National Front (UK)

National Front
Leader David MacDonald[1]
Deputy Leader Tony Martin[2]
Founded 1967 (1967)
Headquarters Kingston upon Hull[1]
Ideology Ultranationalism
White nationalism
British fascism[3][4]
Political position Far-right
Colours                Red, white, blue
House of Commons
0 / 650
House of Lords
0 / 781
European Parliament
0 / 73
Local government
0 / 21,871

The National Front (NF) is a far-right or extreme-right political party in the United Kingdom. It is headquartered in Kingston upon Hull and is currently led by David MacDonald. It has no elected representatives at any level of UK government.

The NF was founded by A. K. Chesterton in 1967 as a merger between his League of Empire Loyalists and the British National Party. It was soon joined by the Greater Britain Movement, whose leader John Tyndall became the Front's chairman in 1972. By 1976, it had up to 14,000 paying members, and won nearly 20% of that year's local election votes in Leicester. In the 1979 general election, the NF fielded 303 candidates, polling 191,719 votes but not winning any seats. In 1982 Tyndall split from the party to form his own British National Party, which absorbed much of the NF's support. As late as 2010, it put up 17 candidates for the general election and 18 candidates for the local elections, but none were elected.

Ideologically characterised as extreme or far-right, the NF has been described as Neo-Nazi and fascist by political scientists. The party is ethnic nationalist, and espouses the view that only white people should be citizens of the United Kingdom. It calls for an end to non-white migration into the UK and the compulsory deportation of settled non-white populations from the country. It promotes biological racism, calling for global racial separatism and condemning mixed race relationships. It promotes economic protectionism, Euroscepticism, and a transformation away from liberal democracy, while its social policies oppose feminism and LGBT rights.

Only whites are permitted membership of the party. The party has never won a seat in Parliament, and its few council seats have only been obtained through defection and appointment. The British police and prison services forbid their employees to be members of the party.[6]


Late 1960s: formation

The National Front was established as a coalition of small extreme-right groups which were active on the fringes of British politics during the 1960s.[7] In early 1966, A. K. Chesterton, the leader of the League of Empire Loyalists (LEL), resolved to unite many of these parties.[8] Over the following months many members of Britain's extreme-right visited him at his Croydon apartment to discuss the proposal,[8] among them Andrew Fountaine and Philip Maxwell of the British National Party (BNP),[9] John Tyndall and Martin Walker of the Greater Britain Movement (GBM),[8] and David Brown of the Racial Preservation Society (RPS).[10] In principle, everyone agreed with the idea of unification, but there were many personal rivalries that made the process difficult.[8]

Chesterton agreed to a merger of the LEL and BNP,[9] and a faction of the RLP also agreed to join the venture.[9] The BNP was eager to accelerate the process of integration, in part because it was running out of funds and hoped that the LEL could help to financially sustain it.[9] The LEL also discussed the idea of a merger with the GBM, although the LEL withdrew from this after Tyndall and seven other GBM members were arrested for illegal weapon possession.[11] The BNP and RPS independently discussed a merger; although agreeing to this in September 1966, the idea had foundered within a week.[12]

Chesterton and the BNP agreed that Tyndall's GBM would not be invited to join their new party because of its associations with Neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism.[13] Chesterton had also met with the Neo-Nazi Colin Jordan of the National Socialist Movement, but again deemed it political suicide to unite with his faction.[12] In October 1966 the LEL and BNP established a working committee to establish what policies the two parties could agree upon; it continued to meet twice a month until February 1967.[14] Its initial policy platform revolved around opposition to the political establishment, anti-communism, support for Rhodesia and the white dominions, a ban on immigration into Britain and the repatriation of all settled immigrants to their ancestral nations.[15] They considered various names for the new party, among them the "National Independence Party" and the "British Front",[13] before settling on the "National Front" in December 1966.[16]

Early 1970s: growth

The National Front (NF) was founded on 7 February 1967.[17] At the time it had approximately 2500 members, 1000 from the BNP, 300 from the LEL, and over 100 from the RPS.[15] According to the journalist Martin Walker, "for the great union of the Right, the National Front was a feeble beginning".[15] Conversely, the historian Richard Thurlow noted that NF's formation was "the most significant event on the radical right and fascist fringe of British politics" since the internment of the country's fascists during the Second World War.[18] The NF's first year was marked by a power struggle between the LEL and BNP factions.[19] The LEL faction were unhappy with the BNP's behaviour, such as its propensity for chanting,[20] while the BNP criticised Chesterton's elitist pretensions by calling him "the Schoolmaster".[20]

