Public inquiry reveals police infiltration of 1970s National Front

Four of the young radicals who sought to take over the NF in the early 1980s: (left to right) Joe Pearce, Richard Lawson, Nick Griffin, and Steve Brady. Two of this group were involved in an earlier faction that was spied on by undercover policeman ‘Peter Collins’ who infiltrated both the NF and the Workers Revolutionary Party

Documents released this morning as part of a public inquiry into undercover policing reveal that an officer codenamed ‘Peter Collins’ infiltrated the National Front during 1975 and 1976.

Strangely this infiltration occurred not on the orders of his police superiors, but as an indirect consequence of his deployment to infiltrate a Trotskyist organisation, the Workers Revolutionary Party.

As with many far left groups, the WRP tried to latch on to any militant street activity, ranging from anti-war protests to the campaigns of vandalism launched by friends and family of armed robber George Davis.

An undercover police unit – the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) – was created in 1968 in response to concerns about public order threats from a new generation of far left and ‘counterculture’ groups that had little or no connection to the old-style communist parties and fronts that MI5 and Special Branch had previously monitored.

The SDS recruited young police officers to work as long-term informants but about a decade ago these plans ended in scandal after it was revealed that some officers had fathered children with young women inside the groups they were infiltrating. Hence the present inquiry.

‘Peter Collins’ was infiltrated into the WRP in 1974, and a year later (by an extraordinary Chestertonian irony) the WRP themselves asked ‘Collins’ to infiltrate the NF on their behalf!

For a year or so ‘Collins’ therefore reported to his SDS handlers both on the WRP and on the NF.

H&D has today obtained copies of SDS and Special Branch documents released by the Inquiry. Unlike the rather confused Guardian reporter who tried to make sense of the story earlier today, we have specialist knowledge of the people and factions concerned, and will in due course publish an analysis of what ‘Collins’ was reporting on during 1975-76: what he thought was happening in the NF, and what was actually happening.

By 1976 the SDS allegedly gave up on infiltrating the ‘far right’, because the longer-established security agencies – Special Branch and MI5 – already had sufficient sources of information on the racial nationalist movement.

Much of this Special Branch and MI5 information would have come from Jewish anti-fascist organisations: the Searchlight intelligence organisation run by Gerry Gable and Harry Bidney that had grown out of the violent 62 Group, and the more ‘establishment’ intelligence arm of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

‘Peter Collins’ reported to the SDS on aspects of the 1975-6 split within the NF that spawned the National Party, and on the objectives of a small group of NF radicals who sought to use the NP split as part of a longer-term strategy for their own takeover of the movement on the back of a temporary alliance with conservative elements.

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