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Patriotic Alternative: The Threat from the Far Right

A revitalised Europe wide white supremacist movement is growing in the UK, gaining recruits through social media and online gaming

Patriotic Alternative far-right council election leaflets, Warrington, Cheshire, April 2023. Photo: Tony Smith/Alamy

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Ministers’ latest focus on extremism looks set to focus on Muslim groups and pro-Palestine organisations. But are the far-right being let off the hook? 

Last month, the Equality and Human Rights Commission threatened the neo-Nazi party Patriotic Alternative with legal action after their campaign ‘Operation White Christmas’ asked people to donate specifically to ‘white families in need’. 

Patriotic Alternative’s increase in support since their formation in 2019 has led The Times to dub the group “Britain’s largest far-right white supremacist movement”. 

The group defines itself as ‘a community-building and activism group.’ However, political commentators have at times described them as neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Islamophobic.

Their website states that they aim ‘to raise awareness of issues such as the demographic decline of native Britons in the United Kingdom, the environmental impact of mass immigration, and the indoctrination and political bias taking place in British schools.’ 

With a massive increase in votes expected for far-right political parties in June’s European Elections. Byline Times explored what influence the group’s emergence could have this crucial election year. 

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The Rebirth of Britain’s Far Right 

Red Flare are a group of anti-fascist researchers, who use open source and investigative methods such as documenting activities and infiltrating events, to expose and oppose the far right in Britain. Byline Times spoke to Alan Jones from Red Flare about who Patriotic Alternative are and how significant their presence has become in British politics today.  

Jones told Byline Times how in recent years, Red Flare’s work has increased owing to the emergence of Patriotic Alternative. Before 2019, he said, “British Fascism was an extremely fringe movement that had been reduced to secret meetings in the backrooms of pubs”.

But since the Patriotic Alternative movement has gained traction, fascist activists have developed confidence to organise in communities and attend protests. Collett even described the 2021 Patriotic Alternative conference, held in the Lake District, as “the biggest nationalist conference of its kind this century”. 

The movement has also succeeded in bringing white supremacist conspiracy theories into mainstream political debate. This was most evident last year when a Patriotic Alternative activist managed to share her views on the British radio station LBC during an interview and phone-in with Keir Starmer. 

Phoning into the programme, the activist, referring to herself as “Gemma from Cambridge” (a false name), asked the Labour leader questions relating to the White Genocide myth. The conspiracy theory claims “elites” are using migration to make white people an ethnic minority in Europe.  Red Flare was later able to expose the caller’s true identity as Jody Swingler, a yoga teacher and Patriotic Alternative activist. Starmer was criticised in some quarters, for his perceived failure to challenge the caller. 

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Mark Collett 

Mark Collett’s ascent to the top of far-right British politics has been an intrepid one. “He was previously the leader of the youth wing of the British National Party (BNP) and was sort of groomed by its then leader Nick Griffin”, Jones recalls. He first came into the public eye when he appeared on the 2002 Channel 4 Dispatches documentary Young, Nazi and Proud. During the documentary, he referred to Africans and homosexuals, as “aids monkeys”.

In response to these comments, Collett was temporarily excluded from the party. 

But he was later invited back and aged just 25, stood in the 2005 general election for the constituency of Leeds Central. He came fourth with 4.1% of the vote. 

Jones is confident that Griffin saw him as a future leader of the party.

Yet in 2010, following reports of internal conflict in the BNP, involving a failed attempt at a leadership bid, and even questioning by Humberside police in relation to rumours of a threat to kill leader Nick Griffin, Collett was permanently expelled from the party. 

Jones explains how “Collett went quiet for a while”, but re-emerged as an online commentator and “a kind of Alt-right phenomenon.” 

Then, in 2019, Mark Collett used his newfound internet fame to start Patriotic Alternative and has served as the group’s leader ever since. 


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The Alt-right and Online Gaming

The Alt-right movement is an online, white nationalist movement primarily based in the United States, although Jones highlights that followers are now “global, or at least all over the Anglophone world.” 

He explains that the Alt-right “came to prominence alongside Donald Trump’s presidential nomination”, and  points out that one of the reasons the movement “has been allowed to flourish in the way it has, is the kind of anonymity afforded by the internet.”  

Patriotic Alternative has adopted this method and primarily communicates using the encrypted messaging platform Telegram. “Telegram is basically like WhatsApp,” he explains, “except you don’t have your phone number visible.” 

Jones expresses concern about the lack of moderation of the platform, as very few channels get taken down or removed and highlights how the platform allows users to “hop from one chat to another” through hyperlinks that users send to one another, making it easy for potential extremists to find politically like-minded people. 

Another place where the far-right has been able to share their views relatively freely is in the online gaming world. Research conducted by the group Tech Against Terrorism reveals how right-wing extremists have started using online games to entice younger people to join their cause. Some games feature virtual worlds where players are able to share propaganda, recruit other players, and generate money online, which can be used for political campaigning. 

The virtual world creation-system Roblox has faced controversy after it was used by right-wing extremists to recreate playable versions of infamous terrorist atrocities such as Anders Breivik’s 2011 attack on a summer camp in Norway and the 2019 mosque shootings in New Zealand. 

This is another tactic which Patriotic Alternative seem keen to utilise. With the organisation hosting Call of Duty and Warcraft gaming tournaments for its supporters. On occasion, players have even been personally invited by Collett. 

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Election Goals 

The rise of Patriotic Alternative is disturbing, not due to its uniqueness, but rather due to the fact that it is part of a broader trend throughout Europe in which the Far Right is convincing a greater number of people, predominantly young men, to become sympathetic to their cause.  

In Italy, the right-wing populist party Brothers of Italy has formed a government. Whilst, in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam party gained the largest number of seats in Parliament last year. With these examples in mind, Byline Times asked the question, is the far right in the UK is likely to have similar success in this year’s election? 

Jones thinks that although it is unlikely that Patriotic Alternative will stand for election this year, the group’s emergence has galvanized the “new generation of British fascist activists, and [the group’s] relative success will reverberate in British far-right politics for many years to come. 

“They do want to register as an electoral party and eventually contest elections. But [Collett] sees PA’s role for now as being to enable a real-world movement of political activists [through] getting people off the internet and into the real world.” 

He adds, “Assuming his aim is to bring a new generation of ideologically committed fascist activists off the internet and into real-world organising, which I think it is, I would say he’s been incredibly successful.” 

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