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Batley and Spen By-Election Sees Five Far-Right Candidates on the Ballot Paper

Individuals linked to neo-Nazis and far-right conspiracy theories are standing for Parliament in the forthcoming by-election, five years after MP murdered by far-right terrorist. Sian Norris reports.

Anne Marie Waters, the deputy Leader of Pegida UK, speaks at Pegida UK anti-Islamic protest rally in 2016. Photo: Guy Corbishley / Alamy Stock Photo

Batley and Spen By-Election Sees Five Far-Right Candidates On the Ballot Paper

Individuals linked to neo-Nazis and far-right conspiracy theories are standing for Parliament in the forthcoming by-election, five years after MP murdered by a far-right terrorist, Sian Norris reports.

The forthcoming by-election in Batley and Spen will see five far and radical-right candidates on the ballot paper, as Labour fights to keep the seat it has held since 1997.

The candidates include individuals linked to the British National Party’s Nick Griffin and Jim Dowson – once described as the most influential far-right activist in Europe – as well as candidates who repeat the far-right Great Replacement conspiracy theory.

The theory, which litters far-right Discord and Telegram channels and was quoted at length by a terrorist who murdered 51 Muslims in a New Zealand mosque, posits that white people are being “replaced” by migration from the Global South. 

Batley and Spen is the former constituency of Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right terrorist in the run-up to the Brexit referendum. Her sister, Kim Leadbeater, is Labour’s candidate in the election which was called after its MP Tracy Brabin was elected Metro Mayor for West Yorkshire. 

Great Replacement and Neo-Nazi Connections 

The leading far-right candidates are Anne-Marie Waters from For Britain and Jayda Fransen, the former Britain First activist who in 2017 hit the headlines after US President Donald Trump re-tweeted her anti-Muslim videos. 

Neither are local to Batley and Spen. 

Waters was formerly in UKIP before being deselected as a candidate following her appearance on a white nationalist outlet to talk about “opposing the Islamisation of Europe.” She has repeated the Great Replacement conspiracy theory, claiming that “mass migration into white Europe is happening … to disempower white people, to make us a minority.”

Her current party, For Britain, islinked to neo-Nazis and far-right extremists. Investigations by the anti-racism charity HOPE Not Hate found that entire branches of the Party are dominated by former British National Party (BNP) figures. At least 10 former-BNP members stood as For Britain candidates in last month’s local elections. In 2018 a member of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action stood as a For Britain candidate in local elections. 

Waters is also linked to the far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, otherwise known as “Tommy Robinson”. 

In 2016 the pair launched Pegida UK, an anti-Muslim group named after the German organisation “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident”. The name refers to the Great Replacement conspiracy theory. Yaxley-Lennon is supporting Waters’ electoral bid. 

Standing against Waters is Jayda Fransen, formerly of Britain First and now the leader of the British Freedom Party. Her fellow members include Jim Dowson, a far-right anti-abortion activist who is the “pro life figurehead” for the Knights Templar International. 

Members of this extremist organisation pay $890 to receive a Knight’s uniform and medal and join the “great reset resistance.” Dowson is also behind extremist anti-abortion group UK Life League that claims credit for pioneering aggressive tactics outside reproductive health clinics. 

Both the Knights Templar and the Life League indulge in Great Replacement conspiracy – arguing that women’s access to abortion and contraception have repressed the white birth rate while migration from the Global South is “replacing” white people in the UK and Europe. 

Former-BNP leader Nick Griffin edits the British Freedom Party’s The Britannia newspaper. Fransen herself has a string of criminal convictions including for religiously motivated harassment, religiously aggravated harassment and for stirring up hatred. 

UKIP-pers and Anti-Vaxxers

Alongside Waters and Fransen are three other far to radical-right politicians hoping to win the racist vote in Batley and Spen. 

They are Jack Thomson for UKIP, Therese Hirst for the English Democrats and Susan Laird for the Heritage Party. 

Although under former leader Nigel Farage, UKIP strove to present itself as a mainstream force in politics, over the past few years its ever-present racism and Islamophobia has become much more blatant. Candidate Jack Thomson claims that it was Stephen Yaxley-Lennon’s decision to join UKIP that grew his interest in the Party, saying “I had watched many of Tommy’s videos and he too was a man of principle.” Thomson also praised former UKIP leader Gerard Batten, a veteran anti-Muslim activist who courted the far-right during his brief leadership. 

As with For Britain, the English Democrats have welcomed former-BNP members into its ranks. Meanwhile, the Heritage Party’s leader David Kurten is a former UKIP figure and anti-vaxxer who is linked to the UK conspiracy theory scene.

Previous attempts of these far and radical-right candidates to win elections have always failed. Last month, Fransen was humiliated at the ballot box and by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon when she stood in the Scottish Parliament elections, while in the local elections 25 of the 47 For Britain candidates whose election results were published received under 50 votes each.

Hirst won 5% of the votes in the 2016 by-election, the only candidate to challenge Labour after the mainstream parties chose not to stand out of respect to the murdered MP Jo Cox. 

However, while electorally unsuccessful, they make a lot of noise. Waters is planning a day of action with Yaxley-Lennon on 27 June. She and her fellow far-right candidates are also likely to exploit a row over a local teacher receiving death threats after showing his class a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad. 

Another controversial politician on the ballot paper is George Galloway. The pro-Brexit politician has been accused of anti-Semitism and is highly critical of Labour leader Keir Starmer. According to HOPE Not Hate, “Galloway is another example of someone from outside the area who is seeking to come in and take advantage of local circumstances to further his own career – and ego.”

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