This is an account, caveat emptor, by Matthew Collins of his six years in the National Front, mixing with the BNP, and passing on information to Searchlight for the last three. He admits that it was “hardly James Bond…more like Austin Powers” and describes his early political activism as a waste of time – he had a lousy social life!
The book is not as nailbiting as Ray Hill’s ‘The Other Face of Terror’, largely because it does not contain highly fanciful accounts of thwarting Nazi gun running conspiracies and foiling plots to bomb the Notting Hill Carnival.
Collins also had less to do. By the time he joined in 1987, the National Front had split into an Official wing under men like Patrick Harrington and Nick Griffin who were essentially trying to work out their beliefs, and becoming more extreme in the process, and the Flag Group, (which he joined), a serious political party but with miniscule support. Perhaps he did “ruin” them, but what was there to ruin?
The most interesting part of his account is the NF’s contact with “Mr X”, so named on the advice of libel lawyers. It also seems that the whistle was blown on the original venue of the 1990 BNP rally by the NF.
Misfit and malcontent
Like many young men of his ilk, Collins seems to have been a misfit and malcontent who drifted into things after reading his first Nationalist literature and attending his first meeting, allowing himself to be persuaded into more extreme beliefs
He claims to have started to have doubts about the so-called ‘far right’ and begun reading Searchlight after the brawl at Welling Library in 1989. He found them very security conscious but providers of adult conversation.
He appears to have been in a bind when he emigrated to Australia with Gerry Gable’s help in 1993 – both Searchlight and Special Branch could drop him in it, and only Eddy Whicker’s veto was restraining Combat 18 from getting him. That is, if he is to be believed.
The current writer has met Collins once or twice. We attended the same meetings on several occasions, however, his recollection of events is somewhat different. He seems to think the South African Conservative leader Andries Treurnicht couldn’t speak English – he could – nor did Richard Edmonds unfurl any banners at this meeting.
In 1991, at a National Front election meeting held in a school, Collins dumped a quantity of ammonia into a goldfish tank. This sort of behaviour invariably arouses suspicion, and from this point on, he had his card marked. He claims further that BNP rallies used to end with people chanting “Fuhrer” or “Leader”, rather than “Tyndall”.
Regarding Combat 18, he says this short lived violent group was set up in the wake of the notorious Kensington Library incident. He describes them as “drug dealers, gangsters, football hooligans, wife beaters” and the far right in general as “friendly but dangerous bastards.”
People who saw Combat 18 on one or two TV documentaries might have concluded otherwise, namely that they were retarded psychopaths, with the odd exception.
Collins comments on various people who were and are active in far right circles, such as Ian Anderson, the “most manipulative and greedy man I had ever known”, and only out for himself. Of Adrian Davies – who is certainly not “far right” in that sense – Collins says he is sympathetic, pleasant, and concerned – as indeed he is, as well as an experienced libel lawyer!
Keith Thompson is said to have a greasy, unshaven mop of stiff dark hair – indeed!
Richard Edmonds is described as “adorable…[the] most generous person I had ever met” adding he could listen for hours, was empathetic, warm and encouraging. Another Searchlight agent Tim Hepple is said to have liked him too.
Collins claims Edmonds had nothing to do with alcohol, tobacco or women. He is certainly wrong about his having nothing to do with women; he is known to have had both a girlfriend and a wife.
Finally, he relates one amusing vignette from 1989, when a Welsh supporter left a large sum of money to the National Front and the British Movement. The ensuing legal row is reminiscent of one of A.P. Herbert’s famous misleading cases, “What is the Liberal Party?”
This book may be worth reading, but is certainly not worth buying.