The BNP faction called for the NF to welcome Tyndall and the GBM into the Front.[21] In June 1967 Tyndall discontinued the GBM and called on its members to join the NF.[22] Contravening his earlier commitment to keeping Tyndall out, Chesterton welcomed him into the party.[23] Tyndall had written a book titled Six Principles of British Nationalism in which he had espoused more moderate positions than those he previously promoted; he believed that this was the most important factor in Chesterton changing his mind on GBM membership.[24]

The party held its first annual conference in October 1967, when it was picketed by anti-fascist demonstrators.[25] In January 1968 the Liverpool-based British Aid for the Repatriation of Immigrants joined the NF, to be followed later that year by another Liverpudlian group, the People's Progressive Party.[26] In 1969, the NF gained further recruits from the Anglo-Rhodesian League and the Anti-Communist League.[27]

"It should be the pride of all NF members to be alled extremists and not only that - it should be a matter of guilt to any person opposed to the Left that he is not labelled as extreme."

— Tyndall[27]

In 1968, Chesterton's leadership was challenged by ex-BNP member Andrew Fountaine, who was backed by Gerald Kemp and Rodney Legg. A leadership election produced a strong mandate for Chesterton and his challengers left the party.[28] Throughout this, Tyndall had remained loyal to Chesterton.[29] There was further arguments in the party after the lease ended on their Westminster HQ. LEL members wanted another base in Central London, while the GBM and BNP factions favoured moving to the former GBM's HQ, the "Nationalist Centre" in Tulse Hill. Chesterton backed the LEL position and rented a small office in Fleet Street.[30]

In the 1969 local elections, the NF fielded 45 candidates, averaging 8%, with a few of their candidates securing over 10%.[31] They focused on these latter seats in the 1970 local elections, fielding 10 candidates, although almost all secured under 5%.[32] The party had faced militant left opposition, including a lorry that was driven into their Tulse Hill building in 1969,[33] and to counter this the NF installed a spy in the London anti-fascist movement.[34] Against Chesterton's wishes, NF activists began carrying out stunts to raise publicity for them; in December 1968 they marched on a London Weekend television show uninvited and in spring 1969 assaulted two Labour Party ministers at a public meeting, thus accruing a reputation for rowdiness.[35] While Chesterton was in South Africa, a faction led by Gordon Brown launched a leadership challenge against him. On realising that his support was weak, Chesterton resigned.[36] Brown offered the party's leadership to Tyndall, but the latter declined the offer.[37] Tyndall instead endorsed John O'Brien, who had contacts across Britain's far-right. The NF directorate was unconvinced but with no alternative selected O'Brien in February 1971.[38]

The National Front grew during the 1970s and had between 16,000 and 20,000 members by 1974, and 50 local branches.[39] Its electoral base largely consisted of blue-collar workers and the self-employed who resented immigrant competition in the labour market and for scarce housing. Some recruits came from the Monday Club within the Conservative Party that had been founded in reaction to Harold Macmillan's "Wind of Change" speech. The NF fought on a platform of opposition to communism and liberalism, support for Ulster loyalism, opposition to the European Economic Community, and the compulsory repatriation of new Commonwealth immigrants who had entered Britain under the British Nationality Act, 1948.[40][41] In May 1973, in a by-election in West Bromwich West, the National Front candidate, the party's National Activities Organizer, Martin Webster, polled 4,789 votes (16.2%), a result which shook the political and media Establishment.

National Front march in Yorkshire, 1970s.

A common sight in England in the 1970s, the NF was well known for its street demonstrations, particularly in London, where it often faced anti-fascist protestors from opposing left-wing groups, including the International Marxist Group and the International Socialists (later the Socialist Workers Party). Opponents of the National Front claimed it to be a neo-fascist organisation, and its activities were opposed by anti-racist activists such as those connected with Searchlight magazine. The NF was led at first by Chesterton, who left under a cloud after half of the directorate (led by the NF's major financer, Gordon Marshall) moved a vote of no confidence in him. He was replaced in 1970 by the party's office manager John O'Brien, a former Conservative and supporter of Enoch Powell. O'Brien, however, left when he realised the NF's leadership functions were being systematically taken over by the former Greater Britain Movement members, in order to ensure the party was really being run by John Tyndall and his deputy Martin Webster.[42] O'Brien and the NF's treasurer Clare McDonald led a small group of supporters into John Davis' National Independence Party, and the leadership of the National Front passed to Tyndall and Webster.

