Sunday Mercury October 1st 2017
You’re better than the National Front – go and get on with your life…
Former activist reveals how secret agent forced him out of key post in’ 90’s
Exclusive Josh Layton Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
A FORMER National Front activist has told how he was diverted from the group by a secret agent regarded as one of the most prolific informants to have ever infiltrated the far-right.
George Ashcroft was forced out of a key post by the security service informant, who disrupted plots including a plan to assassinate Birmingham Ladywood MP Clare Short.
Ashcroft, who has since renounced racism, has released hundreds of documents about his time with the NF to the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre.
Two weeks ago the Sunday Mercury revealed how another spy, Andy Carmichael, also exposed the NF.
But Ashcroft credits a second Special Branch and MI5 source, a key figure in the NF’s Birmingham apparatus, with jettisoning him from the group in the 1990’s.
The agent had told him: “You are better than the NF – go and get on with your life.”
The further revelations suggest that spies were instrumental in shaping not only Ashcroft’s future but also the entire radical political landscape across the West Midlands.
The double agent was effectively outed when he appeared on BBC documentary True Spies, where his facial features, testimony and strong Brummie accent made him instantly recognisable, despite the programme makers having promised to protect his identity.
Ashcroft said of the agent: “Before he was outed on True Spies we had got on well. He had been involved in far-right groups for decades and was an accomplished speaker with full access to the NF’s membership list.
“When I saw him in the documentary he was instantly recognisable, and it showed how significant the security services’ involvement had been.
“He did me the world of good because he was instrumental in having me removed as the NF’s Midlands organiser, which was the best thing that could have happened to me.
“After he had stitched me up in the late 1990’s, he told me: ‘You are better than the NF – go and get on with your life.’ I smarted for a while but I soon realised he was right.
“Years later I bumped into him and we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.”
Ashcroft claimed that the spy infiltrated other radical groups and even the Labour party, which the security services had identified as having militant elements during the 1970’s.
The agent was a key asset credited by the programme makers for having saved lives – and the failure to protect his identity is said to have appalled senior officers at MI5.
Under the pseudonym ‘Steve’, he told True Spies, which aired in 2002, that Clare Short, an outspoken anti-racism campaigner, was targeted by racists too extreme even for the NF.
“There was talk about car-bombing her home because she lived in the constituency,” he revealed.
“There were also plans for her to speak at the Trades Council, and they were planning to plant an incendiary device under the stage where she was speaking.”
Steve passed on intelligence that meant the extremists were arrested ahead of the plan as they prepared to torch a Communist bookshop in Birmingham. He also told the documentary that as a gay man he had gleaned “pillow talk” from extremists he slept with.
FORMER ACTIVIST FEATURED IN 1997 EPISODE OF THE COOK REPORT
GEORGE Ashcroft, who used the first name Wayne during his time with the NF, has spoken of his deep shame about his involvement with the group, which he joined in his late teens.
He featured in a 1997 episode of The Cook Report, exposing the NF after being covertly filmed.
Ashcroft later became a Conservative councillor in Telford and has written a thesis on the far-right for a politics undergraduate degree at the University of Wolverhampton, where he is now an MA student. The tranche of files shows that the disunity long taken for granted among race hate groups ran at feverish levels and was fed by informants and state interests working behind the scenes.
They have also shed light on the role of another Special Branch agent ultimately handled by MI5, Andy Carmichael, whose impact on the far-right can be seen in documents after his work as an infiltrator came to light. Carmichael also acted as a Midlands organiser and was a prospective parliamentary candidate for the NF in the 1990’s. The archive contains references to both Carmichael and to the longer-running double agent.
The files have emerged as three men prepare to stand trial accused being members of banned neo-Nazi group National Action. The two soldiers and a civilian appeared at the Old Bailey on Thursday where a four-week hearing was set down for Birmingham Crown court in March.
Revealed: How MI5 mole ‘sabotaged’ National Front in the West Midlands
Andy Carmichael was recruited at a garden party held in Cannock to honour Baroness Thatcher in 1991
06:30, 17 SEP 2017
The implosion of the National Front after it was infiltrated by a former Tory activist working as a Special Branch agent and MI5 has been revealed in newly-unearthed files.
Andy Carmichael was recruited at a garden party held in Cannock to honour Baroness Thatcher in 1991 and asked to help monitor the far-right group in the West Midlands. Carmichael, who twice stood as a parliamentary candidate for the NF, is named as a “traitor” in the organisation’s internal files, a tranche of which have emerged in an archive held at the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre.
The documents show how far-right leaders’ suspicions were confirmed after Carmichael went public about his undercover work in 1997.
And in a further development this week, Carmichael was praised as a “remarkable man” for his work in sabotaging the far-right by a former NF activist who confirmed he had released the documents.
