Free from fear or favour
No tracking. No cookies

Government ‘Anti-Extremism’ Protest Report Launched in Westminster by Think Tank with Ties to US Hard Right

The Counter Extremism Group has close ties both to Government – and to hard-right think tanks

Lord Walney / John Woodcock – via screengrab.

Don’t miss a story

Sign up to the Behind the Headlines newsletter (and get a free copy of Byline Times in the post)

A controversial Home Office-backed review into protest law in the UK was launched at a private event in Westminster, hosted by an opaque lobbying group with alleged ties to the US hard right.

Former Labour MP John Woodcock – now styled as crossbench peer Lord Walney – launched his report calling for more restrictions on protest groups at an event hosted by the Counter Extremism Group, a think tank that does not disclose the sources of its funding, whose founder was accused of having ties to extreme “alt-right” groups in the US. 

It comes as the Government’s so-called ‘independent’ adviser on domestic extremism singled out defence companies and energy providers for protections through draconian new anti-protest measures in his report. His report fails to point out that he is a paid lobbyist for organisations representing arms and fossil fuel giants. 

In the report, released through official Government channels, he calls for ministers to consider allowing businesses to sue protest organisers for damages on the grounds of ‘disruption’ caused to their firms. He also suggests charging protest groups the cost of policing demonstrations, which would effectively render nearly all large-scale demonstrations unviable.

Don’t miss a story

As reported by Byline Times in 2022, the Counter Extremism Group (CEG) is run as a profit-making business through a private limited company – Counter Extremism Network Ltd – which was founded in January 2020 by its then-director Robin Simcox.

Company records show that Simcox held “significant control” over the company until January this year, holding more than 75% of shares and voting rights. Its latest accounts show reported net assets of £1 and just two employees. 

Robin Simcox was appointed by then Home Secretary Priti Patel as the UK’s Commissioner for Countering Extremism at the Home Office in 2021. He recently made the front page of the Telegraph claiming that Gaza protests had made central London a “no go zone for Jews”, a claim contested by many Jewish people including the sizable regular Jewish bloc on the anti-war marches. 

In 2022, Byline Times reported on Simcox’s “wide-ranging” ties to hard-right, pro-Trump US networks.

As Nafeez Ahmed wrote, two years prior to founding the CEG in 2021, Simcox spoke at the US-based Center for Immigration Studies, which has been accused of circulating “antisemitic white nationalist materials over a 10-year period – including articles by noted Holocaust deniers and eugenicists.” It has been designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a civil rights law firm tracking extremist groups in America.

The CEG hosted today’s report launch at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in Westminster, to a room of around 50 people. It is not clear who was invited, and the event was chaired by New Labour peer Peter Mandelson.

Government ‘Independent Adviser’ Who ‘Backs Ban’ on Climate and Palestine Groups has Paid Roles with Defence and Business Lobbyists

The Conservatives’ domestic extremism adviser Lord John Walney is accused of conflicts of interest over a proposed ban of groups such as Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil

The group’s current director and holder of its controlling stake is Hannah Stuart. She joined the self-described “neoconservative” Henry Jackson Society think tank in 2011. According to two of the Henry Jackson Society’s (HJS) founders, Matthew Jamison and Marko Attilo Hoare, the HJS became a “far-right, deeply anti-Muslim racist organisation” dominated by “right-wing anti-Muslim and anti-immigration views” around 2011. There is no suggestion that Stuart was behind this. 

After HJS, Stuart went on to join the conservative Policy Exchange think tank. Policy Exchange is close to Rishi Sunak and senior right-wing Conservatives. Stuart led a Policy Exchange commission’s flagship extremism report to the Conservative Home Secretary from 2017 to 2018, as Byline Times previously reported.  

Since Stuart’s departure the conservative policy group has called for protest clampdowns, while receiving funding from oil firms that had been targeted by climate groups.

Just Stop Oil, the direct action group named repeatedly in Lord Walney’s report, accused the Government adviser of being “funded by oil and gas companies”. A spokesperson added that his “direct financial ties” to companies whose profits are threatened by the groups he’s proposing to crack down upon render the findings illegitimate.

Lord Walney, the Home Office and the Counter Extremism Group have been contacted for comment.

Update: This piece was amended post-publication to note that the report was not published in Parliament, but the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in Westminster. Our apologies for the error.


ENJOYING THIS ARTICLE? HELP US TO PRODUCE MORE

Receive the monthly Byline Times newspaper and help to support fearless, independent journalism that breaks stories, shapes the agenda and holds power to account.

We’re not funded by a billionaire oligarch or an offshore hedge-fund. We rely on our readers to fund our journalism. If you like what we do, please subscribe.

If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

Subscribers Get More from JOSIAH

Josiah Mortimer also writes the On the Ground column, exclusive to the print edition of Byline Times.

So for more from him…


Written by

This article was filed under
, ,