Jonathan Bowden (1962-2012)

JonathanBowdenJonathan Bowden, one of the outstanding figures of the New Right, has died of a heart attack at the age of 49.

Many of the clichés used by obituarists really are true in Jonathan’s case.  He leaves a gap in the lives of his friends and comrades that will be impossible to fill.  His contribution to our Movement was and will remain unique.  He spoke to us from another age, or perhaps an age yet to come.

As all who heard him will vividly recollect, Jonathan Bowden was an exceptional orator, who could educate, entertain and inspire with often astounding erudition, fluency and power.  In recent years some of Jonathan’s most memorable contributions were at meetings of the New Right in London, which he chaired.  It fell to his New Right colleague Troy Southgate to announce Jonathan’s death this evening.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s Jonathan was associated with a group that was pushed to the fringes of the modern Conservative Party, though most of their views would have been perfectly mainstream a generation or two earlier.  He had been a Conservative Party member in East London during the early 1980s, and at the end of the decade was among the organisers of Western Goals (UK), which hosted anti-communist and conservative speakers ranging from the CIA veteran and retired general John Singlaub to the French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Yet for Jonathan the “Western” values implied in that group’s title meant more than opposing the decaying husk of world communism.  Jonathan was never a natural Conservative – neither his personality nor his ideology could be squashed into the Reagan-Thatcher mould.  I have no doubt he would have agreed with Evelyn Waugh: the problem with the Conservative Party is that it has failed to turn the clock back by a single second.

Many of Waugh’s generation (and the preceding one) were among Jonathan Bowden’s pantheon of artistic and political heroes: Roy Campbell, Ezra Pound, W.B. Yeats, Ernst Jünger.  That spirit lived on in post-war England through one particular hero for whom Jonathan Bowden worked for a few years, the novelist and journalist Bill Hopkins.

For those who rejected the entire spirit of post-war Britain – repelled by the enforced mediocrity, the racial melting pot, the denial of human instinct – the politics of the 1990s were to prove even more uncomfortable than the 1980s.  While Bill Hopkins had long since withdrawn from the arena, Jonathan Bowden remained combative.

After a brief flicker of success around 1990 when its leaders won control of the Monday Club (the Conservative Party’s best known right-wing faction) Western Goals was effectively defunct by 1993, following the imprisonment of its Vice-President for fraud and attacks on its meetings by the left-wing media and associated rent-a-mobs.

Jonathan Bowden and a handful of colleagues went on to form the Revolutionary Conservative Caucus, and later the Bloomsbury Forum.  These were efforts to rescue something from the High Tory tradition that had died out in the higher reaches of the Conservative Party during the Churchill era.  From this perspective, Margaret Thatcher was correctly seen as a Victorian Liberal rather than a Tory.

In 1994 Jonathan was among a group of controversial activists whose membership of a Conservative Party branch in Colchester, Essex, attracted media attention.  This was a period when the “far right” was becoming newsworthy thanks to the election of Derek Beackon as the BNP’s first borough councillor.  Jonathan’s colleagues in what was denounced as an “extremist” infiltration of the Conservative Party branch included Mark Cotterill (now EFP chairman and editor of Heritage and Destiny), Dave Moon (a former National Front activist), and Sam Swerling (a college lecturer and former councillor who later joined the BNP).

Jonathan had long been friendly with those on the Right who crossed over from the outer reaches of Monday Club Conservatism to associate with racial nationalist groups and parties.  In 2000 he allied with old friends Adrian Davies and Eddy Butler, as well as new comrades Steve and Sharron Edwards, to form the Freedom Party, which briefly posed a successful challenge to Nick Griffin’s BNP at a time (2000-2002) when Griffin’s corruption was already evident to those who chose to see it.

When the Freedom Party’s challenge faded, Jonathan Bowden took the bold decision to join the British National Party himself, vainly hoping that he could exert some beneficial influence, and he quickly became one of the party’s most popular figures, touring branches around the country with characteristic verve.  For a short time he held the post of BNP cultural officer.

During the summer of 2007 Jonathan found himself on the wrong side of his party leader in a factional dispute, and was ruthlessly traduced by the leader’s minions in a series of grossly defamatory online articles.  He swiftly resigned from the party, and though he was prepared to help out some of those BNP individuals whom he continued to respect, he eventually ceased all activity on the BNP’s behalf in 2010, by which time he was working with Troy Southgate, Michael Woodbridge and other old friends to build the New Right as a forum for wide-ranging discussions not only of politics but of philosophy, religion, art, history and more.

Inevitably the strains and stresses of nationalist politics took their toll on his health, but Jonathan’s many friends in the Movement were delighted by his return to the frontline during the last year with regular appearances at the New Right and at Jez Turner’s London Forum.  A fuller obituary will appear in the next issue of Heritage and Destiny, and we are fortunate that several of Jonathan’s speeches to the New Right and elsewhere were filmed.  Some are already available online, and it is hoped that a compilation will appear on DVD.

Jonathan Bowden has died before his 50th birthday, but his courage, his insight and his sheer character will remain ever present for those who continue the struggle for a better England.

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