George Ashcroft, who used the first name Wayne at the time, is now an MA student who has renounced racism and made his personal files publicly available.
In one document, John McAuley, the NF’s then chairman, tells members: “The job of Carmichael, if employed by MI5, was to destroy the NF. This I am convinced of.”
McAuley confirms Carmichael was on the NF’s “directorate” and an organiser in the West Midlands. In an attempt to distance the group from the double agent, he describes their former election candidate as a “dodgy car-salesman”.
McAuley writes: “The only NF members to suspect him were in the Dudley, Walsall and Birmingham branches. Their suspicions were proved correct.”
Birmingham’s New Street Station
Trying to explain Carmichael’s acceptance in the NF’s ranks, McAuley lauds the former election officer’s record in his error-strewn bulletin, telling supporters: “He was attacked by Red scum at Birmingham Station prior to the NF AGM. So he did go through a lot for the Party!”
Carmichael went public in July 1997, telling the Sunday Times he was fully-salaried for MI5 via a police Special Branch handler in the West Midlands. The affair became one the most curious stories in the history of the British far-right, and the archive documents suggest his role in the group’s downfall was even greater than first thought.
Embedding himself in the NF’s senior ranks, Carmichael was elected chairman of the West Midlands region and stood for MP in the December, 1994, Dudley West by-election.
Andy Carmichael was recruited by MI5 and Special Branch and featured in national Front leaflets (Image: Handout)
But he was later blamed by the group for being instrumental in a divisive name change.
McAuley writes: “I believe Carmichael was a possible Special Branch informer, but an MI5 agent I really don’t know? Whatever he did was for financial gain.”
Already riddled with in-fighting, the NF split over the name change, with Ian Anderson forming the National Democrats as the various factions spluttered to an end over the following years.
McAuley, whose bulletin is strewn with grammatical errors, writes: “Carmichael was the main instigator of the ‘name change split’ Anderson could not have done it without Carmichael’s total support.
“The job of Carmichael, if employed by MI5, was to destroy the NF. This I am convinced of. But it failed, and failed miserably, yet another Government plot to destroy the National Front! It is my belief that he was not the only agent provocateur the others will be exposed by ‘Captain Truth’ in Bulldog. The traitors will be consigned to the political gutter where they belong…”
Andy Carmichael was recruited by MI5 and Special Branch and featured in national Front leaflets (Image: Handout)
Ashcroft, who was secretly filmed for a 1997 episode of The Cook Report exposing the NF, alludes to Carmichael’s role in another document entitled “The Final Demise of the NF”.
Ashcroft writes: “It was known in certain quarters that Special Branch were planning, in conjunction with the Right-Wing [sic] of the Tory party to infiltrate, take over and finally destroy certain of the far-right organisations.”
The files also show how far-right leaders’ poisonous and hateful targeting of minority groups ran parallel to their contempt for each other. Letters between Ashcroft, who was expelled from the far-right group after the name change, and then senior BNP figure Nick Griffin disparage and mock associates amid paranoia on all sides about who may have facilitated the double agent’s work.
The bitter split included Griffin writing to Ashcroft describing the National Democrats’ use of an £120,000 inheritance left to the NF as a “whisky fund” and advising him to mail “home truths” to members of the relaunched group.
But despite being courted by Griffin, who was trying to salvage the remains of the NF, a merger with the BNP was ruled out as that link grew too sour.
In 1998 Griffin told a Birmingham NF organiser that the group was a “political corpse”.
Carmichael joined James Goldsmith’s Referendum party in 1996 as he played along with a National Democrats plot to disrupt its election chances, but was expelled after his new political masters found out about his background.
Senior MI5 officers were said to have grown uneasy about playing a role in sabotaging a British election and Carmichael tipped off a local newspaper about his NF links.
The documents show that far from the outward messages of “white unity”, the far-right groups were a mixture of combustible individuals marked by mutual antipathy which was fed by the imposter in their ranks.
Carmichael, now a window salesman in Sutton Coldfield, said this week: “There were a few adrenalin-filled moments but I was just doing what I was being paid to do by MI5. I got debriefed two or three times a year and the main contact was through Special Branch.
“They got me to stay in there until June 1997 when MI5 had established everything they needed to know.
“Two Special Branch and two MI5 met me in Chinatown in Birmingham, paid me my severance cheque and gave me a cuddly toy for my then two-year-old daughter as a way of saying thanks.”
National Front march in Birmingham in 1980
Ashcroft, now an MA student at the University of Wolverhampton, also spoke this week, telling of his repentance and hailing Carmichael’s work in fracturing the far-right.
He said: “I am deeply ashamed of my actions at the time and I have renounced racism and anything of that kind. I would say to anyone not to get involved with groups like these and the longer they are divided the better off society is.
