British National party MEP and former National Front chairman who started political life in group set up in honour of Hitler
It was on Hitler's birthday, deliberately chosen, that the National Socialist Movement was formed in Britain in the 1960s. It was the first political organisation of the far right that Andrew Brons, the newly-elected British National party MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside, was to join – but not the last.
The group that he signed up to as a teenager had been founded in honour of Hitler by the British fascist leader, the late Colin Jordan. No mention of this early political involvement features on the BNP's website celebrating Brons's victory. Instead, Brons is portrayed just as a "veteran British Nationalist".
Brons, 61, comes from what might be described as the genteel wing of British neo-fascism. He lists William Cobbett, the radical journalist and author of Rural Rides, as his favourite historical person, the Pickwick Papers as his favourite book and Zelig as his favourite film. But his early associations with the far right were when it was at its most overtly racist and before it had started to try to present itself as just another political party.
The group he first joined included among its members people responsible for arson attacks on Jewish property and synagogues. According to the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight, which has been tracking his career for decades, Brons appears to have approved. In a letter to Jordan's wife, Brons reported meeting an NSM member who "mentioned such activities as bombing synagogues", to which Brons responded that "on this subject I have a dual view, in that I realise that he is well intentioned, I feel that our public image may suffer considerable damage as a result of these activities. I am however open to correction on this point."
By the 1970s, Brons had moved on the National Front, then the leading far-right group in Britain. He was voted on to the NF's national directorate in 1974 and, as the NF's education officer, he hosted seminars on racial nationalism and tried to give its racism a more "scientific" basis.
After the late John Tyndall left the NF in 1980, Brons was promoted to the post of chairman. Among his allies was Richard Verrall, the author of Did Six Million Really Die?, with whom he edited the NF journal, New Nation. In August 1981 he led a rally in Fulham, west London in support of "rights for whites" and concluded his speech with a call for compulsory repatriation, chanting: "If they're black, send them back." According to Searchlight, in 1982 Brons led an NF march through Northfield on which marchers chanted "We've got to get rid of the blacks".
In June 1984, Brons was convicted by Leeds magistrates of using insulting words and behaviour likely to cause a breach of the peace. The court was told that when PC John Raj, the area's community constable, who was of Malaysian origin, told the group to disperse, Brons, then 37, responded: "I am aware of my legal rights. Inferior beings like yourself probably do not appreciate the principle of free speech." Brons denied the allegations at the time and continues to deny them, describing them as "absurd". His challenge to Raj's evidence was not, however, accepted at his subsequent appeal at Leeds crown court.
After drifting out of far-right politics, he became a lecturer in politics and law at a further education college in Harrogate. He joined the BNP in its current incarnation three years ago. Divorced, with two grown-up daughters and four granddaughters, his election platform was that he "would work to expose the activities and corruption of the EU to strengthen Britain's case for withdrawal" and "would co-operate with patriots in other countries who seek to bring the EU to an end".
Sonia Gable of Searchlight said that his past made him a strange choice for a BNP seeking to create a "respectable" image for itself.
"Everyone in the BNP is trying to look respectable and Brons is an odd choice because he was in the NF at its most racist," she said.
She added that she thought Brons had been chosen as a candidate because Nick Griffin, the chairman of the BNP, believed that he would have strong links with far-right organisations in Europe.
The BNP denies being an anti-semitic organisation, and when asked about Brons's involvement with the NSM and the NF and his calls for compulsory repatriation, a spokesman for the party said: "That was nearly 30 years ago, times have moved on … You print what you want."