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

Posted on - 8th September, 2023 - 2:55pm | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston City Centre, Preston News, Ribbleton
Ribbleton Avenue road sign
The meeting is being organised by Ribbleton-based Heritage and Destiny

A group of self-styled “racial nationalists” is set to descend on Preston this weekend for a gathering at which past and current far-right figures will be honoured – including 1930s fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley.

The annual meeting of Ribbleton-based Heritage and Destiny is set to take place somewhere close to the city centre on Saturday afternoon.

However, its organisers have not made the venue public and attendees – who seem to be expected from far beyond Preston’s borders – will be transported to the location from one of two “redirection points”.

The event has attracted condemnation from across the political divide in the city and has also prompted a “unity rally”, organised by Unite Against Fascism, which will be staged at the same time that the meeting is being held.

A member of the city’s small Jewish community told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that Heritage and Destiny was “beyond the pale”.

The invite to the private gathering sets out how Mosley – who founded and led the British Union of Fascists between 1932 and 1940 and infamously visited Hitler and Mussolini – will be one of four people remembered and honoured.

Sir Oswald Mosley pictured with Mussolini in 1936
The meeting will remember Sir Oswald Mosley, pictured with Mussolini in 1936

The others are the late Poulton-born musician Ian Stuart Donaldson, frontman of ‘White power’ band Skrewdriver;  current British Democrats’ politician Derek Beackon, a former British National Party (BNP) councillor for Milwall in East London; and Andrew Brons, who represented the BNP in the European Parlimament for 15 years and was chairman of the National Front in the early 1980s.

Two of the speakers at Saturday’s event – which is being held under the banner “Honour the Past – Conquer the Future” – are from the far-right group Patriotic Alternative.  Amongst the organisation’s plans for a “successful and prosperous United Kingdom” is to offer “those of immigrant descent who have obtained British passports… generous financial incentives in order to return to their ancestral homelands”.

The Heritage and Destiny website links to a 1979 interview with the British-born French academic Robert Faurisson , entitled: “The Gas Chambers: Truth or Lie?”

Jeremy Dable, a Jewish Preston resident, said of the group: “They’re very careful in how they couch their words, but [the Jewish community] is used to reading between the lines, we really are – so we know who we’re dealing with.

“Their reference to Jews has been largely by insinuation – but we absolutely get the message. The criticisms are left hanging in the air by implication only.

“[The philosopher] Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance [states that] we should tolerate all views, however divergent, even if we disagree with them.

“But there comes a time when you have to be intolerant of the intolerant, otherwise, your core disappears altogether. These are people who demonstrate that principle – they are beyond even the outermost limits of tolerable political and philosophical expression and they should be opposed.

“These ideas threaten me, they threaten my family, they threaten our community. There is no room for doubt [about] anybody who honours Oswald Mosley.

“He isn’t an intellect that needs to be re-examined – he’s a byword for Nazism in the UK. He was a traitor who was locked up during the war,” Mr. Dable added.

Read more: Preston interfaith groups to discuss death penalty in wake of Lucy Letby sentencing

Heritage and Destiny has told the LDRS that Mosley has been selected to be remembered this year because it is the 75th anniversary of his founding of the Union Movement – the successor to the British Union of Fascists.

Matthew Brown, the Labour leader of Preston City Council, condemned what described as the “disgusting views” that were being propounded by the group.

Councillor Matthew Brown
Councillor Matthew Brown has condemned the meeting

“I’m very disappointed that they are coming to the city. We don’t need people with minds of hatred like that coming to our community.

“I really do hope they think again, they’re not welcome. We’ve got very strong communities within Preston and we do challenge all forms of racism.

“We just don’t need to go back to that really scary politics of hatred that we had decades ago. They don’t address any of the issues that people are facing in our community.

“We would ask the organisers to think about not coming here – and we would ask them to think about their own thought processes and having views like that,” Cllr Brown said.