Mid 1970s: height of party and success

Between 1973 and 1976 the National Front performed better in local elections, as well as in several parliamentary by-elections, than in general elections. No parliamentary candidates ever won a seat, but the party saved its deposit on one occasion.[43][44]

The NF sought to expand its influence into the 'white dominions' of the Commonwealth.[45] In 1977, overseas organisations were set up in New Zealand (the New Zealand National Front), South Africa (the South African National Front[46]) and in Australia (the National Front Australia ).

A Canadian organisation was also set up (National Front of Canada) but it failed to take off.[47]

Already by 1974, the ITV documentary This Week exposed the neo-Nazi pasts (and continued links with Nazis from other countries) of Tyndall and Webster. This resulted in a stormy annual conference two weeks later, where Tyndall was booed with chants of "Nazi! Nazi!" when he tried to make his speech. This led to the leadership being passed to the populist John Kingsley Read. A stand-off between Read and his supporters (such as Roy Painter and Denis Pirie) and Tyndall and Webster followed, leading to a temporary stand-still in NF growth. Before long Read and his supporters seceded and Tyndall returned as leader. Read formed the National Party, which won two council seats in Blackburn in 1976, and was dissolved in 1983.[48]

A National Front march through central London on 15 June 1974 led to a 21-year-old man, Kevin Gately, being killed and dozens more people (including 39 police officers) being injured, in clashes between the party's supporters and members of anti-fascist organisations.[49]

The National Front was also opposed to British membership of the European Economic Community, which began on 1 January 1973. On 25 March 1975, some 400 NF supporters demonstrated across London in protest against EEC membership, mostly in the Islington area of the capital.[50]

During 1976 the movement's fortunes improved, and the NF had up to 14,000 paid members.[39] A campaign was launched in support of Robert Relf, who had been jailed for refusing to remove a sign from outside his home declaring that it was for sale only to English buyers. In the May local election the NF's best result was in Leicester, where 48 candidates won 14,566 votes, nearly 20% of the total vote.[51] By June, the party's growth rate was its highest ever. In the May 1977 Greater London Council election, 119,060 votes were cast in favour of the NF and the Liberals were beaten in 33 out of 92 constituencies.[52]

A police ban on an NF march through Hyde in October 1977 was defied by Martin Webster, who separately marched alone carrying a Union Jack and a sign reading "Defend British Free Speech from Red Terrorism", surrounded by an estimated 2,500 police and onlookers. He was allowed to march, as 'one man' did not constitute a breaking of the ban. The tactic attracted media publicity for the Front.[53]

Late 1970s: riots, in-fighting and decline

If anything epitomised the NF under Tyndall and Webster it was the events of August 1977, when a large NF march went through the largely non-white area of Lewisham in South East London under an inflammatory slogan claiming that 85% of muggers were black whilst 85% of their victims were white.[54] As the NF was then contesting the Birmingham Ladywood by-election, such a large march elsewhere was construed by some as an attempt to provoke trouble. 270 policemen were injured (56 hospitalised) and over 200 marchers were injured (78 hospitalised), while an attempt was made by rioters to destroy the local police station.[55] At this march, riot shields were used for the first time in the UK outside Northern Ireland. The event is often referred to by anti-fascists as the Battle of Lewisham. Many of those who took part in the riot that day were not members of any anti-fascist or anti-racist group, but local youths (both black and white).[56]

At the same time, Margaret Thatcher as opposition leader was moving the Conservative party back to the right and away from the moderate Heathite stance which had caused some Conservatives to join the NF. Many ex-Conservatives returned to the fold from the NF or its myriad splinter groups, in particular after her "swamping" remarks on the ITV documentary series World In Action on 30 January 1978:

... we do not talk about it [immigration] perhaps as much as we should. In my view, that is one thing that is driving some people to the National Front. They do not agree with the objectives of the National Front, but they say that at least they are talking about some of the problems.... If we do not want people to go to extremes... we must show that we are prepared to deal with it. We are a British nation with British characteristics.[57]

Also, Tyndall insisted on using party funds to nominate extra candidates so that the NF would be standing in 303 seats to give the impression of growing strength. However, it brought the party to the verge of bankruptcy when all of the deposits were lost.

National Front deputy leader Martin Webster claimed two decades later that the activities of the Anti-Nazi League played a key part in the NF's collapse at the end of the 1970s. The NF stood its largest number of parliamentary candidates at the 1979 general election only a few months later.

