Far right 'terrorist' and 'racist' posts broke rules, election watchdog staff claimed 5

Far right ‘terrorist’ and ‘racist’ posts broke rules, election watchdog staff claimed

Far right 'terrorist' and 'racist' posts broke rules, election watchdog staff claimed 6

Election watchdog staff accused senior figures in the far right Homeland party of breaking their own code of conduct by sharing “terrorist literature” and “antisemitic and racist” content, The Ferret can reveal.

The Electoral Commission (the commission) approved Homeland’s bid to register as a political party and field candidates in elections across Britain in January. But comments in documents seen by The Ferret suggest it did so despite “evidence that the party simply ignores breaches of their own code by prominent members”.

Some reviewers of the application alleged that members of Homeland’s national council, which sets the party’s rules, breached UK equalities laws by sharing discriminatory content. But the commission concluded there was a lack of evidence that the members posted the content in their capacity as party officers.

Far right 'terrorist' and 'racist' posts broke rules, election watchdog staff claimed 7

The charity Campaign Against Antisemitism urged the commission to explain why it greenlit Homeland’s application and argued it must do more to “ensure that far right parties do not make a mockery of our nation’s laws”.

The commission said it approved Homeland’s application “after careful consideration” but does not regulate “a party’s compliance with its own internal policies”.

But Homeland dismissed the “spurious claims” it alleged were made by the commission’s “junior staff” in documents obtained by The Ferret. It argued they highlighted an attempt to “find any reason, no matter how tenuous, to reject our application”. The party enforces its code of conduct and did not breach the equality act, it argued.

Homeland’s internal rules

Homeland’s code of conduct bans “expressions of hatred” towards people based on factors including race, sexuality, nationality and ethnicity, “encouragement or glorification of terrorism or violence” or “grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or threatening messages”.

But Kenny Smith, a self-described “racial nationalist” from Lewis and the party’s chairman, apparently used “an X account in his name and noting his party position which references racist material and theories”, claimed one reviewer for the commission.

It was also noted that Anthony Burrows, responsible for nominating Homeland’s candidates, last year failed to get his shotgun licence back after a Derby Crown Court judge deemed him “a danger to the peace”.

His X account shared views “sympathetic towards violence aimed at non-white ethnic or religious groups”, links to “terrorist literature and manifestos”, images of Hitler, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and a depiction of the mass graves of muslims, the judge said.

Far Right
Smith (front left) and Burrows (behind) campaigning with other Homeland activists

The same reviewer said there was “a compelling argument” that Smith and Burrows’ activities “appear to discriminate against individuals based on their protected characteristics”. Under UK equalities laws, protected characteristics include race, religion, and sexual orientation.

One member of the commission’s approval board was worried that approving Homeland’s application could set a “precedent” in which it would have to accept parties that comply with equalities legislation “in theory”, but “ignore it” in practice.

But the commission concluded there was insufficient evidence that Smith and Burrows’ social media activity had been done in their capacity as party officers, or that applicant members would be “indirectly discriminated against”. It would be “high risk for the commission to refuse registration on this point”, one reviewer said.

The elections watchdog approved the far right group’s bid amidst concerns raised by anti-racism groups and the UK Government, which, we revealed, aired fears to the election watchdog that Homeland had applied “by stealth” to become a political party.

Far right mockery’ of UK laws

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “It is right that the Electoral Commission seeks to safeguard democracy by permitting the widest possible participation in party politics under the law.

“But the commission must also help to protect and enforce the law when parties flout it. Prospective or registered parties cannot be allowed to pretend that they abide by their legal obligations but fail to do so in practice without consequence.”

They added: “In light of these revelations, the commission must explain why it permitted candidates for Homeland to stand in these circumstances, and what it intends to do now to ensure that far right parties do not make a mockery of our nation’s laws.”

Far right 'terrorist' and 'racist' posts broke rules, election watchdog staff claimed 8

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: “It’s extremely troubling that a group like this is attempting to gain a toehold in Scottish politics. The Electoral Commission may have given them permission to stand candidates but I have full faith that the people of Scotland will have none of it and will give them the drubbing they so richly deserve.”

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “As the registrar for UK political parties, the commission assesses all applications to register against the criteria set out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and approves those that meet the legal tests.” 

The election watchdog is also bound to a public sector equality duty which it must apply to all applications. Homeland’s bid was approved “after careful consideration” and the commission “does not have a role in regulating a party’s compliance with its own internal policies,” the spokesperson added.

Claims ‘spurious’

A Homeland spokesman said: “Spurious claims were made by unnamed junior staff in an attempt to find any reason, no matter how tenuous, to reject our application. The Electoral Commission ultimately rejected their claims.

“We enforce our code of conduct, but unlike other parties, we don’t virtue signal and allow the biased press or far left pressure groups to influence our decision-making. Campaign Against Antisemitism is entitled to its opinion, but they are entirely wrong – nothing they have referred to breaches the equality act.

“The fact that they suggest people shouldn’t be allowed to stand for election because they disagree with them shows the same anti-democratic traits as the Soviet-era communists.

“Councillor Burrows has a track record of reasonable democratic engagement and discourse. The court case was a civil matter he brought against the police. He has never been investigated or arrested. He has never directly shared a link or suggested anyone read anything beyond the pale. The judge’s comments are just that: comments.”

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