Following on from the brutal death of the British Labour MP, Jo Cox, at a constituency meeting in West Yorkshire the UK and international press has rushed to examine the killer’s background and alleged political views. So far it has been fairly tenuous stuff, largely based on eye-witness claims and links to the Far Right movement in Britain dating back to the early 2000s. Given Cox’s prominent role with the pro-EU “Remain” campaign in the upcoming in/out referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, the killing has left the anti-EU “Leave” camp very much on the back-foot. While the cross-party “Remain” lobby would be loathe to admit it, there seems little doubt that the MP’s murder will swing the debate back their way after weeks of poor polling. The shock and disgust at the death of a popular left-wing politician and young mother will surely persuade many in the significant “undecided” category to support the present status quo. Whether that will be enough to negate the narrow lead held by “Leave” will become evident on the 23rd of June.
According to the Independent newspaper the killer, Thomas Mair, was formally associated with an organisation known as the Springbok Club, an extreme pro-apartheid grouping in Britain and South Africa:
“The man arrested over the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox is believed to have had long-term links with a hard-right group based in London which had been campaigning for many years for Britain to leave the European Union.
Thomas Mair was named as a supporter in an online publication of the Springbok Club, an organisation which has defended the white supremacist apartheid regime in South Africa.
The link between Mair and the Springbok Club goes back ten years when its online magazine, the Springbok Cyber Newsletter, was inquiring about the whereabouts of “Thomas Mair, from Batley in Yorkshire [who] was one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of “S.A. Patriot” who has moved from his address in the Fieldhead Estate district of the town.”
The leading article for June 2016 Springbok Cyber Newsletter, which describes itself on its website as being pro-free market capitalism and patriotism and anti-political correctness, was, however, devoted to Britain and the referendum.
It is not known if Mair had renewed his connection with the Springbok Cyber Newsletter.”
The name of the group sparked my interest because I was sure that I had seen it mentioned in relation to support for militant unionism in the north-east of Ireland, especially among the Far Right and Neo-Nazi movement in Britain. In particular I was reminded of several individuals from the UK who were linked to the gunmen and bombers of the Ulster Defence Association – Ulster Freedom Fighters (UDA-UFF) and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). Sure enough, a quick search revealed that the Springbok Club was linked not just to the violent fringe of unionism but to the very core of its political leadership.
In August of 2004 the republican newspaper, An Phoblacht, reported on a speech at a meeting of the “Northern Ireland Springbok Club” by the Reverend Martin Smyth, a member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and MP for South Belfast. As well as being an associate of the sectarian Orange Order the Rev. Smyth was also the one-time deputy leader of the Conservative Monday Club, a far right lobby group in Britain. By 2001 the organisation had become so embroiled in accusations of racism that its mother-party, the Tories, suspended their formal ties with it.
“REVEREND MARTIN SMYTH, Orange Order big-wig and Ulster Unionist MP for South Belfast, was the star turn at a recent dinner in London for white supremacist supporters of Apartheid South Africa and racist Rhodesia.
The old owl of the UUP claims that his audience included people of all races when he addressed the ‘Northern Ireland Springbok Club’ in June, which would be curious seeing as the Springbok Club came out of a merger between the White Rhino Club and the Rhodesian Forum and holds its meetings under the old Apartheid flag of pre-democracy South Africa and calls for a return to whites-only rule.
The Springbok Club’s official website reports: “Quoting extensively from Niall Ferguson’s book Empire, the Rev Smyth was able to show how, in spite of some failings, the British Empire was one of the greatest ever forces for good in the world, and ended by quoting Kipling’s famous injunction ‘Take Up the White Man’s Burden’.”
A spokesman for Reverend Smyth told the South Belfast News that people of all colours and creeds attended his talk. “As far as Reverend Smyth is concerned, the Springbok Club has nothing to do with white supremacy,” said Martin’s mouthpiece. So why is the Six-County branch of the Springbok Club scheduled to hold a Rhodesia UDI Day commemoration on 6 November featuring as guest speaker “Prominent Unionist MP, County Antrim”? And who is it?”
