Tory MP addressed far-right group

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   By a Newsnet reporter

Just days after the controversial “Go Home” campaign saw the Home Office being accused of racism, a prominent Conservative backbench MP has attracted criticism after speaking at a dinner organised by a far-right organisation.

In May this year, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Tory MP for North East Somerset,  spoke at a dinner organised by the extreme right-wing Traditional Britain Group, which supports the removal of black and Asian people from the UK.

Traditional Britain recently criticised the appointment of respected anti-racism campaigner Doreen Lawrence, who uncovered systematic racism within the Metropolitan Police after their failings in the investigation of the murder of her son Stephen.  The Group said it was a “monstrous disgrace that this Lawrence woman, who is no friend of Great Britain, and who is totally without merit, should be recognised like this or in any other way”.

Traditional Britain added: “In fact she, along with millions of others, should be requested to return to their natural homelands. Of course the biggest disgrace is that any party calling itself ‘conservative’ could have been part of this.”

On its website Traditional Britain also refers to ethnic minority MPs as foreign, describing Labour’s Chuka Umunna as “Nigerian”.  Mr Umunna was born in England and has lived in the UK all his life.

Other comments on the group’s website praise European far right political parties such as the French National Front.

Mr Rees-Mogg has now distanced himself from Traditional Britain, and said that he was only warned about the group’s extreme views hours before he was due to speak.  Mr Rees-Mogg said he was “shocked” by their attack on Mrs Lawrence, and added that he “entirely disassociated” himself from them.

The MP admitted that he had been warned about the extreme right wing nature of Traditional Britain the day before he was due to speak.  Mr Rees-Mogg said he had carried out “some investigation” into Traditional Britain in “the limited time available” and had contacted Conservative Central Office.  However the MP claimed that he uncovered nothing untoward. 

Mr Rees-Mogg added that he had received assurances from Traditional Britain that the description of them as an extreme right wing organisation was a “smear”, and said that Traditional Britain’s attack on Doreen Lawrence was made months after he was their guest speaker.

However blogger Sunny Hundal on the Liberal Conspiracy website, which first broke the story, pointed out that comments in praise of far right wing European parties were prominent on Traditional Britain’s Facebook page weeks before Mr Rees-Mogg accepted the invitation to their event. 

Mr Hundal described Mr Rees-Mogg’s statement as “disingenuous”, and said that the failure of Conservative Central Office to warn Mr Rees-Mogg about the nature of Traditional Britain raised serious questions, asking: “Why didn’t Conservative Central HQ vet this group properly, and why did they let Rees-Mogg speak at the dinner?”

In a statement Traditional Britain denied that it was a far right organisation, saying:

“We believe that exiting the EU and halting immigration are crucial to the survival of the British nation.

“But we are a traditional conservative organisation concerned about the future of Britain and our nation.”

The group added: “We are naturally disappointed that Mr Rees-Mogg has been frightened by these media smears and forced to disassociate himself from perfectly normal conservatives who actually support him.

“In the past 20 years the Conservative Party have lost two thirds of their members by abandoning Toryism. We are not prepared to do that.”

The controversy comes just days after racist comments made by a UKIP MEP, and the Conservative led Home Office finding itself at the centre of accusations of racism. 

In an advertising campaign directed against illegal immigrants, the Home Office sanctioned billboards carried around major cities on vans, which contained language reminiscent of slogans used by racist far-right parties in the 1970s and 80s.

Civil rights group Liberty claimed that the Home Office’s slogans had “racist connotations – mirroring National Front slogans from the 1970s” adding that they were “deeply offensive and divisive and in breach of the Equality Act 2010 so therefore unlawful”.

The Labour peer Lord Lipsey has reported the advertising campaign to the Advertising Standards Authority, and the union Unite has said it was taking legal advice in an effort to halt the Home Office campaign.