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Flutes in Whitehall, Fascists on the Streets

The arrival of the Livingston True Blues Flute Band in Whitehall with their Confederate flag brings the two referenda of 2014 and 2016 neatly together. The same people who rioted in Glasgow the day after the referendum result in 2014 were present in Whitehall at the Leave Means Leave rally.

While the media wrung its hands about an egg thrown at Jim Murphy, Better Together supporters organised a full-on riot.

As the outpouring of white nationalism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia and racism mingled in a spew of hate in London yesterday, the ascendancy of the far-right into the mainstream is complete.

As the state shudders in the harsh light of self-inflicted national humiliation and constitutional crisis, British fascism needs the tunes of the Loyalist bands to dance to. Even the Daily Record reports: “Brexit nightmare may yet get darker as far right seeks to reap dividend from broken politics”.

It’s worth remembering who they are, what forces they represent and why a confederate flag is mingling with the red white and blue of the Union Jack.



The British media stuttered in complete incomprehension about the flute band, Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News called it a “pipe band”.

It’s worth joining the dots between hyper-British nationalism, race hate and sectarianism. As the Irish News reported in 2015 (`Billy Boys’ link to the Ku Klux Klan) the links between loyalism and racism are explicit:

“A HIGH profile Scottish loyalist who took part in Twelfth marches in Belfast in the 1930s, went on to start a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Glasgow. Billy Fullerton led a notorious gang, the Brigtown Boys, whose signature tune was “The Billy Boys”, an infamous sectarian song which was associated with the Orange Order and Rangers Football Club. The song, which includes the line: “We’re up to our knees in Fenian blood”, was banned from football grounds by the Scottish government in 2011. Born in the Bridgeton area of Glasgow, Fullerton formed the Brigton Billy Boys, an anti-Catholic gang from Bridgeton Cross, in 1924. At its height, the gang had 800 members. According to reports, Fullerton led the Bridgeton Purple and Crown Flute Band which marched during the Twelfth in Belfast in the 1930s. When the Billy Boys went into decline in the late 1930s, Billy Fullerton joined Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists and went on to start a Glasgow branch of the Ku Klux Klan.”

That’s what the confederate flags doing on their banner.



As Tommy Robinson, Nigel Farage, Claire Fox and Toby Young gather on Newsnight, the toxic hatred of the media that has dominated the Trump movement in America manifested itself on the streets:



None of this is by accident.

The far-right has been putting huge energy and resources into organising in Britain around Brexit.

As Mary Fitzgerald revealed this week:

“US Christian right ‘fundamentalists’ linked to the Trump administration and Steve Bannon are among a dozen American groups that have poured at least $50 million of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the last decade, openDemocracy can reveal today. Between them, these groups have backed ‘armies’ of ultra-conservative lawyers and political activists, as well as ‘family values’ campaigns against LGBT rights, sex education and abortion – and a number appear to have increasing links with Europe’s far right. They are spending money on a scale “not previously imagined”, according to lawmakers and human rights advocates, who have called our findings “shocking”. Reacting to openDemocracy’s findings, a cross-party group of more than 40 MEPs has called on the EU’s transparency tsar Frans Timmermans to look into the influence of “US Christian fundamentalists… with the greatest urgency” ahead of May’s European Parliament elections. Among the biggest spenders is a group whose chief counsel is also Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow. Another organisation has collaborated with a controversial Rome-based ‘institute’ backed by Steve Bannon. And a number of the groups are connected to the World Congress of Families: a network of ultra-conservative activists which has links to far-right politicians and movements in several European countries, including Italy, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Serbia.”

Parallel to this is the money pouring into the Spiked/LM Network which has done more than most to facilitate and curate the far-right under the relentless patter of “free-speech”.

We’ve charted their funding and networks here:

All of which is ironic if we remember that Claire Fox and Brendan O’Neill once considered Sinn Feinn sell outs for the Good Friday Agreement. Now they’re tapping along to Livingston True Blues Flute Band.

As John Rogan asks (“Spiked, Ireland and Brexit”):

“How is it possible to explain the political evolution from the RCP to Spiked? From unconditional support for physical-force Irish Republicanism to their support for Brexiter “traditional jingoistic prejudices of … die-hard Tory Empire loyalists”.