The Springbok Club (also known as the Empire Loyalist Club) was formed in 1996 by Alan Harvey and Bill Binding, prominent Far Right activists in Britain, as an avowedly racist body. It was relaunched in 2001 with a slightly more respectable face, the explicit hate-speech repackaged in quasi-academic language, attracting the attention of several unionist politicians (conservative historian Andrew Roberts was one of those sucked in by the grouping’s new-found civility). Since then it has beavered away in the background of UK politics, a sort of Klu Klux Klan for men in suits. One of it’s leaders in the Six Counties, Jim Daly, stood as an independent unionist candidate for the British parliament in the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone in 2001, with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Previously he had worked with the defunct UK Unionist Party of Robert McCartney MP. He was also closely associated with the “Love Ulster” demonstration in Dublin, and the subsequent riots, in February of 2006.
Of course the more serious links between violent unionism in the north-east of Ireland and “White” South Africa stretch back to the 1980s when elements of the UK state, primarily within the Intelligence Corps (Int. Corps) and the Security Service (MI5), sought to rearm various pro-British terrorist factions in the disputed region. The successful importation of hundreds of weapons via the Lebanon brought the proxy forces of Britain’s counter-insurgency struggle with the Irish Republican Army, and the communities which supported it, to a new level of lethality, leaving dozens of men, women and children dead or injured. This was seen most graphically in the Loughinisland Massacre of June 18th, 1994.
UPDATE: Daniel Collins has provided this link to a 2014 news report by the Independent newspaper highlighting the association of the notorious UKIP politician, Neil Hamilton, with the Springbok Club:
“It is a photo that its subject might prefer to forget. Neil Hamilton, the Ukip deputy chairman and would-be election candidate, stands by a flag that ripples with racist symbolism.
Revealed here for the first time, the image shows the disgraced former Tory MP speaking, as guest of honour, to an expatriate club that calls for a return of “civilised rule” to South Africa.
Taken just four years after Nelson Mandela’s election ended decades of brutal apartheid, the photo of the meeting of the Springbok Club – which flies the apartheid-era flag – emerges at a time when Mr Hamilton’s past threatens to divide Ukip and thwart his attempts to return to parliament 17 years after the “cash-for-questions” scandal forced him out.
A report of the 1998 meeting written by the club’s founder has been deleted from its website, but survives in a digital archive seen by The Independent.
Alan Harvey, who is still secretary of the club, is a former National Front member from Kent whose Facebook account said the day after Mandela’s death last year: “That Mandela creature was an evil terrorist. May his soul rot in hell”.
His report of the 1998 meeting reads: “Mr. Hamilton gave a riveting keynote speech in which he recalled his own fond memories of South Africa during the era of civilised rule. He also expressed great pleasure at seeing the true South African flag proudly on display… and expressed the hope that one day it would be seen flying in Cape Town and Pretoria once again.”
Mr Hamilton admitted delivering a speech at the club’s annual “day of the vow” meeting, but said he had no memory of what he said, or of Mr Harvey. “The quotation is his not mine,” he told The Independent.
In the early 1970s, Mr Hamilton was active in the Federation of Conservative Students. The party’s youth arm later became notorious for its “Hang Nelson Mandela” posters and was shut down by head office.”
UPDATE: Thanks to Ruairí for doing a quick check on the connections between the Springbok Club and the slightly more up-market London Swinton Circle, a right-wing pressure group previously associated with the Conservative Party. Just one example from the Springbok Cyber Newsletter:
“Our friends from the Swinton Circle held their first Enoch Powell Memorial Lecture in the Houses of Parliament on 10th February, and many members and supporters of the Springbok Club attended. The lecture was delivered by Jeffrey Donaldson MP (the Ulster Unionist MP for Lagan Valley), and although his talk of course mainly centred on the current Ulster situation he even so answered a question from the floor comparing the sell-out of Rhodesia to the attempted sell-out of Ulster extremely well, emphasising the fact that the fall of South Africa has resulted in carnage in the streets because no provision had been made for the surrender of weapons.”
