Marshter of none: Patriotic Alternative’s bad day out in South Wales

Right Response Team - 30 04 24

PA’s Wales Organiser, Jeff Marsh, has come in for criticism following a terrible showing in St Athan, Wales.

A planned anti-migrant demonstration outside the gates of MOD St Athan in South Wales on Saturday 27 April turned into a humiliation for the far right. Many anti-racist activists mobilised in opposition and dwarfed the anti-migrant contingent.

Saturday’s counter-demo. Photo: Stand Up To Racism Wales

This is not the first time that attempted fascist incursions in Wales have been made to look foolish, with the people of nearby Llantwit Major turning out en masse last year to show Patriotic Alternative (PA) the door.

However, the build-up to this demonstration was significant for three reasons.

First is that the demonstration, framed with the tagline ‘local homes for local people’, was positioned in opposition to plans to temporarily house a number of Afghans who had helped the British Army and whose lives were under threat from the Taliban.

Flyer circulated by PA figures to promote the St Athan demonstration

The fact that the demonstration was called at all highlights a core tenet of fascist ideology: a hatred of, and opposition to, people based not on what they have done, but who they are

The far right is frequently at pains to try and pour doubt on refugee and asylum claims so as to attempt to bring members of the public towards their cause. However, it was clear from some of the messages from local people on social media that this was going to be unsuccessful in St Athan.

Out of touch: a comment left under a Voice of Wales post about the plans for MOD St Athan

The second thing of note relating to the failed St Athan demonstration is that it appears to have been yet another example of far-right “astroturfing”: the move by fascists to talk-up a local opposition movement where none exists, with the real driving force being the fascists themselves.

The first appearance of the St Athan demo flyer was on 2 April from the account of PA’s Welsh Organiser, Jeff Marsh. It was posted with the comment: ‘St Athan locals are standing up against the 200 migrants being dumped on them. Wales belongs to the Welsh’.

This was then quickly shared by PA’s leader Mark Collett, as well as other PA activists including David Miles in the West Midlands and Eastern branch activist, Darren Harrison. Amanda Smith (AKA Yorkshire Rose), the long-time migrant hunter, also got in on the act and promoted the flyer on her social media.

However, despite Marsh’s claims, all might not be as it seems.

In a video on 6 April outside MOD St Athan, Marsh clearly contradicts himself. Early on in the clip, Marsh says that the demonstration on the 27th had been organised by local people. However, towards the end of the video he says it is “not a PA demo, some of us may attend it but we’ll have to see whether the locals get involved”.

It has been a consistent tactic of fascists involved in the anti-migrant movement to try and avoid being visible in localised anti-migrant campaigns (where such things exist) for fear of them being painted as far right. Instead, the plan is generally to dissolve into the background, to steer any localised opposition movement that might exist in a predetermined direction and to shape the narrative.

So which was it, Mr Marsh? Were local people involved or not?

Happier times? Jeff Marsh with PA’s Deputy Leader, Laura Towler

Finally, the woeful turn-out is indicative of a wider problem within PA. Despite the expectation that the national leadership would support the campaign in South Wales, leader Mark Collett instead travelled to Finland for a far-right conference, causing a number of PA activists to also abandon their own plans to attend.

This left Jeff Marsh in something of a hole in terms of numbers, having talked up the demonstration for weeks. The result has been embarrassing for Marsh and has led to people questioning his abilities as an organiser.

With Laura Towler, PA’s Deputy Leader, having recently given birth and stepping back from the frontline, the lack of direction and energy within PA is now undeniable.

For more information on PA, read our report: The Fascist Fringe: Patriotic Alternative and its Splinter Groups


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