Most damning of all, a full set of minutes of National Front Directorate meetings from late 1979 to the 1986 split between "Third Way" and "Flag Group" factions, deposited by former NF leader Patrick Harrington in the library of the University of Southampton, revealed that during the party's post-1979 wilderness years it was in the habit of "tipping off the reds" in the hope of giving its activities greater credibility with the public, through being attended by hordes of angry protestors. This was later confirmed by the MI5 mole Andy Carmichael, who was West Midlands Regional Organiser for the NF during the 1990s.[58]

Tyndall's leadership was challenged by Andrew Fountaine after the 1979 debacle. 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 short-lived British Democratic Party. In the face of these splits, the party's Directorate voted to oust Tyndall as chairman after he had demanded even more powers. He was replaced by Andrew Brons, but the 'power behind the throne' was Martin Webster who, somewhat surprisingly, had supported his old ally's deposition. After failing to win title to the National Front name in the courts, Tyndall formed the British National Party.

1980s: two National Fronts

The party rapidly declined during the 1980s, although it retained some support in the West Midlands and in parts of London (usually centred around Terry Blackham).[59]

The party effectively split into two halves during the 1980s, after it had expelled Martin Webster. On one side were the Political Soldier ideas of young radicals such as Nick Griffin, Patrick Harrington, Phil Andrews and Derek Holland, who were known as the Official National Front. They had little interest in contesting elections, preferring a 'revolutionary' strategy.[60]

The opposition NF Flag Group contained the traditionalists such as Andrew Brons, Ian Anderson, Martin Wingfield, Tina Wingfield, Joe Pearce (initially associated with the Political Soldiers' faction) and Steve Brady, who ran candidates under the NF banner in the 1987 general election. The Flag Group did some ideological work of its own, and the ideas of social credit and distributism were popular, but the chief preoccupation was still race relations.[61] Some hoped that having two parties within one might help to save the NF from oblivion after 1979. The phrase "Let a thousand initiatives bloom" was coined (meaning that internal diversity should be tolerated) in the hope of re-capturing support, but clashes occurred nevertheless. In the 1989 Vauxhall by-election, Harrington stood as the Official National Front candidate against Ted Budden for the Flag NF. By 1990, the Political Soldiers had fallen out with one another, splintering into Griffin's International Third Position (ITP) and Harrington's Third Way, leaving the Flag Group under Anderson and Wingfield to continue alone. Griffin's pamphlet "Attempted Murder"[62] gives a very colourful – if biased and somewhat bitter – overview of this period of the NF's history.

Around this time, the 'official' NF lost much of its traditional English support as a result of its support for black radicals such as Louis Farrakhan.[63] The former supporters either moved to the British National Party (BNP), the rapidly declining British Movement, or to the White Noise umbrella group Blood and Honour. Griffin and Holland tried to enlist the financial aid of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, but the idea was rejected once the Libyans found out about the NF's reputation as fascist (a quarter of Libya's adult male population was killed by Benito Mussolini's troops during World War II).[64] However, the NF received 5,000 copies of Gaddafi's Green Book, which influenced Andrews to leave the NF to form the Isleworth Community Group, the first of several grass roots groups in English local elections, whereby nominally independent candidates stood under a collective flag of convenience to appear more attractive to voters.[65][66]

An estimate of membership of the National Front in 1989 put adherents of the Flag Group at about 3,000 and of the 'Political Soldier' faction at about 600, with a number in between embracing Griffin's Third Position ideas.[60] Griffin's own estimate, as stated in a TV documentary first broadcast in 1999, was that in 1990 his International Third Position had fifty to sixty supporters, while Harrington's Third Way had about a dozen.

1990s and later

In the 1990s, the NF declined as the BNP began to grow. As a result of this, Ian Anderson decided to change the party name and in 1995 re-launched it as the National Democrats. The move proved unpopular. Over half of the members continued with the NF under the reluctant leadership of previous deputy leader John McAuley. He later passed the job on to Tom Holmes. The National Democrats continued to publish the old NF newspaper, The Flag, for a while. The NF launched a new paper, The Flame, which is still published irregularly.

There has been a re-positioning of the NF's policy on marches and demonstrations since the expulsion from the party in 2007 of Terry Blackham, the former National Activities Organiser. These have been reduced in favour of electoral campaigning. In January 2010, Tom Holmes resigned the leadership and handed over to Ian Edward.[67]

In February 2010, when the BNP had to change its constitution to allow non-whites into the party because of a High Court decision, the NF claimed to have received over 1,000 membership enquiries from BNP members and said that local BNP branches in Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire had discussed switching over to them.[68] The veteran nationalists Richard Edmonds and Tess Culnane also rejoined the party.