And here is a note lamenting the passing of the notorious British terrorist, Robin “the Jackal” Jackson.
“Finally it is our sad duty to report the sad death from throat cancer of a very good friend of both Ulster and South Africa, Mr. Robin “the Jackal” Jackson, at the tragically early age of only 49. Robin was born in Northern Ireland, and from an early age gave his active support to the struggle to keep Ulster British. In the mid ’80s, however, he became very interested in the similar struggle against terrorism of his kith and kin in South Africa, so journeyed to the country in order to give his support. During his time in the sub-continent he visited both South Africa itself and the then South-West Africa, where he gave advice and encouragement to other patriotic activists who he met. Robin is survived by a son and two daughters – in them we trust that the spirit of their father’s dedicated patriotism lives on. His name will be written in our Roll of Honour for ever.”
In such grubby corners does British unionism in Ireland find its allies.
UPDATE: Thanks to “From London” for more posts from the “Springbok Cyber Newsletter“.
“SPRINGBOK CLUB’S DAY OF THE VOW COMMEMORATIONS
The Springbok Club will be holding its annual Day of Vow celebrations on the actual anniversary of the Battle of Blood River this year, December 16th, and are most honoured to be able to welcome as Guest of Honour Mr. Andrew Hunter MP. The details of this event are as follows:-
Date : Tuesday 16th December 2003
Times : Assemble from 17.30 hrs onwards, main activities to start at approx. 19.15 hrs.
Venue : The CLARENCE (the upstairs Function Room), 4 Dover Street, Mayfair, London W1 (just off Piccadilly – nearest underground station: Green Park).
Andrew Hunter has represented Basingstoke in Parliament since 1983, being elected for the Conservative Party, though now sitting as an Independent Conservative. He contested the recent Northern Ireland Assembly elections on behalf of the Democratic Unionist Party, only narrowly failing to gain a seat in the Lagan Valley constituency. As well as being a good friend of Ulster he has also proved to be a good and long-standing friend of South Africa, having sat on both the British-South Africa and the British-Bophuthatswana Parliamentary Groups.”
When the gunman Thomas Mair first subscribed to the “S.A. Patriot” magazine its publisher was one John Hiddleston, a one-time attendee at meetings of the fascist National Front (NF), and later a candidate for the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the more extreme Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). He was also, of course, a close associate of the UUP’s Reverend Martin Smyth. It seems that even racists have their limits:
“It was with disbelief that we say the name of a certain John Hiddleston appearing as an official candidate for the Ulster Unionist Party in the Belfast South constituency during the recent Northern Ireland Assembly elections.
Long-standing subscribers to “S.A.Patriot” will undoubtedly remember Hiddleston’s notorious name well. When the magazine was founded by the original “White Rhino Club” in 1980 none of the WRC ExCo members were in a position to take on the editorship officially, either because of their employment positions or because they were slating for South African citizenship. Two de facto editors were appointed however, an Afrikaans gentleman and a British emigrant who had been in South Africa for four years. Hiddleston had only arrived in the country a few weeks earlier, and was known to the British emigrant through their earlier mutual membership of the [British] National Front. At the time the NF had two distinct factions, a democratic wing that the British emigrant belonged to, and a neo-fascist wing that it transpired Hiddleston was associated with. As Hiddleston had previously been editor of the NF’s Northern Ireland magazine “The British Ulsterman” he was therefore approached to become the nominal editor of “S.A.Patriot”, a position which he readily accepted. Would-be power soon went to Hiddleston’s head however.
