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Tory Think-Tank Extremism Chief’s Antisemitic Tirade, as Member of Violent Anarchist Group

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/05/2022 - 9:47pm in

Nafeez Ahmed reveals how the most influential think-tank in Boris Johnson’s Government has ties to an anarchist movement, through its top ‘extremism’ expert

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The Head of Security and Extremism at Policy Exchange, one of Britain’s largest and most influential right-wing think-tanks, is a 20-year veteran of an anarchist group which advocates violent action to overthrow the state, Byline Times can exclusively reveal. The group also has links to criminal networks in Manchester.

In comments around a decade ago on sections of his blog website that are now deleted, Dr Paul Stott also claimed that “Zionists” are his “enemy”, along with the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, New Labour and neoconservatives – essentially the entire democratic political establishment. Despite being offered multiple opportunities to disavow these statements, Stott did not respond to Byline Times' requests for comment.

Violent Anarchism

Paul Stott, who joined Policy Exchange in August 2021 from another conservative lobby group, the Henry Jackson Society, wrote about his long history of membership of the anarchist group Class War in a ‘political obituary’ written for the late Class War activist James May published on 5 December 2012.

Noting that May had joined Class War in 1992 from a splinter group of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPB), Stott confirmed in the article that he had “worked politically with James for nearly twenty years” from 1992 until 2011, as a member of Class War.

The original blogpost has been deleted but obtained by Byline Times via the Wayback Machine.

Class War was founded in 1982 by Ian Bone, once labelled by the Sunday People as Britain’s most dangerous man due to his belief in violent action to overthrow the state. The group engaged in various violent street actions including smashing up shops. Its newspaper, which Stott edited for a decade, regularly featured photos promoting and glorifying violence against politicians, police officers and the royal family.

Stott was associated with the group up to around 2011, when he travelled to Salford to represent Class War at the funeral of Ken Keating, a Class War activist and close associate of the organised crime figure Paul Massey.

Organised Crime

Keating was well-known in Salford as an “ageing pony-tailed thug” who used to drive around in an ex-police transit van called ‘GrassWatch’, as part of a one-man campaign against informers for the police. Text on his van called for “zero tolerance for the police”. He would distribute leaflets featuring a man’s head ringed by a rifle’s target sights, saying: “Informing can seriously damage your health. It is a major cause of smashed knee caps and regular visits to the hospital.” Keating’s zeal for violence against people providing information to the police about criminal activities was notorious.

Keating’s old friend, Paul Massey, had turned up to the funeral along with Paul Stott and James May. Photos of Massey at the funeral were published by Stott in a now-deleted blog post in July 2011. They show Massey as a pallbearer at Keating’s funeral.

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Massey himself was a Class War activist in Ordsall, an inner-city suburb of Salford, in the late eighties and early 1990s. He had been featured in the centre pages of a 1989 edition of the Class War magazine brandishing a police surveillance bug he had found in his car. Shortly before he was eventually killed in a gangland execution in 2015, Massey had become a UKIP supporter.

The Times describes Massey and his links with Class War as follows:

“Massey’s resentment of the Establishment remained, and he became an alternative authority figure in Ordsall, mediating disputes, warning heroin dealers — whom he despised — to stay out of the area and flirting with the street politics of the anarchist group Class War.

Police were the enemy. Police vans were lured onto local estates and firebombed, a police station was besieged and shots were fired at officers during one disturbance…

In July 1998, at the height of his power, Massey took the camera crew on a night-time trawl of Manchester city centre. It ended in disaster. He was drawn into a row outside the Beat’n Track club and, incapable of backing down, stabbed a clubber from Leeds in the groin; the man almost bled to death.

Massey fled to Amsterdam but was caught, extradited, convicted and jailed for 14 years, reduced to 10 on appeal.”

Writing in 2004 during his active membership of Class War, Stott’s sympathies with the likes of Keating and Massey are unmistakable clear. He explained in another now-deleted blog how Ken Keating had fallen out with his son Sean in the nineties because he believed him to be a police informant and had taken out a £10,000 contract on his life. Sean Keating, himself a Class War activist who’d spoken at the 1991 Class War International conference in Shoreditch, had fled to Bolton as a result where neighbours wanted him moved on for fears of the safety of other residents.

Stott’s obituary of Class War activist James May reveals his intimate involvement with the group’s internal politics through much of the nineties and noughties. However, in 2015, he sealed his departure from the group by joining Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP).

