The Brexit Party, Claire Fox and Warrington-an overview.
As it’s the last weekend before the EU elections on 23 May, I thought I’d have a look at the timeline of events concerning the Brexit Party’s prime candidate in NW England — Claire Fox. In particular, her views, past and present, on the Warrington bomb which killed three year old Johnathan Ball and 12 year old Tim Parry.
On Sunday 28 April, I wrote a post “Brendan O’Neill’s emails, Claire Fox and Warrington” which contained the following information -
This post generated some interest on Twitter that Sunday evening and more so the next day. In particular, people wondered what was Claire Fox’s present view on the Warrington bombing and whether or not she still agreed with the sentiment “we defend the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures are necessary in their struggle for freedom”.
On Tuesday 30 April, the story appeared online in the Warrington Guardian -”Dan Price and Colin Parry hit out at Claire Fox of Brexit Party over IRA”. It contained the following quotes from the father of Tim Parry -
That same evening Claire Fox sent a message to Patrick Hurst the journalist who wrote the Warrington Guardian story -
I’ve highlighted what I think is the key quote from this message — “My personal politics and views are well known and I have never sought to disguise them, though on this issue they have remained unaired for many years”.
I would say it is debatable that Ms Fox’s view on her and the RCP’s defence of the IRA’s bombing campaign were “well-known”. The key thing is she did not deny that the RCP’s view on the Warrington atrocity (“we defend the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures are necessary in their struggle for freedom”) was one that she had disagreed with. This would have been surprising to me if she had since Ms Fox was a long-standing member- “I joined the RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) in the early 80s. I’d be in it still but it was wound up at the end of the nineties”.
Claire Fox’s message was tweeted by Mr Hurst at 6.33 PM. Later that evening, Colin Parry sent out the following message -
The next day, Wednesday 1 May, there were more developments after some media interest.
Claire Fox telephoned Colin Parry that evening to discuss the matter. This is what he had to say -
Late that same night, Sally Bate (who lives in Warrington) put out a statement saying she had resigned from the Brexit Party NW England list for the EU elections.
On Friday 3 May an interview with Colin Parry appeared in the Daily Mail.
That bank holiday weekend, on Saturday 4 May and Monday 6 May, there were Brexit Party rallies in NW England. They featured Claire Fox and the remaining NW England Brexit Party candidates alongside Nigel Farage and Ann Widdecombe. I mentioned these rallies in this 4 May post “The Brexit Party, the RCP and the Brighton bomb” as Ms Widdecombe had been at the 1984 Conservative conference and Claire Fox was a member of the RCP at the time.
Over the same weekend Nigel Farage had an interview with Sophy Ridge (“Ridge on Sunday” 5 May). The following exchange took place -
I highlighted a couple of passages here. In the first one Sophy Ridge said that Claire Fox had “disavowed some these comments that she made in 1993 defending the IRA…”. As can be seen from the message she sent Patrick Hurst on 30 April and Colin Parry’s tweet of 1 May on their telephone conversation, she did not disavow any of her comments or views defending the 1993 IRA Warrington bombing. Not even “some”. I can understand the reason for Sophy Ridge’s mistake though.
As this report “Farage plays down candidate’s previous defence of IRA” (Belfast Telegraph. 6 May) indicates, a couple of confusing messages were sent out by the Brexit Party over that weekend on behalf of Claire Fox.
Someone sent me what looks like a copy of the first statement which I was told was also distributed to various Leave groups. It can be read at the bottom of this post*.
In the Ridge interview, Mr Farage said Claire Fox had“made no comments herself in 1993” regarding the Warrington bomb. As a defence, this beggars belief. The RCP was a small Leninist party which had certain core tenets that all members were expected to adhere to and defend in public — one of their key principles was unconditional support for the IRA and a defence of their right to carry out their bombing campaign. Claire Fox was a long-standing member of the party and would have understood this. As the front page of their paper said in relation to Warrington -“we defend the right of the Irish people to take whatever measures are necessary in their struggle for freedom”.
Mr Farage went on to say that discussion of his party’s prime candidate’s support and defence of the IRA and their bombing campaign being an “irrelevant conversation”. Perhaps it is to him as, despite the reaction of many in NW England, particularly in Warrington, he has stood by Claire Fox as the prime Brexit Party candidate for that area. The issue may not be as “irrelevant” there as he would wish it to be.
The week following, Mr Harry Cole (Deputy Political Editor of the Mail on Sunday) had this to say regarding Nigel Farage’s interview (12 May)on the Andrew Marr programme -
I agree with Mr Cole here. In fact, I would have thought that when any career politician like Mr Farage wishes to dismiss an issue as “irrelevant” to somehow make it disappear, it makes it even more relevant for an interviewer to pursue it doggedly.
