Thursday, 15 November 2007

Living in the past

Spin, spin, spin - that's all politics appears to be nowadays. There's the scandal of the illegal immigrants found working in the security services which, given the current level of terrorist threat to this country, should be a resignation issue for our Home Secretary. But it's not, instead she offers her weasel words in a string of excuses which are almost as bad as the phoney outrage being displayed by the Tories. Neither the Government or the Opposition intend to take any fundamental steps to deal with the situation, they are just spinning words to give an impression that something is being done. If I was Home Secretary, my very first announcement would be an end to all immigration from midnight and when the European Union kicked up a fuss, I would immediately terminate our membership of that anti-British club.

Now we even have 'spin' from the boss of the Bank of England telling us to expect two interest rate cuts next year. That's just a cynical ploy to get people to spend more on their credit cards this Christmas and to encourage the public to keep on paying inflated house prices. With the financial markets facing the biggest upheaval in their history, because of the sub-prime scandal, how irresponsible can it be to encourage people to get further into debt because that is what his announcement was all about.

When I start shouting at the radio I know it's time to turn it off and just bury myself in producing Freedom. I also like to escape back into the past and after Tuesday's blog I have had a good exchange of views over the 1979 Conference in Yarmouth and about those early days in general. One query from Pam was how I first got involved and what it was like at that time, so I shall take this opportunity for a quick trip down Memory Lane.

In 1974 I was a member of the Liberal Party but after the two General Elections that year I didn't want to be involved any more. I had been to a couple of meetings and the key activists just seemed to be oddballs. I was working for the Inland Revenue in Durrington and picked up a National Front leaflet on the train coming home from work on day. I didn't do anything immediately but received a couple of information packs over the next few months and in the end I joined up and arranged a meeting with the Sussex Regional Organiser.

I was a betting shop manager working for Arthur Prince in Brighton at the time and the meeting was to take place in my lunch hour. When the smartly dressed gentleman with one arm came into the shop I knew that it must be my contact, Charles Parker.

From that lunchtime I have never looked back. I used to meet Charles and Vi, who were to become John Tyndall's inlaws, most Friday evenings where we would retire to Charles' study and discuss strategy over numerous glasses of wine. I was made the new Worthing organiser, given a list of the members there for the past three years and told to get things up and running. The old organiser was a chap called Oliver Gilbert who had fallen out with the Parkers and it wasn't too long before he was on the telephone wanting a meeting. Now Oliver was an imposing character and worked as a film extra who regularly portrayed elderly well-to-do Englishmen in TV advertisements and plays. At the time he was on the box most nights reading a copy of The Times and giving a knowing look to the camera. I met him in his luxurious flat overlooking Worthing seafront but the two hour meeting was pretty fruitless as he spent the whole time explaining his conspiracy theories and attacking Charles Parker.

Worthing Branch boomed during 1976 and the first half of 1977. Our first meeting was held in a private house with twenty people present and the next one was in the Forrester's Hall where over forty people attended. When I booked the hall, the Free Forrester's Association were confused as to who we actually were. I spent 10 minutes explaining but the committee of three elderly gentlemen still seemed under the impression it was something to do with the National Trust. We were a very mature branch in the beginning with the vast majority of members over fifty and over half of them ladies.

I had a good team around me although the chairman, Les Stone, a former Conservative councillor, was a bit of an embarrassment. His opening line to any new members was the story about how he went to demonstrate against the first boats arriving in this country bringing in immigrants from the Caribbean. The treasurer was a superb lady, Miss . . . and sadly I can't for the life of me remember her name. She was a former librarian and a spinster. Not only was she ultra efficient but also very generous always keeping the books balanced if we had overspent on newspaper adverts, leaflets or social evenings. My main assistant was a chap called Andrew Tulett who worked very hard, often going off for the whole day leafleting when his job in a local nursery permitted. He also had a lot of sound advice and was a steadying influence when I started getting carried away with the excitement of it all.

Things went very well with leafleting sometimes taking place on a Thursday as well as the regular Tuesday evenings. We were putting out the excellent 'Fed-Up' leaflet and it certainly created a lot of interest. The local newspaper was delighted with our appearance on the scene and we regularly made the front page. We launched a Young National Front association in Worthing which was fronted by the two most photogenic and articulate students, Caralyn Giles and Andrew Moffatt, anyone could ever want. It was a PR dream with their bright-eyed and smiling faces beaming out from the front page of the Worthing Herald.

It all seemed very easy at the time although the one concern was that there was a steady stream of new faces at our meetings and activities, yet they seemed to disappear as quickly as they had come and in the end the bulk of the work still rested on the shoulders of a handful of activists.

Everything changed after the Lewisham March. Peter Hain and Paul Holborrow set-up the Anti-Nazi League and there was a branch in Worthing which the local newspaper found just as exciting as us. As the political temperature was raised, a lot of the less committed members decided to keep their heads down and as things polarised so the internal disputes started to emerge, disillusioning the membership even further.

The Forrester's Hall remained our venue for the next four years and there were still some excellent meetings held there. But that time of unbridled optimism which lasted for the first 18 months of my time as a National Front member was gone for good. For the next twenty-five years nationalist politics was to be a hard and depressing slog ,with that light at the end of the tunnel never getting any nearer.

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