“Soldiers off the Street“ (company number 07018818) is the latest and possibly most troublesome example of astroturfing (fake grassroots) by the BNP targeting veterans. SOTS aims to care for veterans and aims to clothe, feed and provide shelter for homeless ex-servicemen. A noble cause.
However, the story doesn’t stop there. SOTS is run by the BNP husband and wife team, Bill and Marie Murray. Mr Murray [pictured, left] is head of the BNP’s Welsh division and his wife is a seasoned activist for the extremist party. SOTS also works in association with FEBA (a Scottish veterans charity that accepted money from the BNP). Mr. Murray is, according to SOTS’s company records (available through companies house), Director and his wife is the Secretary.
Three weeks ago we reported SOTS to the Charities Commission and Trading Standards after we discovered it was claiming to seek charity status and for failing to mention its very close ties to the BNP.
In a letter to Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charities Commission, we wrote that while, the objectives of SOTS were commendable, we were extremely concerned about its attempts to conceal its political connections and thus had the potential to solicit funds from the public under the false impression that it was an entirely unpolitical organisation with no associations to a political party.
In our letter we pressed for “urgent action” and for a thorough investigation. This week, we were informed by the Commission that it would be reporting back to us by October 10th. Trading Standards have acknowledged receipt of our letter but have not yet said whether they will be investigating.
As we have seen with Islamist “charities”, one concern is that members of the public are duped into donating money in good faith and that funds end up in the hands of extremists (in this case the BNP). Another concern is the propaganda value of this association to BNP recruitment teams. Lastly, we believe that fake organisations like SOTS that withhold information about their extremist links undermine the exceptional and genuinely selfless work of groups that are concerned for the welfare of our servicemen and women.
We hope that by reporting groups such as SOTS that socially-minded members of the public will be better protected from front organisations masquerading as authentic veteran groups.