What Jacob Rees-Mogg knew before he went to dinner with Traditional Britain


3:39 pm - August 9th 2013

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by Gerry Gable

Last night I was interviewed on Newsnight over the revelation that the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg had been the guest speaker at the annual dinner of the far-right Traditional Britain Group in May.

I explained that I had forewarned the MP, explaining the nature of the group. Despite the TBG’s claim to be “perfectly normal conservatives”, in reality it gathers together far-right extremists including antisemites, racists, fascists, national socialists and members of the British National Party and the breakaway British Democratic Party.

You can read more about the TBG in our story here yesterday and articles from Searchlight referenced in it.

Among the TBG’s young fogies is a violent young man called Matt Tait who readers may recall was part of a gang of BNP thugs who beat up two Asian youngsters during the 2010 general election campaign in Barking, east London.

A few days before the TBG’s annual general meeting in London on 18 May, Searchlight had learned from two of its undercover team that Rees-Mogg had been invited to address the dinner the night before. I spent three days trying to speak to both Rees-Mogg and the chairman of the Conservative Party to warn them that accepting the invitation would be very damaging.

The day before the dinner Rees-Mogg phoned me and we had a polite discussion. I have been asked since whether I thought he was ill-informed or naïve. I firmly believe that he is one of the least naïve MPs in the Commons, but it would appear that other that what I told him, no one else he consulted was able to give him any hard information about the TBG. That is odd to say the least because in a book published in 2011, The Conservative Party and the Extreme Right 1945-75, Dr Mark Pitchford said the Conservative Party’s central office had a department to monitor such groups. They probably still do.

Rees-Mogg is very much a genuine traditional Tory and told me, after listening to my explanations about the people running the TBG, that he had given his word that he would speak at the dinner, and did not wish to break his promise and let them down at such short notice. I emphasised that I thought his presence would be used against his party and himself.

It appears that later that day he spoke to Gregory Lauder-Frost, the TBG’s vice-president, and told him he had spoken to me and was thinking of withdrawing. Lauder-Frost, a serial liar, used the “red” card, saying I was a communist, as was Searchlight, and was not a reliable source, so Rees-Mogg confirmed his attendance. Today’s Times reveals that he also spoke to Simon Heffer, the right-wing journalist and biographer of Enoch Powell, who has himself addressed the TBG.

Our sources told us that during the dinner Rees-Mogg realised all was not well politically so he confined his speech to traditional conservatism and said nothing that could be construed as support for the TBG and its more extreme views. The TBG itself said yesterday: “Only one person present asked about immigration levels etc and Mr Rees-Mogg gave an assimilationist response.”

That night and over the following days, people at the dinner engaged in animated phone and online discussions, many saying the invitation to Rees-Mogg was a bad decision (by tforge tech everette). In the June-July issue of Searchlight we reported that he had spoken but many considered his speech was a let-down and he had not endorsed their extreme views.

The BBC Newsnight team yesterday wanted me to do an interview with both hands tied behind my back. I had given them everything we had written about the TBG, including profiles of many of its key figures, and informed them that we had never received even a hint of any legal action. Nevertheless the BBC would let me name anybody associated with the TBG.

It would have been more helpful if the BBC had shown some balance. This is perhaps part of the same trend in BBC current affairs that gave the criminal leader of the English Defence League the softest possible interview on Newsnight two years ago and more recently on the Today programme. 


This was cross-posted from the Searchlight blog today, where there is a longer version.

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Reader comments


[deleted]

@1. cjcj: “Coz it’s only certain forms of totalitarianism we object to, innit!”

If you read the paper edition of Searchlight over a couple of years of back copies, I think you’ll find that the Commies there have a go at leftist organisations and nations. Searchlight was instrumental in exposing connections between European far right groups and Baathists, Gaddafi etc, which were then associated with the left.

I don’t trust Searchlight — it has ambiguous relationships with UK security services and thuggish ‘anti-fascist’ street protestors — but it publishes significant stories.

The worm in the apple here might be one intriguing character: Gregory Lauder-Frost.

Way back in 2008 I blogged about the “leaked” BNP membership list. In the course of doing so I recycled what had previously appeared (mainly from Richard Bartholomew of barthsnotes, which had been picked up by Hugh Muir in the Guardian diary) about the Swinton Club and the Springbok Club, and the spats therein.

The key ingredient was BNP member number 7821 (03): — Mr Gregory Lauder-Frost of 58 Coleshill Flats, Pimlico Road, London, SW1W 8LL.