Perhaps if Mr Farage gets interviewed over the next week, someone could ask him this-
“In a telephone conversation with Colin Parry, Claire Fox still refused to condemn the Warrington bomb, what’s your view, Mr Farage?”
The same question can, of course, be put to any Brexit Party candidate or supporter. I emphasise “Brexit Party” supporter not “Brexit” supporter — many support the latter (even No Deal Brexit) without backing the former.
That same Sunday the Observer carried an editorial where it mentioned “Claire Fox’s refusal to disavow the Revolutionary Communist party’s support for IRA bombing campaigns that killed innocent children (she was a senior activist at the time)”. The same issue carried a Nick Cohen piece on the Brexit Party where Ms Fox’s politics on different issues (Bosnia, IRA, child porn) were discussed. Mr Cohen discussed the Brexit Party/RCP links further in two pieces in the Spectator later in the week — here and here. Something he brings up, which I’ve covered in other posts, is that there are two other exRCP members standing for the Brexit Party — Alka Sehgal Cuthbert (London) and James Heartfield (Yorkshire and Humber). The RCP morphed into Spiked Online where key exRCP members play a leading role. I mention this as there is another (postRCP) supporter of Spiked standing in Scotland — Stuart Waiton.
Incidentally, I did have a short email discussion on the subject this past week with another prominent Brexit Party candidate.
On Saturday 4 May I wondered how I could bring my post “The Brexit Party, the RCP and the Brighton bomb” to the attention of Ann Widdecombe as she featured in it. I looked at the contact section on her website and sent a link to the three contacts listed.
Surprisingly, last Wednesday (15 May) Ann Widdecombe wrote to me (she didn’t ask me to keep the email confidential). The key two sentences which relate to Claire Fox and the IRA were these-
“I lost a friend in the Brighton bomb and indeed missed it myself by some 20 minutes. Inevitably therefore I loathe the IRA and all its works, especially the indiscriminate slaughter of children and I actually voted against the release of terrorists when peace was being negotiated. Christian though I am, I found it impossible to shake hands with Patrick McGee some years ago, as I record in my autobiography.
However, John, if peace is to prevail we have to move on. Claire Fox has said she now renounces violence and if we simply refuse to have dealings with anybody who ever espoused violence then we would have rejected Mandela himself.” (Ann Widdecombe, 15 May)
I wrote back to her the next day highlighting what Colin Parry had said about Ms Fox after their conversation, both in his tweet and in the Daily Mail interview. Ms Widdecombe immediately wrote back, not answering the point about Colin Parry, but saying this -
“I saw, at least a week ago, a statement from Claire Fox which stated quite categorically that she renounced violence. What she has not done is to pretend that she didn’t hold different views once or that she did not support the IRA cause when younger. One of our London candidates lost her mother in the Enniskillen atrocity. I think it a tribute to the Brexit Party that we can unite in such a situation. We look to the future , to independence and to peace.” (Ann Widdecombe, 16 May)
Aileen Quinton is who Ann Widdecombe refers to as the Brexit Party London candidate who “lost her mother in the Enniskillen atrocity”. I discussed that matter here as there is another RCP candidate (Alka Sehgal Cuthbert) on the same list.
I decided not to send any more emails to Ms Widdecombe pursuing the issue. Despite her busy schedule, she had taken the time to answer me and made her case for continuing to support Claire Fox. I did thank her for taking that time.
The key point which Ann Widdecombe did not address though was the refusal of Claire Fox to still condemn the Warrington bombing in her phone call with Colin Parry. As for the statement from Ms Fox which Ms Widdecombe refers to (“which stated quite categorically that she renounced violence”), I’m afraid I have yet to see a copy otherwise I would have published it here.
I’ll probably post the whole email exchange at some point. It might be interesting for people to see, especially if both Ann Widdecombe (who’s also first on the Brexit Party list in SW England) and Claire Fox get elected next week. Perhaps there’ll be much more media interest, maybe even international interest, concerning the political hybrid which is the Brexit Party.
On Thursday 23 May, the voters in NW England will be choosing their EU Parliament representatives. As number one on the Brexit Party list, Claire Fox stands a good chance of being elected.
I would only ask NW England voters to think of this as you decide who to vote for -
*“Claire Fox Statement”.
Here’s the “Claire Fox statement” which was sent to various Leaver groups. It looks like the first one that the Belfast Telegraph article refers to which was then chopped and changed. I asked the Brexit Party for a copy but they didn’t reply. I prefer to stick to what Claire Fox sent to Patrick Hurst (30 April) and Colin Parry’s report (1 May) for a guide to Ms Fox’s current views.