“It might sound ridiculous when you look at The Cook Report and the literature but I didn’t know what I was involved with, I was 19 and I didn’t have a clue.
“The lessons to be learned are ones of education in stopping people falling prey to hateful ideologies.”
Ashcroft, who also became a Tory councillor in Telford, feels he owes a debt of gratitude to Carmichael, who bought him his first pint at the age of 15. He said: “I admire the work the security services do, they are very good at diverting people from such groups and many people went on to normal lives and families and today are not involved in racism.
“If it had not have been for Andy Carmichael and others like him there are many people who could have gone down a very, very different path.
“In that respect I greatly admire him for putting himself on the line, he is a remarkable man.”
Newly released files have revealed the role played by an MI5 undercover operative in destabilising the National Front, once the UK’s leading far-right movement.
The collapse of Britain’s far-right National Front movement following its infiltration by a Special Branch agent backed by MI5 has been revealed in newly-unearthed internal party files.
© AFP 2017/
Andy Carmichael was recruited at a garden party held in Cannock to honor former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1991, and charged with monitoring the group in the West Midlands. He went public with his ruse in July 1997, telling the mainstream media he was fully-salaried by MI5 via a police Special Branch handler in the West Midlands.
Carmichael, who twice stood as a parliamentary candidate for the NF, is named as a “traitor” in the files, a tranche of which have been released by the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre. The files were given to the University by George Ashcroft, a former NF member who has since renounced racism and now serves as a Conservative councillor in Telford.
In one document, John McAuley, the NF’s then-Chair, told members:
“The job of Carmichael was to destroy the NF. This I am convinced of. The only NF members to suspect him were in the Dudley, Walsall and Birmingham branches. Their suspicions were proved correct.”
Trying to explain Carmichael’s acceptance in the NF’s ranks — the infiltrator was on the NF’s “directorate” and a trusted organizer in the West Midlands — McAuley even lauded his record, telling supporters he was “attacked by Red scum” at Birmingham Station prior to the NF’s annual general meeting, a demonstration “he did go through a lot” for the NF despite his covert mission.
Embedding himself in the NF’s senior ranks, Carmichael was elected Chair of the West Midlands region and stood for MP in the December 1994 Dudley West by-election.
He went on to play a pivotal role in a fractious episode, in which the NF attempted to rebrand itself as the “National Democrats” — some members refused to change the party’s name, while others quit the party to establish the ND as a standalone party.
“Carmichael was the main instigator of the name change split… [it] could not have [been done] without Carmichael’s total support,” McAuley added.
Carmichael, now a window salesman in Sutton Coldfield, told local media upon the release of the files his time as an undercover operative was “adrenalin-filled.”
“[MI5] got me to stay in there until June 1997 when [they] had established everything they needed to know. Two Special Branch and two MI5 met me in Chinatown in Birmingham, paid me my severance cheque and gave me a cuddly toy for my then two-year-old daughter as a way of saying thanks.”
Ashcroft said he “admired” the work of the security services, saying if it had not been for the “remarkable” Carmichael, he and others like him “could have gone down a very, very different path.”
Not every victim of undercover intelligence service activities in the UK is quite so forgiving or thankful, however. In 2011, it was revealed UK undercover police officers adopted fake identities and infiltrated thousands of political groups in deployments often lasting several years.
On top of providing information on the activities and plans of the groups in question, officers testified in court under their false names, withheld exculpatory evidence, acted as agent provocateurs and planned and participated in serious crimes.
The most notorious “spy cops” yet uncovered include Bob Lambert, who infiltrated the Animal Liberation Front and London Greenpeace in the 1980s.
Over the course of his deployment, he is alleged to have planted a fire bomb in a branch of department store Debenhams, committed perjury and co-authored the infamous “McLibel” leaflet — a pamphlet that documented McDonald’s unethical practices, and led the fast food giant to sue London Greenpeace leaders Helen Steel and David Morris for defamation, in a case that lasted a decade.
He also fathered a child with an activist.
Moreover, in May, Andy Coles, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, resigned after being unmasked as an undercover operative who spied on animal rights groups from 1991-1995, under the pseudonym Andy Davey.
In a lengthy profile, based on evidence collected by URG, it is noted suspicions about the bogus activist abounded contemporaneously, but were largely silenced due to “Davey’s” specialist IT skills.
Coles has also been accused of attempting to foster, and successfully fostering, sexual relationships with fellow activists.
The practice is alleged to have contravened strict internal guidelines on undercover conduct, and has been dubbed by the Metropolitan Police as a “violation” of the victims’ human rights, and “an abuse of police power” that caused “significant trauma.”
Nonetheless, examples of known police spies that didn’t do so, or attempt to do so, are exceptionally rare — leading some activists to suggest such practices were deliberate policy.