He unilaterally opened up a separate bank account for the magazine, with himself as sole signatory, independent of the WRC, which caused many misgivings. He also started to try to influence editorial decisions, becoming an “instant expert” in South African affairs after only being in the country for a few short months! Matters came to a head, however, when he bretrayed his neo-fascist sympathies by advocating that anti-Semitic items should be included in the magazine, an idea which was of course vetoed by the others on the editorial board. Shortly after this Hiddleston mysteriously disappeared down to Cape Town – and immediately withdrew all of the magazine’s funds from the bank account for his own personal use! To make matters worse he even issued a “bouncing” cheque to the magazine’s printers! “S.A.Patriot” of course managed to survive this disaster, but Hiddleston sinister reappearence in Durban a couple of years later, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to cause yet more troubles for the magazine.
It might be supposed that Hiddleston could have matured and moderated his views over the years, but we have recently learnt that he now edits a broadsheet called the “The Ulster Watchman” which has clear anti-Semitic undertones, albeit in the guise of anti-Israelism.
Quite clearly, therefore, the UUP’s vetting processes must be non-existent, and they must be scrapping the bottom of the barrel if they are prepared to adopt a proven scumbag such as Hiddleston as one of their candidates. We advise all readers who may have any relevant contacts or influence to make these facts about Hiddleston’s disreputable past known as widely as possible.”
References to elected politicians or members of the DUP and UUP, not to mention various pro-UK terrorist factions in the north of Ireland, fill the posts of the “Springbok Cyber Newsletter”.
Extraordinary what one can find when one peers into the darker corners of British nationalism. I’ve added an obituary from the Springbok newsletter praising the loyalist killer, Robin “the Jackal” Jackson, to the post.
Neil Hamilton is another far-right conservative who had (has?) close associations with the Springbok Club: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/neil-hamilton-and-the-club-that-wants-civilised-rule-restored-in-south-africa-a6920751.html
Added the link, Daniel. More digging will undoubtedly yield more stuff. Another establishment-linked rock in Britain under which the grubs crawl. The Conservative Monday Club, the London Swinton Circle, etc. are all of a type.
Well, it was fairly civilised in comparison with what has come after it….
Eolas an-shuimiúil! Maith an fear, a Shéamais!
Truly superb research there Séamus – exposing the deep links of Ulster Unionism with some of the most racist and reactionary ideologies in recent history.
In addition, the photo of the Flags – Apartheid South Rhodesia, US Confederate, Apartheid South Africa and the Ulster Banner – is in itself with a thousand words.
Just as those odious racist states were overthrown by the relentless march of history, so too the artificial statelet in the North of our country is doomed.
Can only add… very good work indeed.
What interests Me here is that these elements not only survive, in 2016, but are actually tolerated by the UK state and Government, patronised by some politicians connected to that Government, and remain, as always, a dangerous set of semi-paramilitary groups that at any time in the future, can again be unleashed. All this is NOT of historical relevance only. The BREXIT campaign and vote has stirred up some dangerous currents. If it is a yes vote, then a hard border with the South is inevitable for the North, and these groups will come crawling out into the daylight and stir things up. Violence is then highly likely. The population in the North will polarise again to it’s original default positions, and the Peace process and settlement will be at risk. Given the links with “Mainland” far-right groups, pro-BREXIT violence is also possible there. So the more we know about their ongoing activities, the better. keep up the good work!!.
Here’s a bit you missed – The very first publisher of the “S.A. Patriot” magazine that Mair subscribed to was John Hiddleston, who was also in the National Front, then in the Ulster Unionist Party, and is now in the Traditional Ulster Voice
Added those links into the post. Thanks!
Hiddlestone has a long inglorious with the extreme right and was one of a number of moles Combat 88 placed in army TA units, his case QUB’s OTC. Unfortunately, his proselytising was too much there, he was nicknamed Heinrich and often given a Nazi salute and Heil Heinrich as he passed his fellows. Not surprisingly he didn’t last at this or indeed anything else he has ever done in life.
I worked with a very nice UDR officer in the 1980s. He had been approached by Apartheid agents trying to get him to join their army. He refused to have anything to do with it.