Kent Bylines has just been sent a press release from Britain First. It contains a link to a short video of Nick Scanlon, their South East organiser, trying to visit the Holiday Inn in Ashford.
Britain First stirring up anger about migrants housed in Ashford
When South East Regional Organiser Nick Scanlon visited the hotel, he apparently found “migrants hanging around outside of the entrance” and the security confirmed that it was a “refugee hotel”. This, we are told, is part of a series of Britain First investigations into “migrant hotels” in various parts of the UK.
So let us use this Kent incident as an opportunity to explore the assertions and convictions of this far-right organisation. On their website, they state:
“Britain First is a movement of patriotism, nationalism, conservatism and traditionalism.”
They espouse family values:
They also claim to be saving Britain for Christianity:
“Britain First believes that the only way that Britain may be saved from its current moral decline is by a resurgence of those Christian traditions.”
Britain First’s real fears
What they fear is that the increase in migrants of other religious traditions, notably Islam, will outnumber Christians.
Under the heading of ‘fake news’ they claim that all the mainstream media (MSM) are left-wing because they label Britain First activists as Nazis, fascists and racists:
Do their assertions survive scrutiny?
So, fair’s fair: let us see how these values match up in the actual incident they offer for our attention at the Holiday Inn, Ashford.
First a critical look at the actual words and images used in the clip. It starts with a series of pictures of the inside of a hotel. There is no caption on the pictures and nothing to indicate that the images are of that actual hotel. The pictures on the booking site for the Holiday Inn Ashford do not show those pictures.
It is actually a 3-star hotel currently bookable on booking.com at £89 per night. So the bit about “taken over” is somewhat exaggerated. I could go and stay there tonight if I so wished and booked now. It is not apparently closed to the public. So “packed to the rafters with illegal migrants passing through Dover” is not a verified fact and does not comply with responsible journalism.
Scanlon stopped in his tracks
Scanlon only got as far as the entrance to the car park, where he talked with the two security guards, both South Asian-looking, with limited English or perhaps with limited wish to talk with this Englishman intent on putting words in their mouths while he recorded a film.
“Is it closed to the public?” he asked.
They limited their response to agreeing that he could go no further. When asked the reason, one of them said something about the government. Scanlon then said “no doubt… a refuge for illegal migrants who have crossed the Channel about half an hour away”. The guards neither agreed nor disagreed with this.
Two timid security staff
The two guards looked a bit ill-equipped for the task, that is compared with what one might expect in a guarded entrance in South Africa for example, where uniforms are the norm and the expectation is of armed back-up in bullet-proof vests against intruders armed with guns. One is aware that migrant hostels have been a target of nasty racist attacks and arson, in Germany.
There was back up, however, as Scanlon reported. Some men are visible in the background coming out of the Hop-picker pub opposite and putting on their coats. The voice of the hotel receptionist is heard asking the men at the gate if they are all right.
The guards then asked what he is recording, and Scanlon replies that it is for social media. The video clip closes with a request: “Please share this video to defeat big tech censorship.”
If you have viewed the clip, you will note that it is slanted towards the assumptions of Britain First, a far-right anti-migrant campaign organisation. He refers to two men sitting by the hotel entrance as “migrants hanging about by the door”. Is the phrasing intended to suggest they had nothing better to do? That they were work-shy, when in fact most migrants come to the UK precisely to find jobs?
Hotel sheltering Afghan refugees with permission to enter the UK
What I had been told about this Holiday Inn, by one of the leaders of the local Ashford Mosque last December, is that it was housing the families of Afghan refugees who were allowed into the UK when Kabul fell to the Taliban. These refugees, of course, are those who worked for British agencies, including the military in Afghanistan so their lives were in danger had they been abandoned there.
Some of those refugee families are probably still there. They often have large families so it has been difficult to find suitable housing under the refugee settlement schemes of local authorities. As someone who used to teach English to newly arrived migrants (in Leicester, some decades ago), I feel particularly sorry for the women who are confined to that hotel without much opportunity of interacting with local people and learning English to help them adapt. I fear some of them might have been stuck in that hotel, or similar, for over a year now.
Neither the first refugees nor likely the last
Two decades ago, it was the wives of the Gurkha veterans in Ashford who struggled with assimilation until they had achieved better English. Now they are well assimilated and these Nepali are to be found in all manner of jobs in Ashford: driving taxis, in catering jobs at the hospital, nursing, driving buses. Clearly Britain First doesn’t understand that the British economy is stalling in many fields precisely because of the lack of young migrant workers.
The views of Britain First are vehemently, in fact sometimes violently, against migrants. They have been banned on Facebook which is why they are trying to circumvent “big tech”. Wikipedia lists various illegal incidents where their leader has been involved, even fined and put in prison.
They claim they are not racist, and their website shows pictures of people of non-white ethnicities to prove this. Actually, their recent holiday snaps of a camp held in the Peak district do show some mixed-race children. I don’t know whether to be glad or sad at this evidence that their family values are stronger than their racism. Basically, sad that their sense of family values cannot embrace the families of refugees like those in the Holiday Inn.
They are anti-Islamist, and have campaigned over the Rotherham child sexual exploitation case (where adult Asian men were convicted of exploiting teenager girls). They are also homophobic, with accusations against Pride queens. They claim they are for Christian values, and offered the Bible around in one mosque, but most Christian organisations in the UK have condemned their views.
They have fielded candidates in elections, but were also convicted of not complying with electoral expenses law in 2019. They have just been allowed back as a political party, so expect some of their candidates (Scanlon?) again in some part of Kent.
Misuse of national symbols
Their official anthem is Land of Hope and Glory. Their logo shows a lion roaring at, or swallowing (?), the St George Cross, part of the Union Jack. Symbolic of how fervent patriotism and desire for Empire can swallow Christian values.