Paranoia, Acrimony and Patriotic Alternative

David Lawrence - 15 05 24

Internal discontent continues to build within the neo-Nazi group Patriotic Alternative after anti-fascists crashed a planned protest in Didcot, Oxfordshire on Sunday.

Patriotic Alternative (PA), the largest fascist group in the UK, has toppled into yet another crisis after anti-fascists disrupted an unannounced protest in Didcot.    

This is just the latest scandal to blight the beleaguered organisation, which is suffering under the weight of splits, jailings and general incompetence. With faith in the leadership in freefall, further defections seem likely.

The Didcot Debacle

Launched in 2019 under the former British National Party (BNP) official Mark Collett, PA quickly gained recruits from across the splintered far right and became the most active fascist group in the UK. However, growth soon stagnated and has since given way to a sense of aimlessness.

PA has turned to monthly cross-branch “flash” protests in an attempt to keep up momentum, holding such events in Standish near Wigan, Leeds and Long Eaton, Derbyshire in recent months. 

Unfortunately for PA, the latest planned event in Didcot, near Oxford, was confronted by anti-fascists who had caught wind of the location. The fascists sought refuge in the ticket office of the train station, where a brief tussle ensued.

Embarrassingly, Jeff Marsh – who is PA’s Welsh Regional Organiser and has led security at its national events – simply walked away when confronted, abandoning his activists. Fellow PA activists have privately expressed their contempt for this apparent act of cowardice.

The former BNP and English Defence League heavy has spent years boasting of his hooligan past, even cashing in with a book detailing his violent exploits, in which he recounts stabbing two Mancunians in a Welsh chip shop. Nowadays, it seems a hint of conflict sends Marsh into a hasty retreat, although he’s still happy to take credit online for the time he threw a female protester down a flight of stairs.

A message from Marsh’s twitter account

This fresh humiliation follows a disastrous showing at an anti-migrant demo in St Athan, Wales only two weeks ago. Marsh spent weeks talking up the protest, but after Collett prioritised a trip to Finland to speak at a conference, a number of PA activists abandoned their own plans to attend. The anti-migrant contingent was dwarfed by counter-protestors, leading some activists to question Marsh’s abilities as an organiser. 

Deputy Leader Laura Towler is leading the search for the leak, but is herself the subject of much backbiting. For several months, Towler has encouraged activists to set up anonymous social media accounts to push PA content, thereby inflating the size of the group. However, many believe that this approach has compromised PA’s security.

Jeff Marsh (centre) at an anti-migrant protest in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, 23 April 2023. Picture: HOPE not hate

Discontent, Demoralisation and Defections

The Didcot debacle compounds an existing sense of demoralisation within PA, further widening the gulf between the leadership and the rank and file.

The group’s repeated failure to register as a political party, and the lack of a clear and meaningful metric for its success, has fostered a sense of aimlessness. Many have tired of PA’s endless social events and question the utility of the lucrative online livestreams to which Collett and Towler dedicate much time. 

Such concerns have already factored into damaging splinters, with many of PA’s most productive activists leaving for the newly formed Homeland Party in April last year, and others joining former activist Alek Yerbury in his various fascist ventures. 

The successful registration of both Homeland and Yerbury’s new National Rebirth Party earlier this year has further humiliated Collett and Towler. A handful of PA’s activists in the Eastern region – once one of its strongest branches – have recently defected to Homeland, causing another stir within the remaining membership.

Importantly, PA has also been hammered by a series of arrests and incarcerations, with five individuals linked to the group receiving prison sentences for hate crime or terror-related offences in 2023 alone. This has dented PA’s organisational capacity and alienated existing members and potential recruits. 

This includes Sam Melia, PA’s Yorkshire Regional Organiser, husband of Towler and the de facto third-in-command of the group. Melia received a two-year sentence for race hate offences relating to his role as head of the Hundred Handers, a fascist propaganda network that was exposed by HOPE not hate in August 2020. Activity in Yorkshire, which was once home to PA’s flagship branch, has plummeted since his imprisonment. 

PA has raised over £64,000 on the back of Melia’s supposed martyrdom. However, the fact that far less effort has been spent raising money for the families of other PA activists with longer sentences – such as James Costello, James Allchurch and Kris Kearney – has been taken as further evidence of the PA leadership’s shameless money-grubbing. 

Momentum is shifting away from PA on the fascist fringes. Stay tuned for further developments.

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

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