On 14 September 2010, the NF publicity officer, Tom Linden, shared a debate with the Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA, John Dallat, on BBC Radio Foyle about the support the NF had in Coleraine. This gave the NF a chance to air its views, which resulted in the NF Coleraine organiser, Mark Brown, thanking Dallat for helping the NF double its support in Coleraine through enquiries and membership.[69]

The National Front is now led by Kevin Bryan of Bacup, Lancashire. His position as leader was registered with the Electoral Commission in March 2015.[70]

In November 2015, the party's official website announced that Bryan had relinquished the leadership following a "shocking car crash". It was announced that Dave MacDonald had taken over as national chairman, with Adam Lloyd taking over as deputy.[71]


The National Front has been described as fascist[4][72][73] and neo-fascist[5] in its policies. Walker stated that to deem the NF "fascist" "in the classic sense of the 1930s is silly".[74] In 1977, Walker stated that many of the NF's policies were akin to the idea of people on the right-wing of the Conservative Party.[75] In his book, The New Fascists, Wilkinson, comparing the NF to the Italian Social Movement (MSI), comments on its neo-fascist nature and neo-Nazi ideals:

"The only other case among the western democracies of a neo-fascist movement making some progress towards creating an effective mass party with at least a chance of winning some leverage, is the National Front (NF) in Britain. It is interesting that the NF, like the MSI, has tried to develop a 'two-track' strategy. On the one hand it follows an opportunistic policy of attempting to present itself as a respectable political party appealing by argument and peaceful persuasion for the support of the British electorate. On the other, its leadership is deeply imbued with Nazi ideas, and though they try to play down their past affiliations with more blatantly Nazi movements, such as Colin Jordan's National Socialist Movement, they covertly maintain intimate connections with small neo-Nazi cells in Britain and abroad, because all their beliefs and motives make this not only tactically expedient but effective."[5]

The party also stands for "white family values", including the white supremacist slogan (known as the Fourteen Words), which stipulates, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."[76] Members of the National Front typically refer to themselves as "racialists".[77]

British ethnic nationalism

The National Front is a British nationalist,[78] and a racial nationalist party.[79]

It is British unionist, believing in the political unity of the United Kingdom.[80] The NF expressed support for the Ulster Unionist community,[81] and in the 1970s endorsed the Vanguard Unionist Progressive Party.[82] While leader of the NF, Tyndall expressed the view that "The duty of Britain is to fight [Irish] republicanism and to destroy republicanism, not just violent republicanism – as represented by the IRA – but republicanism in every shape and form".[82] Many Ulster Unionists were however suspicious of the NF, and in 1973 the Ulster Defence Association proscribed it, circulating an internal memorandum that stated: "we regard the National Front as a neo-Nazi movement".[83]


The cornerstone of the National Front's manifesto since 1974 has been the compulsory repatriation of all non-white immigrants.[84]

The National Front advocates a total ban on any further non-White immigration into Britain, and the launching of a phased plan of repatriation for all coloured immigrants.[85]

In the past, the National Front did not oppose white immigration into Britain.[86] John Tyndall, a former leader of the party spoke positively of white immigrants from Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states, regarding them as being racially similar and sharing the "same basic culture" as the British and were thus easily able to assimilate "within a generation or two".[87] Ted Budden, a former organiser for the party in the 1980s proclaimed that white immigrants such as Poles in Britain would not be repatriated, adding: "Ah, it's the Poles who are the most forthright in the fight against coloured immigrants everywhere".[86] The National Front's manifesto has also called for white emigrants to the Commonwealth countries to return to Britain, claiming: "These immigrants should be given completely free entry into Britain and full rights of British citizenship".[88] The National Front in its political manifestos published in 1997 and 2001 reiterated its pledge to repatriate "all coloured immigrants and their offspring". The party's policy as of 2012 on immigration remains unchanged in regards to its compulsory repatriation policy for non-whites:

The National Front would halt all non-white immigration into Britain and introduce a policy of phased and humane repatriation.[89]

The party, however, now opposes further white immigration into Britain, excluding some cases:

In regards to white immigration, this would only be allowed where there are particular reasons such as the possession of particular skills or in the case of political refugees.[89]

Unlike non-white immigrants, the National Front has no policy to repatriate white immigrants already settled in Britain. While supporting withdrawal from the European Union, the National Front wants to create greater cultural links between Europe, what it calls the "White nations". The party claims to stand for "white family values" and the "Fourteen Words", a white nationalist slogan that states: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children." The party works in open cooperation with the white supremacist and neo-Nazi website Stormfront.[90][91]

In recent years the party has been in conflict with the British National Party over such issues as the BNP's attempts to present a more moderate image, such as shifting its policy from compulsory to voluntary repatriation and opening its membership to non-whites. The NF's former national chairman, Tom Holmes, condemned the BNP as no longer being a white nationalist party for having an Asian, Sikh columnist in its party newspaper.[92]

