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Preston Catholic social club ‘tricked’ into hosting far-right meeting

Posted on - 9th September, 2023 - 1:14pm | Author - | Posted in - Cadley, Politics, Preston News

A Preston social club run by the Catholic Church unwittingly hosted last year’s annual meeting of a group which is this weekend commemorating British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley at the same event.

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) revealed on Thursday, Ribbleton-based Heritage and Destiny will remember the far-right 1930s politician at a gathering to be held at a venue in the city which has not been made public. It will also be honouring the late Poulton-born “White power” musician Ian Stuart Donaldson.

Read more: Preston’s leaders condemn Nationalist meeting set to honour far-right figures

The LDRS can now reveal that St. Anthony’s Social Centre in Cadley inadvertently staged the 2022 Heritage and Destiny get-together after the group, which describes itself as having “racial nationalist opinion”, concealed the nature of the event – by booking it as a “memorial”.

The club’s steward says that, earlier this year, the organisation attempted to reserve the facility again for this weekend’s meeting – this time under the cover of it being for armed forces veterans.

However, Karen Harle – who learned of the true nature of last year’s event only in the weeks after it had taken place – says that her suspicions were raised and so she cancelled the booking, which had been provisionally made by a colleague.

That move prompted a text from an unnamed member of the group in which she was accused of having fallen for “fake news and lies”. It also made bizarre claims that hundreds of armed police had been poised to swoop on the 2022 gathering if any laws had been broken.

Karen told the LDRS: “Last year, they [said it was] a memorial – and we do have stuff like that. I took [the booking] in good faith. But they asked [for] the bar staff to serve in the lounge so as not to ‘disturb the meeting’.

“I thought that was a bit weird – but I thought, if that’s what they want [then fine]. But now I’m thinking is it because they didn’t want us to hear what was being said? I don’t know.

“This year, on [one of] my night[s] off, my assistant took a provisional booking for an ‘ex-veterans meeting’ – and a red flag went up straight away.

“I messaged them and wrote ‘no chance’ across it in my diary. They tricked me once, they won’t do it again.

“St Anthony’s does not and will never support [anything like] this. We’ve just taken a booking for Diwali for later this year – everybody’s welcome here.

“As a Catholic club we don’t hold any political or spiritual meetings or anything that goes against the Catholic ethos,” Karen explained.

Read more: Body of missing Ashton man recovered from Preston Docks

In response to the cancellation of the provisional booking for this year, Karen received a text saying: “I apologise you have fallen for fake news and lies. We are not and never will be right-wing extremists.

“We are not members of the National Front – a) it is illegal [and] b) we hate [their] rules and outlook and views. It’s not what we are about..

“You have been judge, jury and executioner without any evidence.

“There was undercover police attending the meeting [last year]. If we had broken the law, There was over 250 armed police ready to swoop down on the club… please ask yourself why did that not happen[?]

“No prosecutions were made. The meeting was posted on YouTube and no government officials have issued warrants, warnings or cautions to anyone that attended the meeting.

“You have been provided with lies and deception.”

Heritage and Destiny did not respond to questions from the LDRS about the way in which it secured the use of St. Anthony’s Social Centre last year.

However, in response to cross-party condemnation from Preston city councillors about the group’s plans to meet in Preston again this year, the editor of its magazine said that the politicians had a right to their opinions – “just as we are entitled to our views”.

He added that he does not “personally support all that Oswald Mosley stood for – but it can’t be denied he was a first class politician”.

Mr. Cotterill said that he is “an English nationalist and proud to be one”, stating: “I would not describe myself as ‘fascist’ in any way at all.”

Read more: Preston and Lancashire thunderstorm warning from Sunday afternoon

Meanwhile, a security expert at the University of Central Lancashire says that a lack of trust in – and understanding of – politics could be fuelling an increase in recent years in the number of people drawn to far-right groups.

Dr. Evan Lawrence, who is also a senior lecturer in international relations, told the LDRS that the British mentality of “keep calm and carry on” meant that some issues were never discussed.

“We just kind of get on with it – we don’t complain about things. [That] has really bred this group [which is] very disassociated with politics [and] thinks that [politicians] are all corrupt.

“It’s that we just don’t trust politics at all – so you don’t talk about politics. So most people don’t know how our government functions.

“Look at the [most popular] search after Brexit: [it was] ‘What is Brexit?’

“It’s because people aren’t taught what politics is or how politics works, or even what their rights are really. So when we start looking at the way that extreme right recruits… they really play to that idea of, ‘We’re the poor white guys who, because the government doesn’t listen to us [etc.]… they are letting all of these immigrants come in – that kind of sentiment.

“And… they understand the way that social media plays – you start looking at one thing or you agree with one meme – and it spirals into this echo chamber,” Dr. Lawrence added.

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