Conservative opposition group leader Sue Whittam added: “In Preston, we pride ourselves as an inclusive and tolerant society – so it is disappointing and very sad that this group would choose to hold their annual meeting here.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Neil Darby, the Liberal Democrats’ Parliamentary spokesperson for Preston shared Cllr Whittam’s dismay, but conceded that people had a right to meet as Heritage and Destiny were doing.

“Selling hate has always been easier when economic times are tough. As a liberal who believes in equality, fairness and kindness to others, it’s sad to hear about far right groups in my city.

“Nationalism will always end up on the wrong side of history; however, they have the right to gather and the right to their political beliefs.

“I hope the event passes peacefully and is quickly forgotten,“ Cllr Darby said.

The statue in front of the Corn Exchange reflects the Preston worker's riot in the 19th century
A “unity rally”, organised by Unite Against Fascism, will take place outside the Corn Exchange

As well as the unity rally on Saturday – at midday at the memorial outside the Corn Exchange on Lune Street in the city centre – Unite Against Fascism has joined forces with the Preston and South Ribble Trade Union Council and the Lancashire Association of Trade Union Councils to draw up a “unity statement”.

It calls on any venue hosting Heritage and Destiny to cancel the event and stresses that the signatories – including from the city’s faith covenant – “oppose Islamophobia, antisemitism and all forms of racism, and celebrate Preston’s multi-racial, multicultural and multi-faith community”.

Unite Against Fascism North West Regional Organiser Paul Jenkins told the LDRS that it was vital “to show the breadth of opposition to this fascist meeting taking place in Preston”.

“It’s completely abhorrent to be celebrating the life of Oswald Mosley – and it’s very important that two of the speakers at this event are from the fascist organisation Patriotic Alternative.

“I think this is key to why it’s important to show opposition to this meeting,” Mr. Jenkins said.

According to the invitation to the private event, “socials” are in the offing – both for those arriving in the city on Friday and also after the meeting on Saturday evening.  A raffle will also be held.

The group says that several attendees are staying in Blackpool and on the Fylde coast this year, “where there is a far greater choice of B&B and hotel accommodation”.

The invite concludes: “Thank you all once again for your fantastic support and we look forward to meeting you – fellow-nationalists – in Preston on Saturday 9th September.”

Although there is no suggestion that anything planned by Heritage and Destiny in Preston would be breaking the law, Lancashire Police told the LDRS that they were aware of the event and had never had to attend any previous meetings of the group in the city.

WHAT DOES HERITAGE AND DESTINY SAY?

One-time Blackburn councillor Mark Cotterill has edited Heritage and Destiny’s magazine since 1999 and lived in Ribbleton since 2009.

He told the LDRS that he was surprised at the interest in this annual meeting, given that it had taken place for most of the last 15 years.

Responding to the condemnation of the group’s gathering this year, he said: “Those local politicians condemning the meeting have an absolute right to do so in a free a democratic society – just as we are entitled to our views and opinions.

“If these ‘disgusting views’, on Brexit, mass immigration and overseas aid, are so disgusting, how come they are felt by 50 percent of the Prestonians – of all races, religions and creeds – who voted for Brexit, and support the ending of mass immigration and overseas aid, including the billions sent to India who are spending it on their space programme now?

“As to nationalism ‘always being on the wrong side of history’,  I guess Winston Churchill was wrong then, when he put forward a very nationalist policy for the UK during World War II? And Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands War, played up nationalism – was she wrong to want to liberate the Falkland Islanders from Argentina?”

Mr Cotterill added that he was “an English nationalist and proud to be one”, stating:  “I don’t personally support all that Oswald Mosley stood for, but it can’t be denied he was a first class politician”.

He said that two of the magazine’s regular writers are both Jewish themselves, one being a Rabbi –  “So some Jews will agree with us and some won’t, the same as Christians and other religions.”

He described the branding of Heritage and Destiny as “fascist” as being “a very odd statement to make”.

“I would not describe myself as ‘fascist’ in any way at all. I’m an English nationalist and a loyalist – and support many aspects of social-conservatism,” who stressed that he was responsible only for the Heritage and Destiny magazine, not its website.

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