Well known far-right extremists are heading to the Welsh town of Llanelli to exploit local tensions and recruit new members
Over the last two years, HOPE not hate have monitored a dramatic and dangerous rise in anti-migrant and anti-asylum seeker activism in the UK. Much of it has been targeted at accommodation housing newly arrived people, often requisitioned hotels.
Between mid-February and the end of May, we recorded more than 50 anti-migrant demonstrations, ranging from spontaneous local events to coordinated far-right demonstrations, and the number has continued to grow since then.
Presently, one particular local campaign against migrant accommodation is capturing the attention of the far right. Over a number of weeks, hundreds of people have attended demonstrations outside the Stradey Park Hotel in the Furnace area of Llanelli, a site earmarked to house refugee families. At present there is even a permanent camp set up at the entrance to the hotel.
Tensions are running high in the town and have occasionally bubbled over, with a number of arrests in recent weeks. Worryingly, footage of an attendee at one of the more confrontational events shows a swastika tattoo on his arm.
Pictures and clips from numerous events in the area have been enthusiastically shared by the far right, including Stephen Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), Britain First, former BNP leader Nick Griffin and the fascist group Patriotic Alternative.
However, while opposition to the use of the hotel emerged from the local community, the organised far right have jumped on the issue, seeing it as an opportunity to exploit local tensions and recruit new members by turning up in the community.
Jeff Marsh of Patriotic Alternative
One of the most extreme far-right activists active in the protests is Patriotic Alternative’s Jeff Marsh (AKA Joe Marsh, AKA Joe Butler). He has been photographed holding a ‘We Can’t Even House Our Own People’ sign at protests and has published regular content from the area over a period of weeks. At present, it appears he is spending time in the permanent encampment outside the hotel.
Worryingly, Marsh is a longtime far-right activist and a history of violence. Formerly a well known football hooligan, Marsh was convicted of grievous bodily harm for stabbing two Manchester United supporters in Cardiff and was jailed for two years. In 2013, he was found in possession of a knuckleduster when he was arrested for affray outside the Ninian Park pub in Canton, Cardiff. He was given a four-month suspended jail term, 150 hours of community service and ordered to pay £600 costs.
Most recently, Marsh was sentenced to six months in prison in 2015 for throwing a female protester down a flight of stairs in a tube station at an anti-austerity demonstration. Far from showing remorse, Marsh’s hooligan “Pie and Mash Squad” gang have celebrated the assault with stickers and even reenacted it for group photos.
He was also previously an organiser for the English and Welsh Defence Leagues, the notorious anti-Muslim street protest groups, and a member of the fascist British National Party. He later ran the Pie & Mash Squad, a far-right hooligan group.
Today, Marsh is a prominent activist in the neo-Nazi Patriotic Alternative, a group that has become home to former members and associates of the now-banned neo-Nazi terrorist organisation National Action.
PA activists have recently been leafleting in Llanelli with a view to recruiting new members in the area and spreading their extreme message.
UKIP and Voice of Wales
Amongst the most vocal supporters of the protest have been the Voice of Wales (VoW) team.
VoW is a far-right media outlet that creates a range of multimedia content including articles, videos, livestreams and social media posts. Since being permanently banned from YouTube in 2021, it now releases content via its own website and on fringe platforms.
Over the past year, VoW has focused heavily on the issue of accommodation in Wales being used to house asylum seekers, as well as pushing climate change denial and anti-LGBT+ content. The group has been a longtime supporter of far-right extremist Tommy Robinson, and has connections to Britain First.
VoW is run by Dan Morgan and Stan Robinson, both of whom are UKIP members. While reporting regularly from Llanelli and offering their wholehearted support to the protests, some locals are beginning to worry they have ulterior motives. UKIP has now organised a number of meetings in the local area to try and boost the numbers of their beleaguered party.
The last meeting, held on 17 July, left some locals bemused when one of the speakers was VoW’s resident climate change denier Paul Burgess as well as disgraced former MP turned UKIP leader Neil Hamilton. The fact that UKIP have held numerous meetings in the town in quick succession likely left locals with little doubt that their objective was to recruit new members rather than offer any genuine support.
Joining Morgan and Robinson in the area is their protégé James Harvey, who runs his own group, Students Against Tyranny. Harvey has taken a break from fighting the supposed Marxist takeover of universities, to turn up in the town for the purpose of boosting his own profile.
Katie Hopkins Turns Up
More recently, the infamous far-right ‘presenter’ Katie Hopkins has turned up in Llanelli to show her support for the ongoing protests.
It comes as no surprise that Hopkins would want to exploit the ongoing campaign in Llanelli as she has a long history of extreme and anti-migrant statements, and has regularly collaborated with far-right groups.
Hopkins first came to public attention as a contestant on reality TV show The Apprentice in 2006, and developed notoriety as a pundit through her astonishingly inflammatory commentary on immigration, Islam, and gender debates.
Among her many controversies was an April 2015 column for The Sun entitled “Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants”. Throughout the article she labelled migrants as “cockroaches” and “a plague of feral humans”. The article began: “No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care”.
Years later, Hopkins’ weekly show at LBC Radio was cancelled three days after she called for a “final solution” following the appalling terrorist attack in Manchester in May 2017, which left 22 dead. Hopkins later claimed her use of the phrase – which echoes the Nazi term for the Holocaust – was a mistake.
Her racist politics has led her to collaborate with a series of far-right groups. She has been a long time supporter of Tommy Robinson and spoken at a conferences organised by the now-defunct far-right party For Britain and the Traditional Britain Group. She has even gone as far as to publicise a conference in Finland which features an international roster of antisemites, white nationalists and fascists.
Most relevant to her history of anti-migrant protest however, is in 2017 when she attempted to spend a week reporting from aboard the vessel of Defend Europe, the mission by leaders of the far-right Identitarian movement to impede refugee search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean. While reporting on the ‘mission’ she was photographed alongside the prominent far-right activists Peter Sweden, who has previously denied the Holocaust.
Standing With Fascists?
With the Llanelli protests getting so much attention within the far right, it comes as no surprise that a range of other radical, populist and far right figures have made the journey to the town in recent weeks.
Well-known former South Wales BNP activist Roger Philips has been pictured at the protests, as has former Britain First-turned-National Housing Party activist Philip Watkins. Another to bring his camera to the area is Hugh Thorne (AKA Based Welshman), a longstanding ‘citizen journalist’ and regular at Tommy Robinson demonstrations.
What’s happening in Llanelli is nothing new. In recent years, the far right has regularly sought to exploit locally-led anti-migrant campaigns for their own ends.
The big question is why the organisers of the ongoing protests in the town – who insist they are not racist in any way – seem so willing to allow well-known and extreme far right figures to stand alongside them and use their protests to recruit for their own organisations.
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