The NF attempted to link many other political themes to the issues of race and immigration.[93] Among the "standard forms of NF propaganda" was the claim that immigrants carried diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis,[94] and that it was these diseased immigrants who were clogging up the health service.[93] It presented the idea that school quality was being eroded by black pupils,[93] and that unemployment among whites were not getting jobs because they had been taken by blacks.[93] During the 1970s, the NF's propaganda regularly presented black people in Britain as a source of crime.[95] In the mid-1970s, Tyndall used Spearhead to claim that "the negro has a smaller brain and a much less complex cerebral structure" than white Europeans.[96] Tyndall stated that under an NF government, non-whites would be placed at the bottom of the queue for social housing and social services in the UK while they awaited deportation.[97] It also called for the scrapping of the Race Relations Act 1965, arguing that individuals should have the legal right to racially discriminate against others.[94]

Economy and environment

In the 1970s, it argued that North Sea Oil production should only be in the hands of British companies and not foreign ones.[98]

According to its 2010 general election manifesto, the National Front's policy on environmental issues includes enacting legislation to protect and expand existing green areas, particularly in urban areas. It also calls for a higher investment in the UK's rail network and want stricter controls on pesticides.[99]


Since its early years, the NF has promoted a tough stance on law and order issues, calling for harsher sentences for criminals and the reintroduction of capital punishment.[100]


From its early years, the party has opposed mixed race marriages.[97]

The party believes that the current age of consent at 16 in Britain is too young and would raise it to 18. They would also make sure that any child under the age of 16 could not legally give consent (as opposed to 13 in Britain today), and want this put in place throughout the United Kingdom.[101] The party has also supported the reintroduction of Section 28, and supports the recriminalisation of homosexuality.[102]

The party adopts a strongly anti-abortion stance, describing abortion as a "crime against humanity" and would repeal the 1967 Abortion Act.[103]


The NF called for the UK to withdraw from its membership of both the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.[104] From its early years, the Front opposed the UK's membership of the European Economic Community.[81] During the early 1970s it called on its members to obstruct the EEC bureaucracy in any way possible,[100] calling for its supporters to "defy the law - be prepared to go to prison too as a gesture of defiance" against the EEC.[100] In March 1975 it tried to affiliate itself with the National Referendum Campaign, although the latter turned down the offer.[105] In response, NF members disrupted the April 1975 NRC meeting at Conway Hall, storming the platform and having to be removed by police.[105]

Its constitution expresses the fact that it is led by a National Directorate rather than a chairman, and that the National Front is a party of democracy and freedom of speech. Section 2 says: "The National Front consists of a confederation of branches co-ordinated by a National Directorate. Additionally a Central Tribunal appointed by the National Directorate is responsible for acting as a final court of appeal in internal disciplinary matters and for acting as a disciplinary tribunal for cases brought directly against individual party members by the National Directorate."[106] It claims that its skinhead image is a thing of the past, that the party is critical of the historical accuracy of the Holocaust, and is inclined towards historical revisionism, but claims that it has no official view about it and defends the right of free speech for any historian of the subject.[107]

In the 1970s, the NF called for the UK to obtain larger numbers of nuclear weapons.[104]


In January 1974, the NF had 30 branches and 54 groups.[97] The majority of these were located in South-East England, with 11 branches and 8 groups in Greater London and 5 branches and 22 groups elsewhere in the south-east.[97] It had five branches and 3 groups in the Midlands, 7 branches and 11 groups in the North, 1 branch and 7 groups in Western Britain, and one group each in Scotland and Northern Ireland.[108]

The NF formed "defence groups" largely made up of young men in order to guard their marches from anti-fascist protesters.[109] By 1974, this group had come to be called the Honour Guard.[109]

The Front has a long history of factional rivalry within its ranks.[110]

In June 1974, the party launched its NF Trade Unionists Association, seeking to promote NF membership among Britain's trade unions.[111] Tyndall believed that the NF should take control of the trade union movement and suppress the leftists within it.[112] During the 1970s it also encouraged members to infiltrate other groups, such as the Hunt Saboteurs Association and ratepayers' and residents' associations.[113]

The NF formed its own students association.[25]


In 1977, Walker described the party's membership as being "like a bath with both taps running and the plughole empty. Members pour in and pour out."[74]


Walker noted that the NF was a self-financed body that was constantly short of funds.[114] During the 1970s branches were given specific targets that they had to reach, which they had to attain through selling Spearhead and the NF's newssheet Britain First.[114] The party also succeeded in raising additional funds during its rallies.[115]