That year, he published a paper in the journal Twentieth Century Communism about Class War which makes repeated reference to the organisation’s ‘internal bulletins’ from the 1990s – these are not publicly available.

Antisemitic Tirade

At the time that Stott had published his obituary on James May, he was conducting PhD research in terrorism studies at the University of East Anglia on ‘British Jihadism’. His old ‘About’ page, which appears to have been deleted sometime in 2013, explained: “I am an exhausted Anarchist, having been involved in the UK Anarchist movement since the early 1990s. From 1997 to 2007 I was one of the editors of the Class War newspaper.”

In a discussion underneath this entry, Stott offers a comment dated 6 December 2010:

“I have stated before I disagreed with Israel's actions in Gaza. I am not however going to march with Islamists, because they are as much (if not more?) my enemy as Zionists, Neo-Conservatives, New Labour or the Con-Dems.”

Although dated 2010, this comment was not deleted by Stott until 2013. The comments seem to show that Stott considered himself an “enemy” of mainstream political parties and groups in Britain, including Jewish people who believe that Jews deserve a national homeland – which is what the majority of Jews today believe (including those who might criticise Israeli policies).

Class War activists had also burned effigies of religious figures on bonfire night, including a hook-nosed effigy of the Prophet Muhammed, prompting accusations of racism from other anarchist networks. In 2011, in a further now-deleted post, Paul Stott himself complained about an anarchist bookfair holding a session on ‘white privilege and racism’:  

“It is depressing to see American leftist ideas on race enter the UK Anarchist movement, as evidenced by the meeting on ‘white privilege and racism’ or the rise of related literature over the past couple of years. Such guilt-tripping is common to approaches to race in what were ‘settler’ societies - the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.”

Byline Times could find no record of Paul Stott ever renouncing or condemning these views, or disassociating himself from the violent anti-state politics of Class War. Despite this, Stott has written briefings for Policy Exchange purporting to criticise anti-Zionist activism.

From Far-Left Anarchist to Alt-right Think-Tanker

Before joining Policy Exchange, Stott was a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, another right-wing lobby group with close ties to the Conservative Party and far-right networks in the US from where it has received the bulk of its funding.

As Byline Times previously revealed, since joining Policy Exchange, Stott authored a recent report about the Muslim Brotherhood based on the work of an advocate of the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, Lorenzo Vidino, who previously worked closely with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Steve Emerson (whom former Prime Minister David Cameron called an “idiot” for describing Birmingham as a Muslim-controlled no-go-zone). Stott’s report was commissioned by the Sweden Democrats, a neo-Nazi political party currently being boycotted by Israeli government officials due to its antisemitic tendencies.

Most recently, Stott was co-author of Policy Exchange’s latest report, Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism, which claimed that critics of the Government’s Prevent counter-extremism programme are ‘enabling terrorism’. Two of Stott’s co-authors, Sir John Jenkins and Damon Lee Perry, had also worked closely with Lorenzo Vidino.

The Great Replacement theory, of course, has played a key role in inspiring white nationalist terrorist attacks, including the shooting of 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York in May.

Stott has also criticised environmental protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain on behalf of Policy Exchange, despite his own record of affiliation with an anti-state movement some of whose members were involved in criminal activity.

Policy Exchange is one of the most influential think tanks in Britain. Since its founding by two Tory MPs, it has been known for feeding the Conservative Party with ideas. Under Boris Johnson’s premiership, its lobbying clout has grown considerably, playing a central role in consolidating No. 10’s executive authority.

Policy Exchange and Paul Stott did not respond to multiple requests for comment or provide any confirmation these previous positions have been disavowed.

Paul Stott’s role at the think-tank as its top expert on extremism appears to wholly contradict what he openly stood for less than a decade ago – the violent overthrow of the democratic order. The revelations raise urgent questions about Policy Exchange’s vetting processes, and how the think-tank is being influenced by extremist ideas. It also raises questions about the integrity of its recent research, which under Stott’s watch has taken an increasingly conspiratorial turn, especially in relation to Britain’s Muslim communities.

