Inside the tent adorned with the Union Jack and St George’s flag, Peter and Anthony are on a recruiting drive. They hand out leaflets telling potential converts that their organisation is not racist, merely “helping to resist the racist colonisation of Britain”.
Their table is scattered with postcards of young, white women draped in the Union Jack, holding placards with the reminder that “nationalism is for girls too”. The pair tell The Times that the British National Party is great for the country and that they are proud to support it.
However, they are unable to articulate why they are attracted to the far-right party, and they squirm in their seats when asked about their understanding of issues such as racism, nationalism and discrimination. They may be simply too young to appreciate such concepts: Anthony is 14 and Peter just 12 years old. Nevertheless, the pair spent the weekend recruiting for the youth wing of the BNP at the party’s annual gathering in Derbyshire, which attracted several hundred families.
Peter, whose mother brought him to the event, said: “Young BNP is just about making sure that we are going to have a good place in the normal BNP when we’re older, and that’s what we want. It’s cool, we play lots of sports and stuff.” Several events at the Red, White and Blue Festival, which was picketed by protesters, were geared towards youth in what anti-fascist groups said was “disturbing indoctrination” and an attempt to create a new generation of nationalist sympathisers.
Young children’s faces were painted with the Union Jack and many sported BNP T-shirts and fake tattoos of crusaders and the St George’s flag. They were encouraged to throw wet sponges at a man in the stocks, who was dressed in Islamic clothing and wearing an Osama bin Laden mask. Even infants were exposed to the nationalist cause, with toys and blow-up furniture in the children’s tent being decorated with the Union Jack.
Simon Darby, the deputy leader of the BNP, told The Times that the younger generation was “very important” for the future of the party. “We don’t think short-term, we think long-term,” he said.
Mr Darby denied that the party was indoctrinating youth: “We’re just pointing out another side of things — that it isn’t a good idea to completely destroy our own culture. We are making sure they know that white people aren’t inferior, because that’s what they are being taught in schools.”
However, anti-fascist groups whose blockade of the event, near Denby, resulted in 19 arrests after clashes with police, said that the BNP’s approach was “very dangerous”. Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said that the BNP was actively trying to recruit the young in a new drive because so many of its members were from older generations. “It’s really dangerous. They are trying to normalise their politics among young children. It is very concerning — do we really want this to be going on in our playgrounds?”
Alongside Peter and Anthony, Tristan Simekins, 18, had travelled from Corsham, Wiltshire, to recruit for the BNP’s student wing. His leaflets explained that the movement provided advice to young people on dealing with “anti-white discrimination”. He said: “My problem is with the indoctrination of Islam. I admit not all Muslims are evil, but I feel Islam is.”