Walker noted that in 1974, the NF raised at least £50,000.[115] That same year, it went into debt in order to finance its electoral campaigns.[115]

Voter base

According to Walker, the 1974 election results suggested that the NF's electoral heartlands at the time were in London's East End and in the north-east inner London suburbs.[93] He noted that it typically gained much of its support from 'respectable working-class' areas, where many traditional Labour voters who felt let down by Labour governments had been attracted by its racial appeals.[116]

Electoral performance

Summary of general election performance

Year Number of Candidates Total votes Average voters per candidate Percentage of vote Saved deposits Change (percentage points) Number of MPs
1970 10 11,449 1,145 0.04 0 N/A 0
Feb 1974 54 76,865 1,423 0.2 0 +0.16 0
Oct 1974 90 113,843 1,265 0.4 0 +0.2 0
1979 303 191,719 633 0.6 0 +0.2 0
1983 60 27,065 451 0.1 0 −0.5 0
1987 1 286 286 0.0 0 −0.1 0
1992 14 4,816 344 0.1 0 +0.1 0
1997 6 2,716 452 0.0 0 −0.1 0
2001 5 2,484 497 0.0 0 0.0 0
2005 13 8,029 617 0.0 0 0.0 0
2010 17 10,784 634 0.0 0 0.0 0
2015 7 1,114 159 0.0 0 0.0 0

EU parliament elections

Year Candidates MEPs Percentage vote Total votes Change Average vote
1989 1 0 0.0 1,471 N/A 1471
1994 5 0 0.1 12,469 +0.1 2494

Local elections (1967–2012)

The National Front has contested local elections since the late 1960s, but only did particularly well in them from 1973, polling as high as 15%.[117] It never won a seat, however.[118] In the 1976 local elections the NF notably polled 27.5% of the vote in Sandwell, West Midlands, and over 10,000 votes in some councils.[119][120] The May 1976 local election results were the most impressive for the National Front, with the jewel in the crown being Leicester, where 48 candidates won 14,566 votes, nearly 20% of the total. However, after 1977 the NF vote-share ceased growing and by 1979 had begun to decline.[121]

During the 1980s and early 1990s the National Front only fielded a handful of candidates in local elections, but it has increased this to 35 for the 2012 local elections.[52]

An article printed in The Independent on 23 April 2012 reported that the National Front intended to field 35 candidates in local elections – the highest number for 30 years – aiming to revive the 1970s 'glory days'.[122] Among the NF candidates for the 2012 local elections was Derek Beackon in Thurrock with Mick Griffin of Tilbury Essex receiving the party's best result.[123]


The National Front has never won a contested council seat in any election. However, in October 1969, two Conservative councillors, Athlene O'Connell and Peter Mitchell, defected to the National Front on Wandsworth London Borough Council,[124] but they left only two months later, rejoining the Conservative Party. On 3 May 2007, a National Front candidate Simon Deacon was elected unopposed to Markyate Parish council, near St Albans (there were ten vacancies but only nine candidates). However, Deacon soon defected to the British National Party, after becoming disillusioned with the direction of the NF.[125]

In March 2010, the NF gained its first councillor in Rotherham by defection: John Gamble, who had been in the BNP and then the England First Party (EFP).[126] However, not long afterwards he was expelled. Later the same year, a parish councillor from Harrogate, Sam Clayton, defected from the BNP to the NF.[127] However, on 29 November 2010, it was revealed that Clayton had resigned as parish councillor for Bilton in Ainsty with Bickerton ward.[128] As of mid-2011 the National Front had one parish councillor, who represented Langley Hill Ward on Langley Parish Council.[129] However, in September 2011 it lost its councillor after the party failed to complete the necessary paper work.[130]


In 2012, the National Front put forward Peter Tierney, a former BNP organiser, as a candidate to be the first elected mayor of Liverpool.[131] Tierney came last out of twelve candidates with 556 votes (0.57%).

London Assembly

In the 2008 London Assembly election held on 1 May, the National Front stood five candidates, saving two deposits – Paul Winnett polled 11,288 votes (5.56% of those cast) in the Bexley and Bromley constituency. In the Greenwich and Lewisham constituency, Tess Culnane polled 8,509 votes (5.79% of those cast) coming ahead of the UK Independence Party.

In the 2012 London Assembly election held on 3 May, the National Front stood three candidates in two of the same constituencies in which it stood before – Greenwich and Lewisham and Ealing and Hillingdon – and Havering and Redbridge. The National Front lost all deposits and received large drops in the votes. At the same time, the National Front stood on the London list in which it came twelfth out of thirteen parties with 8,006 votes (0.4%).

