November 29, 2017
This backgrounder is based on information from Hope Not Hate, an organization based in London: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/
Origins of Britain First
Britain First (BF) is a far-right, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant group founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party (BNP), a far-right political party with ties to neo-Nazis. The group is estimated to have about a thousand members. Britain First was founded by Jim Dowson and Paul Golding in Northern Ireland. Dowson was known for his fervent religious views (he had trained to be a Calvinist minister) and his stance against Islam. Golding was closely associated with Nick Griffin, who ran the BNP from the late 1990s until 2014.
The group is currently led by Paul Golding who has made the BF the leading UK-based anti-Muslim, “counter-jihad” street movement. Jim Dowson left the group in 2014. Jayda Fransen, a Roman Catholic activist is now the deputy leader of BF.
The founders of BF hoped to fill a vacuum left by the decline of the BNP and the splintering of the English Defence League (EDL), a virulently anti-Muslim group. BF sees itself as a Christian “army” preparing to confront Muslims directly at their homes, mosques and in the streets in order to elicit a violent reaction from the Muslim community. According to a report by the British anti-hate group, Hope Not Hate, some activists in Britain First actually attended a series of bloody “fight clubs” and a sports academy overseen by ex-military personnel to get “military training” in order to carry out their activities.
In May 2013, two Muslim converts murdered a British soldier, Lee Rigby on the streets of South London. They had been allegedly radicalized by Anjem Choudary founder of the radical Muslim group, Al Muhajiroun. After this incident, Golding issued a video warrant warning that BF would arrest Choudary if they could find his address. The groups also targeted other Muslim radicals in their homes. They launched “Christian Patrols” and intimidated Muslims in east London. The group also has “invaded” mosques. In August 2016, Golding and Fransen were banned from entering Luton and, later, all mosques and Islamic centers in England and Wales. In 2016, Fransen was charged and convicted of intimidating a Muslim woman. That same year, Golding was charged with entering premises in Wales despite a court order preventing him from doing so. He was sentenced to eight weeks in prison for breaking the court order.
BF’s street demonstrations are relatively small. The group has used social media to spread its anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant propaganda on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.