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David Cameron Endorses Report Tied to Man he Called ‘Muslim No Go Zone’ “Idiot” and ‘Neo Nazi’ Party

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/04/2022 - 1:40am in

The former Prime Minister has put his support behind a new Policy Exchange report targeting Muslim civil society groups as ringleaders in the ‘enabling’ of terrorism

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A new report claiming that critics of counter-terrorism policy are “enabling terrorism” is closely connected to a ‘white genocide’ believer who worked for a far-right conspiracy theorist whom former Prime Minister David Cameron called an “idiot” for describing Birmingham as a ‘Muslim no go zone’.

The report by the Policy Exchange think tank is also linked to a coalition of European far-right parties, including the Sweden Democrats – a party with “neo-Nazi tendencies”, according to the current Israeli Ambassador to the UK.

Its publication reveals how far-right ideologues are successfully attempting to use influential centre-right think tanks to mainstream their worldviews through the language of national security and counter-extremism. 

Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism: The Activist Campaign to Demonise Prevent carries a foreword by David Cameron – who was last year embroiled in the Greensill political lobbying scandal – claiming that criticisms of the UK’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy are “from a small but vocal range of fringe groups, many of whom have extremist links themselves”. 

“We need to show that delegitimising counter-terrorism is, in essence, enabling terrorism," he added.

But two of the report's co-authors have derived much of their thinking from an advocate of the racist 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory; and one co-author is openly allied with an antisemitic political party with Nazi roots, which is currently being boycotted by Israel.

According to the Home Office, Prevent aims to “safeguard vulnerable people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism by engaging with people who are vulnerable to radicalisation and protecting those who are being targeted by terrorist recruiters”. It is one of the four elements of the Government’s ‘CONTEST’ counter-terrorism strategy.

The Policy Exchange report targets a number of Muslim civil society groups as being ringleaders in the ‘enabling’ of terrorism due to their criticisms of Prevent – including the Muslim Council of Britain, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, Cage, 5Pillarz, and Mend.

In reality, there is a vast academic literature in the fields of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism which demonstrates the flaws of Prevent in particular, and government counter-extremism strategies more broadly.

My critical review of some of this literature in 2016 – cited in several studies including the analysis of Professor Bart Schuurman – highlighted how conventional counter-extremism approaches were failing due to bad science, vague risk assessment models, and faulty deradicalisation methodologies.

While there is scope for legitimate criticisms of some of the organisations opposed to Prevent identified in the report – Cage’s Moazzam Begg has endorsed brutal Islamist militants groups in Syria such as Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front as counterweights to ISIS; 5Pillarz’ Roshan Salih has outed himself as an antisemite and Holocaust denier in his memoirs – the report conflates the diversity of Muslim groups with the impression that they operate together as a single, homogenous monolith of nefarious extremists.

The report’s hostility toward Muslim civil society groups, however, is no surprise given its authors. 

The ‘Great Replacement’ Advocate

One of the report’s co-authors, Dr Damon Lee Perry, has previously been exposed by Byline Times as the author of an anti-Muslim PhD thesis inspired by an advocate of the baseless and racist ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory. 

The Great Replacement is “an ethno-nationalist theory warning that an indigenous European – e.g. white – population is being replaced by non-European immigrants” through a programme of reverse-colonisation, according to the Counter Extremism Project. It has inspired several far-right terrorist attacks in recent years, including in Christchurch and Texas.

Dr Perry’s thesis claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood group exerts global control over the majority of prominent Muslim civil society groups in the UK – a discredited conspiracy theory which has been ridiculed by leading counter-extremism experts such as former State Department official Peter Mandaville and Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right.

By his own admission, Dr Perry’s thesis was inspired by Dr Lorenzo Vidino – an American academic who is the director of the Programme on Extremism at George Washington University. He has direct ties to far-right hate groups in the US and advocates the Great Replacement theory.

Dr Vidino is cited 54 times in the first third of Dr Perry’s thesis. He is used to essentially justify the thesis' labelling of a wide range of British Muslim community organisations as “members of ‘the New Muslim Brotherhood in the West’” – including, for instance, the Muslim Council of Britain.

According to Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, Dr Vidino is well-known for promoting “conspiracy theories about the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and the United States” and “is connected to numerous anti-Muslim think tanks in the United States and Europe, and has published in various anti-Muslim outlets”. 

As Byline Times has previously revealed, Dr Vidino is himself on record advocating the Great Replacement theory. In 2005, when asked if Europeans were witnessing “the end of Europe” by FrontPage magazine (the far-right publication of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black activist David Horowitz), he said: “Europe as we knew it 30 years ago is long gone. Demography doesn’t lie: in a couple of decades non-ethnic Europeans will represent the majority of the population in many European cities and a large percentage of them will be Muslim.” 