General elections (1970–2010)

The National Front has contested general elections since 1970. The NF's most significant success in a parliamentary by-election was in the 1973 West Bromwich by-election: the NF candidate finished third with 16%, and saved his deposit for the only time in NF by-election history. This result was largely due to the candidate Martin Webster's own adopted 'chummy' persona for the campaign as "Big Mart".

In the 1979 general election the National Front fielded a record 303 candidates, polling 191,719 votes but saving no deposits. This plunged the party into financial difficulties. The National Front fielded 60 candidates in the 1983 general election and received 27,065 votes. It saved no deposits, the average vote being less than 1% in each contested constituency. In 1987, the NF was split and only stood one candidate, in Bristol East, polling 286 votes (0.6%).

Since 1992, the National Front has never fielded more than nineteen candidates in a British general election (as few as five in 2001). None has saved their deposit, with their average percentage share of the vote being around 1%. However, in Rochdale during the 2010 general election, the NF candidate, Chris Jackson, polled 4.9% (2,236 votes), coming within a whisker of saving his deposit.[132]

Scottish Parliament

The National Front stood for the first time in Scotland in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, fielding six candidates – one for the North East region and five for the constituencies.[133] It gained 1,515 votes (0.08%) for the constituencies nationwide and 640 votes (0.2%) for the North East region. It failed to win any seats or save any deposits.

List of chairmen

National Front, 1967–1986

Leader From Until Notes
A. K. Chesterton19671970Founding member.
John O'Brien19701972Left to join the National Independence Party.
John Tyndall19721974Forced out of leadership by populists.
John Kingsley Read19741976Left to found National Party, after poor election results.
John Tyndall19761980Left to found New National Front, which became the BNP.
Andrew Brons19801984Stepped down, remained in party.
Martin Wingfield19841986Purged by radical Political Soldier faction.

Official National Front, 1986–1990

Leader From Until Notes
Derek Holland, Nick Griffin and Patrick Harrington19861989Holland and Griffin left to found the International Third Position.
Patrick Harrington19891990Political Soldier faction ends, Harrington founds Third Way.

Flag National Front, 1986–1995

Leader From Until Notes
Martin Wingfield19861989Previous chairman of National Front before schism.
Ian Anderson19891995Changed name to National Democrats, others disagreed.

National Front, 1995–present

Leader From Until Notes
John McAuley19951998Somewhat reluctant leader, passed chairmanship on.
Tom Holmes19982009Resigned the leadership of party.
Ian Edward Costard20092013Resigned as chairman over policy, later entered into a conflict with Bryan/MacDonald majority faction.
Kevin Bryan20132015Previously deputy chairman, stood down as leader in November 2015 following serious car accident.
David MacDonald2015Present


In 1981, Fielding noted that the NF "dominated" Britain's "extreme Right".[134]

According to Walker, the NF's opponents perceive it as "a loathsome graveyard echo of the old Nazism".[135] By the October 1974 election, the Labour Party had forbidden its candidates to share either a public platform or a radio or television slot with NF candidates.[136] 120 Labour-controlled councils banned the party from using local municipal halls for their activities.[137] At its 1974 annual conference, the National Union of Students adopted a 'no platform' policy with regard to the NF.[136] Also in the mid-1970s, the National Union of Mineworkers called for the government to ban the NF.[138]

Far left activists demonstrated outside NF meetings and encouraged landlords not to allow the NF to use their premises.[136] Many anti-fascists and leftists seeking to obstruct the NF were basing their strategy on a quote attributed to Hitler: "Only one thing could have stopped our movement - if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement."[139] In several instances, NF members were physically attacked by their opponents.[136]

During the 1970s, the NF created a card-index and photo file of its opponents, which included names and addresses.[140]

See also


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  10. Walker 1977, pp. 61–62.
  11. Walker 1977, p. 62.
  12. 1 2 Walker 1977, p. 63.
  13. 1 2 Walker 1977, p. 65.
  14. Walker 1977, pp. 65–66.
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Copsey, Nigel (2008). Contemporary British Fascism: The British National Party and the Quest for Legitimacy (second ed.). London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0230574373. 
Fielding, Nigel (1981). The National Front. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 978-0710005595. 
Sykes, Alan (2005). The Radical Right in Britain: Social Imperialism to the BNP. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333599242. 
Thurlow, Richard (1987). Fascism in Britain: A History, 1918–1985. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-13618-5. 
Walker, Martin (1977). The National Front. London: Fontana. ISBN 0006348246. 


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