Otto English on the weird moral maze of would-be MEP Claire Fox and her Spiked network.
Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is leading the polls for the EU elections and, given the party has no manifesto, policies or coherent strategy for leaving the EU, that’s some achievement. It seems that our political discourse is now so irredeemably f*cked that voting for a party with no actual policies in order to elect MEPs to a parliament they don’t believe in is just fine and dandy.
If she were representing the Labour party, Change UK or even the Tories, questions would undoubtedly be asked about her suitability to stand for office.
As Farage paraded his candidates for the adoring media, one in particular caught my eye. There – in amongst the Rees-Moggs and middle-aged millionaires was Claire Fox – known to Radio 4 listeners as a talking head on the Moral Maze.
Fox is currently director of the ‘think tank’ the Institute of Ideas, but for two decades she was a core figure in the Revolutionary Communist Party and the co-publisher of its in-house magazine, Living Marxism. Neither Fox nor the Brexit Party attempted to deny that, but I wonder whether rank-and-file Brexiters planning to vote for Ms Fox know quite what they are getting.
A Short History of the Revolutionary Communist Party
Formed in the late 1970s by university lecturer Frank Furedi, the RCP was notable for two things in its political heyday. First, its cultish membership. Secondly, its rampant support for the IRA and the cause of Irish nationalism.
While this was not unusual in left-leaning groups or individuals (see Corbyn), in the 1980s the RCP took things to a whole new level. Using a front organisation – The Irish Freedom Movement (IFM) – to which Claire and her sister Fiona belonged, the group continued to perpetuate the republican struggle even as others sought an end to the conflict.
Spiked thrives online – and editor Brendan O’Neill has increasingly cosied up to the Brexit Establishment, while accepting $300k from the Charles Koch Foundation.
The 1993 Warrington bombings are now seen as a turning point in the Irish troubles. The IRA attack killed two children, three-year-old Johnathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry, while many others were wounded. The atrocity was met with condemnation from all quarters – but not from Claire Fox’s RCP/IFM. Indeed, instead of denouncing the attack, the group defended it arguing for “the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures necessary in their struggle for freedom”.
The RCP/IFM did eventually turn on the Provisional IRA. But, only when it entered into peace talks with the British Government.
In 1997, the party folded but its magazine – with Claire Fox still co-publisher –rebranded and continued to thrive along with their network. As the decade progressed, Living Marxism began to fixate on more libertarian ideas – specifically, the supposed demonisation of the specifically ‘white’ working class, opposition to gun control in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, and the right to be offensive.
Time however was not on their side. In 1992, the magazine had published an article arguing that an ITN-Guardian investigation into the Serbian-run internment camp at Trnopolje during the Balkans war was faked. LM/RCP support for one of the very nastiest regimes in post-war European history had caught up with them. ITN sued, LM lost and the magazine folded.
But, that was not the end of Claire Fox or other LM journalists including one Brendan O’Neill.
Bust as Living Marxism – Reborn as Spiked
Since 1997, the group has rebranded. LM – now known as Spiked – thrives online and its editor, Brendan O’Neill, has increasingly cosied up to the Brexit Establishment while accepting $300k from the Charles Koch Foundation. Claire Fox writes for the magazine intermittently, while trotting out libertarian stances including, allegedly, the view that Gary Glitter had a right to download child pornography. Her self-styled ‘Institute of Ideas’ (which had to rename itself the ‘Academy of Ideas’) has served as a hub for the LM network which includes Brexit: the Movie maker Martin Durkin and others.
The LM network itself has sought to embed itself into the Establishment – and while O’Neill contributes to the Spectator – other former RCP and Spiked contributors regularly pop up on BBC Question Time or radio discussion programmes.
Now Ms Fox seeks to become an MEP.
In the decades since the RCP and LM folded, I can find no evidence of Fox recanting her magazine or party’s stance on Northern Ireland or the Warrington attacks.
Nor, as far as I can see, has she ever commented on the camp at Trnopolje. If she were representing the Labour party, Change UK or even the Tories, questions would undoubtedly be asked about her suitability to stand for office – but it seems that if you side with Teflon Nigel and his policy-free party – you get a free pass on all those awkward questions.
I do wonder if rank-and-file Brexiters will be comfortable voting for a candidate with such a troubling CV.