Dr Perry is not the only connection between the Policy Exchange report and Dr Vidino. 

Another co-author of the report, former UK diplomat Sir John Jenkins – who led David Cameron’s review of the Muslim Brotherhood – spoke alongside Dr Vidino at a 2017 event hosted by him at George Washington University to discuss the review. Dr Vidino himself had been previously commissioned by Sir John to produce a paper and consultative briefing for the review.

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Cameron’s ‘Complete Idiot’

From 2002 to 2005, Dr Lorenzo Vidino was a senior analyst and Europe expert at Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism, identified by the Center for American Progress (CAP) as a top player in a global anti-Muslim “misinformation” network “orchestrating the majority of misinformation about Islam and Muslims in America today”. 

Emerson played a leading role in establishing the Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theory through cherry-picking and misrepresentations of key documents. 

According to CAP’s online database of anti-Muslim hate groups, he “employs unsubstantiated threats that portray Muslims as dangerous to accrue funding” and has a reputation “for fabricating evidence to substantiate his ravings about Muslim extremism”.

In 2015, Emerson was notoriously ridiculed by David Cameron as “a complete idiot” for calling Birmingham a Muslim-controlled ‘no go zone’. Yet the former Prime Minister is now endorsing a report that is in effect inspired by one of Steve Emerson’s chief acolytes.

The Neo-Nazi Connection

A third author of the Policy Exchange report, Dr Paul Stott, has also bought into Dr Lorenzo Vidino’s Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy theory.

Dr Stott is the author of a separate report, Network of Networks: The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, commissioned and published by the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group last October.

Like Dr Perry’s work, Dr Stott’s report relies heavily on Dr Vidino – citing the Great Replacement advocate 27 times. 

The ECR Group has had strong recent affiliations to far-right political parties across Europe.

In 2016, I was commissioned by the UK Government-funded Tell MAMA – a national watchdog on anti-Muslim hate crimes – to investigate the rise of the far-right in Europe as a trans-Atlantic network. The investigation revealed the extent to which members of the ECR Group harboured right-wing extremist, racist and even neo-Nazi sympathies. 

One longstanding member of the ECR Group until today is the Sweden Democrats – founded by Nazi sympathiser Gustaf Ekstrom, a former member of the Waffen SS. Its first leader, Anders Klarstrom, was active in the neo-Nazi Nordic Realm Party. Sweden’s former Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has described the Sweden Democrats as a “neo-fascist single-issue party”, citing its early links with Keep Sweden Swedish and White Aryan Resistance. 

Despite the Sweden Democrats' efforts to rebrand and publicly renounce Nazism, its ongoing “neo-Nazi tendencies” were noted by Tzipi Hotovely, the current Israeli Ambassador to the UK, who refused to meet the group when she was deputy foreign secretary. Ayelet Shaked, the current Israeli Interior Minister, also boycotted the Sweden Democrats; as has Israel’s Ambassador to Sweden, Ziv Nevo Kulman, who has said that Israel has no ties with the far-right party.

Although the Sweden Democrats articulates performative support for Israel, experts point to recent evidence of active antisemitism and racism.

Leaked recordings, for instance, revealed the party’s finance spokesperson Oscar Sjostedi laughing as he recounted how his co-workers in an abattoir in Iceland had kicked around sheep carcasses while shouting “Die Jews!”.

Bjorn Soder, a Sweden Democrat MP and former second Deputy Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, has said that while Jews and other minorities can hold Swedish citizenship, they “are not Swedes”.

The party also continues to advocate biological racism. According to Swedish historian Mikael Nilsson, an expert on Hitler and National Socialism, as late as a few years ago the party “still talked about different nationalities having different biological ‘essences’” and only stopped doing so in 2019 due to heavy public criticism.

Even the Swedish Committee Against Antisemitism describes the Sweden Democrats' position on antisemitism as “flexible”. It has said that “the party is against Jew-hatred when it suits, especially when the issue can be exploited to suspect Muslims as a category" but "at the same time, the SD houses a number of representatives at different levels who have expressed antisemitism, often without this facing protests from the party leadership”.

It is therefore shocking that the introduction to Dr Stott’s report – drafted during his role as head of security and extremism at Policy Exchange – is written by Sweden Democrats MEP Charlie Weimers, who chairs the ECR’s ‘working group for religious freedom’. 