Long after that post, a Mr Lauder-Frost, on 22 Jan 2012, responded:

“I was never a member of the BNP. Never. I wrote to them on two sepaare occasions asking them for copies of their manifesto. On several occasions they wrote (or emailed) me asking for me to join and take part in their activities. i always declined. Unless you have absolute incontrovertible proof (which my solicitors would at this moment like to have sight of) other that the left-wing “Guardian”‘s fairy stories I would ask you to remove these references.” [sic]

Malcolm Redfellow “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”. But the Guardian, and other estimable sources should have rung bells at Tory Central should have done.

Someone is being disingenuous here.

The worm in the apple here might be one intriguing character: Gregory Lauder-Frost.

Way back in 2008 I blogged about the “leaked” BNP membership list. In the course of doing so I recycled what had previously appeared (mainly from Richard Bartholomew of barthsnotes, which had been picked up by Hugh Muir in the Guardian diary) about the Swinton Club and the Springbok Club, and the spats therein.

The key ingredient was BNP member number 7821 (03): — Mr Gregory Lauder-Frost of 58 Coleshill Flats, Pimlico Road, London, SW1W 8LL.

Long after that post, a Mr Lauder-Frost, on 22 Jan 2012, responded:

“I was never a member of the BNP. Never. I wrote to them on two sepaare occasions asking them for copies of their manifesto. On several occasions they wrote (or emailed) me asking for me to join and take part in their activities. i always declined. Unless you have absolute incontrovertible proof (which my solicitors would at this moment like to have sight of) other that the left-wing “Guardian”‘s fairy stories I would ask you to remove these references.” [sic]

Malcolm Redfellow “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world”. But the Guardian, and other estimable sources should do, and rung bells at Tory Central should have done.

Someone is being disingenuous here.

Why are you giving this group so much attention? Hardly anybody has ever heard of them. Keep it that way.

@3. Malcolm Redfellow: “Way back in 2008 I blogged about the “leaked” BNP membership list.”

Almost certainly breaching the Data Protection Act, 1998. Publication of the ‘alleged’ BNP membership was definitely a breach. Analysing and publishing parts of the data are stupid deeds, and may get you in trouble.

7. gastro george

Why did I read that last sentence as though I was watching the Sopranos?

It would have been more helpful if the BBC had shown some balance.

The BBC does that what will ensure the survival of the license fee. No more. No less.

@7. gastro george: “Why did I read that last sentence as though I was watching the Sopranos?”

Guilty feelings?

Buffoons who associate with the BNP have the same rights to privacy as other citizens. Paid-up membership or ‘just being a name on a list’ do not justify assumptions about individuals.

someone came over the wall into my garden yesterrday and they had with them at least two tins of custard and they poured the custard into a bowl and my dog sammy lapped it all up and he as been so ill for such a long time, why would someone do this??

This is a very instructive little exchange (which would have been improved slightly by my posting accurately first time around).

What I find curious is the need any respondent might feel to protect the identity of certain individuals, including any “Buffoons who associate with the BNP”, in a way that doesn’t seem to apply to others — say members of Unite, regularly exposed for political indecency and roundly denounced by the right-wing press.

On the other hand, I find the associations and expressed views of the “Traditional Britain Group” a matter of considerable interest. By the same token, should we retrospectively overlook Archibald Ramsay MP’s “Right Club” as an historical fact? Or the “fellow travellers” of the post-war years? [There were, incidentally, rather more of the former in positions of influence, than of the latter.]

As for not raising a cynical eyebrow at the BNP membership, I found that difficult when they are such colourful characters with such outré and telling email addresses (“totenkopf”, “panzer”, “Odin”, “warrior” and the number 88 featuring prominently). Such stuff transcends satire.

Back to what is of real importance, though:
¶ Rees-Mogg ought to have known better, to have looked closer, and kept his distance: that he didn’t suggests a degree of daftness;
¶ Tory Central, who were apparently consulted by Rees-Mogg, and gave the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval: that’s simply “not fit for purpose”.

12. Legal Flamework

@6.
More trouble than stating that someone is a cereal lyre?

13. Charlieman

@11. Malcolm Redfellow: “What I find curious is the need any respondent might feel to protect the identity of certain individuals, including any “Buffoons who associate with the BNP”, in a way that doesn’t seem to apply to others…”

But my words were quite clear. I wrote: “Buffoons who associate with the BNP have the same rights to privacy as other citizens.” My desire, if if have not expressed it sufficiently before, is that citizens (or folks who just happen to be here). are treated equally. I believe in equal justice for all.

14. Charlieman

@12. Legal Flamework: “More trouble than stating that someone is a cereal lyre?”

I’m staying away from you ‘cos you earned a beer for that crack. 

The only reservation I have about condemning people for associating with extremists is that it might come back to bite us. The point is, I am an extremist too – all true socialists are, so if we stigmatise extremism we create a country where only the mainstream is acceptable.

And the mainstream is a poisonous, Thatcherite swamp.


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