Britain First: donning the uniform of victimhood

Britain First, a far-right BNP spin-off which exists almost entirely as a Facebook group, is hardly a terrifying new presence on the British political scene. It’s known for its anachronistic political demands, like calling for the guillotining of nonces, and the often amusingly inept political stunts of its leader Paul Golding, who recently travelled to Ireland to confront Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams at his constituency office in Dundalk. Unfortunately, Golding failed to check if Adams was going to be there first (he wasn’t).

Despite Golding lacking any real air of menace, the cops have been desperate to nab him for some time. He has been arrested several times on trumped-up charges. And his latest conviction is particularly absurd. In a typically poorly planned stunt, the gormless Golding went to confront alleged 7/7 plotter Sajeel Shahid. He called on the wrong house, that of Shahid’s sister-in-law Munazza Munawar, so he just decided to give her an ear-full instead. At his trial for harassing Munawar, Golding was also landed with a second charge under the Public Order Act (1936) for ‘wearing a political uniform’. Under this archaic and largely forgotten piece of legislation, which was brought in to combat Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (BUF), Golding’s trademark Britain First-branded windbreaker and Andy Capp-style flat-cap apparently constitute an illegal political uniform. As Golding himself pointed out, come election time we’ll no doubt see people of every political stripe out canvassing in branded political-party clothing, yet it is unlikely they will meet with any legal censure.

The banning of BUF uniforms in the Thirties coincided with, and some historians believe caused, an upsurge in the BUF’s popularity. Indeed, when the act was used to ban Irish republican uniforms in the Seventies, the same thing happened: it helped rather than hindered the republicans’ cause. Likewise, the prosecution of Golding for wearing a ‘uniform’ is unlikely to damage his slim support. Instead, it allows him to present himself as a persecuted party worthy of sympathy and support. He is not, but nor should he be singled out and targeted by the law for his political beliefs. Fringe crackpot groups like Britain First are not something society needs to worry about, but the state’s attack on people’s right to express their political beliefs is. 

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