Weimers claims in his introduction that not only is “non-violent Islamism” being ignored by politicians but – in the vein of the Great Replacement theory – points to a conspiratorial alliance between Islamists and European political elites. "The politicians are still trying to buy off the Islamists and this increases their power and fattens their organisations," he writes. "At all levels.” 

Dr Stott’s report goes to pains to characterise a wide variety of Muslim civil society groups as a sprawling hydra-like web of evil laundering Shariah Law into the West as part of a secretive Muslim Brotherhood agenda.

The Sweden Democrats appears to have played the lead role in the ECR Group in supporting the publication of Dr Stott’s report. Weimers organised and hosted the launch of the report, at which he described his role in commissioning the report and assigning its core objectives. 

Research Integrity

Either Policy Exchange is incapable of recognising far-right extremism; or it recognises it but is willing to work with and channel it for its own purposes.

It is ironic that in attacking critics of Prevent as enablers of terrorism, its new report leverages far-right extremist conspiracy theories that portray Muslims as a homogenous ‘enemy within’ in Western societies.

It is even more ironic that David Cameron finds himself siding with ideas tracing back to a far-right ideologue he once described as a "complete idiot".

Neither Cameron nor Policy Exchange responded to requests for comment.

But what is perhaps most unnerving is that one co-author of the report, Policy Exchange’s top counter-extremism expert, has worked closely with an antisemitic political party in Europe which is currently being boycotted by Israel. This should give anyone pause for thought about the integrity of this research.

A robust debate on how to successfully counter the scourge of terrorism and extremism is sorely needed. But this report reveals how far-right narratives are disfiguring public discourse and polarising communities even further. 

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‘Government Risks Damaging Democracy for Generations to Come’, Warns New Report on Citizenship Education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/03/2022 - 10:01am in

Citizenship should be redefined to promote a more positive form of it and should not be linked with opposing extremism, according to peers

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The state of citizenship education in schools is “parlous” and being degraded by a Government that should improve it as part of it 'levelling up' of education agenda, peers have warned.

A follow-up report published by the House of Lords' Liaison Committee on progress made three years ago (in the wake of the Government’s new White Paper on Education) accuses ministers of “damaging democracy for generations to come” by neglecting to teach citizenship to school children."

Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, chair of the Lords Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement said today: “We were promised a cross-department minister, we didn’t get one. We were told that Ofsted should treat citizenship education as a core part of the curriculum, the evidence shows they don’t.

"The Government had a chance to put things right in its Schools White Paper. It appears that they have missed the opportunity to do so. There is just one mention of citizenship in the Schools White Paper, and it is mentioned in the context of volunteering. We urge the Government to think again. Otherwise, they risk damaging democracy for generations to come.”

The original report by the Lords charted some 10 years of teaching citizenship in schools which appears to mainly concentrate on the Prevent strategy of tackling anti-terrorism but does not teach the importance of voting, democratic rights and responsibilities. The Government’s counter-terrorism strategy Prevent was introduced in 2003, but it was only when it was revised in 2011 that extremism was defined as opposing these values.

During this period the number of teachers halved and the concept of citizenship narrowed. The 2018 report said some schools reduced it to putting up Union flags in the classroom and a portrait of the Queen.

The report states that citizenship was defined by the Government as adhering to “fundamental British values – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.

Peers in 2018 challenged this assessment saying that citizenship should be redefined as “shared British values” promoting positive citizenship and should not be linked with opposing extremism. These values should be defined as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect for the inherent worth and autonomy of every person”.

“The promotion of shared British values should be separated from counter-extremism policy," the 2018 report said. "The Government should not place guidance on teaching shared values of British Citizenship on the 'Educate against Hate' website. Guidance to teachers should make clear that the primary objective of promoting shared values of British citizenship is to encourage positive citizenship rather than solely aiming to counter-extremism.”

The new report makes 21 recommendations including asking the Government to implement the 78 changes recommendations made in 2018. The 2022 recommendations include appointing a minister in Michael Gove’s levelling up department to coordinate the promotion of citizenship across government. It calls for a statutory right to citizenship education in all primary and secondary schools, and it wants more teachers trained in teaching citizenship, a proper curriculum devised to teach citizenship, and bursaries for teachers to train to teach citizenship. The report is also critical of the 'citizenship test' which people have to take before they can become a UK citizen. It said that the 'Life in the UK' test needed a complete revision and noted that Ofsted ignores citizenship as a curriculum subject, concentrating instead on improving standards in English and maths and the governorship of schools.

