Welsh Ukip candidate is vice president of group which in 2013 made Doreen Lawrence ‘go home’ slurs on Facebook
Christopher Gillibrand, Ukip’s candidate in Dwyfor Meirionnydd, is vice president of the far-right Traditional Britain Group
Christopher Gillibrand, Ukip candidate for the Dwyfor Meirionnydd constituency
A Ukip candidate standing in Wales is vice president of a far-right organisation which, in a 2013 Facebook post, said the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence should leave Britain and return to her “homeland”.
Christopher Gillibrand is a leading figure in the Traditional Britain Group, whose website promotes the views of far-right European politicians like Marine Le Pen of the French Front National and the anti-immigrant Flemish party Vlaams Belang.
Two years ago, the Traditional Britain Group’s Facebook site carried a statement at the time Doreen Lawrence was elevated to the peerage saying: “It is 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. In fact she, along with millions of others, should be requested to return to their natural homelands”.
The post referred to a Tory backbencher, Nadhim Zahawi, as “a foreign Conservative Party MP”, and to the Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, who was born and raised in south London, as a Nigerian.
Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, pictured as she took her seat in the House of Lords in 2013
The comments caused a furore at the time. Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who had delivered a speech at a Traditional Britain Group dinner, told BBC’s Newsnight: “I clearly made a mistake. I think the postings that we’ve recently seen are so deeply disgraceful and shocking that they have no place in decent political debate. Mrs Lawrence is a wonderful and courageous woman who has contributed to British public life and, in any traditional view of Conservatism, she should be lauded for what she has done.”
Mr Gillibrand, who is Ukip’s candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, distanced himself from the Doreen Lawrence comments, saying they were posted on the Traditional Britain Group Facebook page by another member.
In January, following the murders at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, the Traditional Britain Group carried a video of Front National leader Marine Le Pen speaking about the terror attack, together with an English translation. And at a Traditional Britain conference held last October, Sam Swerling of the British Democratic Party gave a speech called The Irresistible and Happy Political and Cultural Rise of the Front National in France. A video of the speech can still be viewed on Traditional Britain’s website.
The British Democratic Party contains former members of the British National Party, including Mr Swerling himself and Andrew Brons, the former BNP MEP for Yorkshire.
Last June Vlaams Belang MEP Philip Claeys was guest of honour at the Traditional Britain Group’s annual black tie dinner in London. Vlaams Belang is a Flemish nationalist political party that advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration, whereby immigrants would be obliged to adopt Flemish culture and language. The party rejects multiculturalism. Other political parties in Belgium refuse to countenance going into coalition with it.
Earlier this month the Traditional Britain Group’s Facebook page had a post which described the youth movement of the far-right, anti-immigrant Swedish party, Sweden Democrats, as “the resistance in Sweden”.
Last November it had a post which said: “Nigerians and Muslims expelled in record numbers from Norway. What a great country leading the way for Europeans. Not in the EU either.”
Last week well-known Welsh language activist Simon Brooks protested at a Ukip public meeting in Porthmadog attended by Mr Gillibrand and the party’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall against what he described as Ukip’s “disgraceful” failure to take questions in Welsh. Last year he condemned Ukip’s attitude to Welsh in a lecture at the National Eisteddfod.
Mr Brooks said: “I am convinced that Ukip’s attitude towards Welsh is part and parcel of its wider xenophobia. The meeting in Porthmadog was a disgrace, utterly contemptuous of the Welsh language and culture. The group has a track record of attracting European far-right figures to participate in one way or another in its activities. It has 21 core aims, including ‘rolling back of the welfare state’. It also believes in ‘authority’. I think there is enough material here to suggest that Mr Gillibrand is not the sort of individual who should be standing for election to Parliament.”
A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: “The revelation that this individual is linked to a group with such outlandish views comes as no surprise given his wholly insensitive and inappropriate comments in Porthmadog last week. There is no place for these xenophobic views in Dwyfor Meirionnydd. Plaid Cymru will be fighting this campaign to deliver a fairer, more prosperous future for everyone in Wales.”
In a statement, Mr Gillibrand sought to distance himself from the contents of his own group’s website and Facebook site. He said: “Mr Brooks clearly knows nothing at all about me and is probably not interested in the truth anyway. Nevertheless, I will not sit idly by while I am slandered.
“It is true that I am the vice chairman [sic] of Traditional Britain Group, an organisation that facilitates political debate and discussion on issues that matter to people. I make no apologies for dedicating much of my own time to trying to increase people’s interest in politics, something the group tries to do. In terms of the views previously espoused by one of TBG’s many members, all I can say is that I do not share or support them – indeed I condemn them entirely.”
According to the group’s website, Mr Gillibrand is a vice president of the Traditional Britain group.
From Wales On-line . Report by Martin Shipton. 30.03.15.