where, as vice-president (1989-2000), he was instrumental in arranging a meeting addressed by Jean-Marie Le Pen, former leader of the French National Front. He was also heavily involved in the Monday Club as Foreign Affairs Committee chairman as well as political secretary, and with the short-lived Conservative Democratic Alliance, which tried to unite the ultra-conservative right in the mid-2000s.
Lauder-Frost has previously shared a platform with Holocaust deniers such as Ernst Zündel and David Irving. In 2001 he was quoted in The Daily Telegraph saying: “I have been a conservative all of my adult life. Throughout that time I have observed the Conservative Party become more and more a Liberal party until we have now reached a point where traditional conservatism has been trashed altogether. … The party’s liberal embracing of the multi-cultural society, at odds with its view of the early 1970s when it proposed orderly and funded repatriation, has placed it at odds with the vast majority of its supporters.” According to a Guardian investigation in 2006 he was in contact with the BNP but “unable to be an active member, as he spends most of his time at his home in the country”.
As well as such established far-right luminaries, the Traditional Britain Group features some younger activists on its committee including Louis Welcomme (chairman), Liam Stokes (secretary), Henry Hopwood-Phillips, Calum Rupert Heaton-Gent and George Jones. Many of the younger members are active in its eight regional groups and contribute to its Facebook page, which features the usual right-wing attacks on liberalism and multiculturalism as well as cruder racist posts which associate black people with criminality.
Although the Traditional Britain Group is still small, there are clear signs that it is attracting a new generation of activists and that its reactionary views on race and immigration are finding a receptive audience. Given the lack of competition on the Tory right, other than the civic nationalism of UKIP, and the widespread extreme-right disillusionment with David Cameron’s government, there is every chance that its membership and influence could increase. Searchlight will be taking a close interest in its activities.