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The Real Trojan Horse: Beware Russians Bearing Gifts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/02/2022 - 2:15am in

The Real Trojan HorseBeware Russians Bearing Gifts

As Russian troops reach Kyiv, state terror is rained on innocent civilians. Peter Jukes and Hardeep Matharu explore why the British Conservative Party has ignored Putin’s violent extremism in the mother of all intelligence failures 

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It must have seemed like a good idea 20 years ago. The former Soviet Union had broken up. Russian state assets were being chaotically privatised, with millions of coupons handed out to the Russian people being hoovered up by smart young businessmen (and they were nearly all men). A new class of billionaires was born, running a raft of shiny new corporations.

Not only would the City of London act as clearing house for all those lucrative contracts and share issues, it would be a concierge to the Russian super-rich. They would fund our universities and museums. They would buy up our top-tier properties, football teams and politicians. Their children would attend our private schools and elite universities. We would convert the families of former communists into a new class of free-market entrepreneurs and philanthropists. 

And so Londongrad was born. So too was the first step of a widespread national kompromat. 

We didn’t check inside this gold matryoshka that had been wheeled through the gates of the city. We didn’t inspect the real sources of the wealth – exfiltrated from hijacked natural resources or direct from the public coffers of the Russian state – or do due diligence on the mafia or KGB connections of this new oligarch class who were anything but ‘free market’. 

But why would we? As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson wined and dined with these slavic super-rich and welcomed the hike in property prices. He even encouraged them to sue journalists in the London courts. The lawyers, the PR firms, the events managers, the lobbyists and consultants – everyone was making money. But we weren’t only laundering the dirty riches of Russian oligarchs, we were also importing their values. 

Even by 2008, as he invaded Georgia, Vladimir Putin was bringing his buccaneering oligarchs to heel, with mysterious deaths or imprisonment awaiting those who didn’t comply.  

In 2014, the mood took a darker turn. The Ukrainians had risen up to throw out their Russian proxy kleptocrat, Viktor Yanukovych. The Russian President, having returned to ensure two decades of continued power, had defied the post-war European order by annexing Crimea and invading eastern Ukraine.


Putin Holds Upa Dark Mirror toBoris Johnson
Peter Jukes and Hardeep Matharu

By this point, people should have realised there was something suspicious in this golden matryoshka that had landed in our city. 

Many did. In 2017, one of this article’s authors attended an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) hearing chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant, where he and Observer journalist Carole Cadwalladr, along with the writer Peter Pomerantzev, outlined the real nature of Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy and its long-term agenda to undermine the rule of law, NATO and the European Union.

But the warnings fell on deaf ears. 

Instead, the Trojan horse was wheeled into the heart of the citadel, close to Conservative Party headquarters, where a riot of high-net worth dinners, political donations and lucrative job offers resulted.  

It started under David Cameron, but continued under Theresa May and accelerated under Boris Johnson.

Donors linked to Russia – some directly tied to Putin – were handed access to senior ministers in exchange for money. The Conservatives have accepted £2 million from Russia’s super-rich alone since Johnson became leader. And this is not to mention the direct intervention of the Russian Embassy, through numerous meetings with Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign group, in the Brexit referendum

After the APPG in Parliament in 2017, a senior Conservative who well understood Putin’s malign intent responded to the question of why the Conservative Party was not making more of Russian interference in British politics with the answer: “You’ll make it about Brexit. Don’t make this a way of derailing Brexit.”

The Second Kompromat

And so the second political kompromat was born. 

The role of Russian interference was played down, even by those who opposed Putin, because it might have compromised Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. In terms of the Homeric myth and the siege of Troy, this is akin to the moment the Greeks hidden in the wooden horse were allowed to walk back through the city and open the gates to the invaders. 

The influx of Russian cash, access and influence has only increased in the past five years since that session in Parliament.

Valiant attempts to sound the warning, such as the Intelligence and Security Committee’s 2019 Russia Report, were suppressed, with Boris Johnson going through elaborate and unprecedented manoeuvres to prevent its publication. 

The report found that “Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’ and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth… This level of integration – in ‘Londongrad’ in particular – means that any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.” 

No damage limitation was done. 

The previous year, the recommendations of a landmark report on fake news and disinformation by a parliamentary committee led by Conservative MP Damian Collins were also ignored.

The Trojan horse was wheeled into the heart of the citadel, close to Conservative Party headquarters, where a riot of high-net worth dinners, political donations and lucrative job offers resulted

They recommended the UK equivalent of the US ‘Foreign Agents Registration Act’ to stop foreign money distorting domestic politics. Not only has this never been mooted in Parliament, the Johnson Government has actively sabotaged the proposal to toughen up the investigative and legal powers of the Electoral Commission by planning to disarm it. Recent amendments to prevent foreign donations have been shot down in parliamentary votes by the Conservative Party. 

For at least five years then, Britain has allowed Vladimir Putin a free hand to interfere in domestic politics. This cannot have but been a signal to him that the UK Government was compromised, and unlikely to intervene in his other ‘military-technical’ plans. 

For five years, as his air force, special forces and mercenaries honed their skills in places such as Syria and central Africa, Britain did nothing to extirpate his influence at home or abroad. And now the cost of that is becoming clear – paid in the blood of innocent Ukrainians and the biggest conflict in Europe since the last devastating world war. 

Selective Extremism

The inability to predict or pre-empt Vladimir Putin’s plans to redraw the map of Europe is one of the greatest foreign intelligence failures of recent times – on a par with the false claims that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had immediate access to weapons of mass destruction which justified the invasion of 2003.

But what of domestic intelligence?

Given the attacks of 9/11 in the US, the bombing of London in 2005, and a worldwide surge of Islamic extremist violence, it is understandable that there was a focus on ‘homegrown’ terrorism connected with the Muslim community. But an obsession with Islam, starting with Blair’s Labour Government introducing its ‘CONTEST’ counter-terrorism strategy – including Prevent – seems to have been at the expense of countering the growing threat from Putin and his proxies. 

Amid a wider culture of blatant Islamophobia aided and abetted by Britain’s right-wing press, in the years since, the focus on extremism in the name of Islam has continued – with the controversial Prevent strategy disproportionately targeting Muslims. It has not been successful. The leader of the 2017 terror attack in London Bridge and his brother were engaged with the scheme, as was the suspect in the 2021 killing of Conservative MP David Amess.

The Islamophobia at the core of the Government’s counter-extremism is the subject of a new podcast from Serial and the New York TimesThe Trojan Horse Affair – lifting the lid on the consequences of a fake letter alleging an extremist Islamic takeover of Birmingham schools in 2013. 

Although regarded as a hoax by authorities at the time, separate concerns raised about schools in the area led to the expansion of Prevent – with the then Education Secretary Michael Gove placing a duty on public sector workers to refer any concerning behaviour to the scheme. The result included one nursery raising concerns about a four-year-old who drew a “cooker bomb” that was actually a cucumber. 


Boris Johnson AllowedRussian Interference in the UKas Putin Prepared For War
Adam Bienkov

At the same time as the narratives around the Trojan horse letter were preoccupying Britain’s national politicians and the media, Vladimir Putin was annexing Crimea and invading Donbas. 

Was this not a form of extremism? Or Putin’s previous actions in Moldova or Georgia? What about when 298 people were killed after flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine? Or when British citizen Dawn Sturgess died after spraying perfume containing a nerve agent Russia used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury? Perhaps the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London was not extreme enough? Or Putin’s interference in America’s 2016 Presidential Election? Why was such a blind eye turned to the extremism of Vladimir Putin’s Russia? 

One answer seems to be the prejudice of the Conservative Party. Not only is Islamophobia rife and unpunished within the party, the obsession with Brexit and problems of the EU has blinded its leaders to real dangers. 

“If you want an example of EU foreign policy-making on the hoof and the EU’s pretensions to running a defence policy that have caused real trouble, look at what has happened in Ukraine,” Boris Johnson said two years after Donbas was invaded.

The deep ties between the ruling Conservative Party, Russian money, the City of London and oligarchy mean that any response by Johnson’s Government to the invasion of Ukraine is utterly compromised. It is too little, too late.

Vladimir Putin is an extremist. He has invaded a democratic country posing no threat. That Britain’s ruling clique allowed their own oligarchical sympathies and extreme tendencies to embolden a dictator is Britain’s real Trojan horse.

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