Brexiteers links to the far-right isn’t confined to the “staunch” forces of Loyalism.

Channel 4 News’s Andy Davies exposed the links between Aaron Brown the spokesman for Fishing for Leave, and white power extremism.

Understanding the rise of fascism in Britain through Brexit and resurgent nationalism will also require bringing the historical role of loyalism into the light.

Counter movements will need to organise and resist the dark forces at play on the streets and bring values of solidarity respect and mutualism in place of the hate that is consuming people.



Comments (30)

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  1. john leggett says:

    with the great,! religions open to the truth a new “belief” has been found, we exposed the untruth spread by the great religions now we must be ready to expose the truth behind the so called far right. The E.U. tried but are failing and with deep rooted English Nationalism behind the so called Loyalist in N.I. they all are leading the charge for BREXIT and money is no object, the 1% have plenty, they invented it. The quicker Scotland and the world realise this threat the better. INDEPENDENCE NOW

    1. Chris Connolly says:

      What do you mean by “so-called” far right? Are you implying that the people mentioned in Mike’s article represent mainstream opinion? I’d also be interested in how you manage to turn yesterday’s shocking events into yet another reference to English nationalism when it’s a Scottish sectarian pipe band that illustrates the story. We didn’t see any English loyalist flute bands yesterday because there were none there; that particular joy is usually only encountered in Scotland and Northern Ireland. There is casual racism in England (although not as much as some might suppose) and there is certainly chauvinism and xenophobia but virtually no-one cares less about whether anyone is a Catholic or a Protestant.

      Independence for Scotland will bring many benefits but will not be a cure for sectarianism or any other religious bigotry. That’s going to be one of the important matters for the new nation to deal with, and blaming it on the English and their mythical nationalism won’t wash.

      1. Jo says:

        Well said.

  2. bringiton says:

    The GFA spiked the guns of NI extremists and their supporters in our country.
    Being equal citizens of the EU with rights guaranteed by the European courts reinforced the peace process and ensured that the extremists had nowhere for their hatred to go.
    Brexit now gives these people the excuse to resume business as usual.
    Westminster on it’s own have shown little willingness or capacity to sort out the problems in NI which will only now be addressed by an independent Scottish state along with Ireland.
    England has no stake in this matter and have been making that clear for some time (May’s temporary dependence on DUP votes excepted).

  3. David says:

    Leading Brexiteers styling themselves as Grand Wizards makes more sense now…

  4. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Claire Fox is often on BBC R4 representing the Institute of Ideas. needs watching for very devious ideas.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      Kirsty Wark gave Ms Fox and Mr Toby Young a fairly easy time on Newsnight last night. There was, earlier in the day a fairly chummy first name ‘interview’ between a BBC Political correspondent and Mr Nigel Farage. On BBC Breakfast there was a long and pretty easy conversation (it was not an interview between a young woman representative of Leavers for Britain. She was, she admitted a member of the Conservative Party.

      I think it was a bit of stage management which allowed the ‘respectable’ Farage rally to be separated from the Robinson one. It was showing the nastiness which can be unleashed if the Faragist cause faces difficulty. A seemingly genuinely nervous Tory MP hinted as much. He was clearly not of these factions, but, I felt he was a bit fear. A few days earlier, the Labour MP, Ms Jess Phillips, expressed similarly gloomy feelings. She was a friend of the murdered MP, Ms Jo Cox.

      I think that sections of the metropolitan media do not really understand some of these nasty forces which Brexit and the press have encouraged.

      1. Jo says:

        Oh I think they understand Alasdair. The BBC certainly does yet they are the worst offenders. All publicly funded too. It really is time to get rid of it. Sell it off. We should not be funding such drivel.

        I had a heart attack nearly three years ago. I’ve been into politics since I was 18. In the last fortnight while watching various news programmes or events from the Commons regarding Brexit I’ve had to switch right off and do something else. I was concerned that I was getting so physically uncomfortable and angry. My breathing got a bit erratic and I was actually starting to shake and experience chest pain. So I took my dog to the park for an hour. It was very beneficial for us both. It frightened me, the amount of bias we are subjected to from the BBC. It is outrageous! It’s not that I want my own view to dominate. I want balance. And they are utterly taking the p***!

        If you haven’t already sampled the BBC Journalists Brexit Podcast, have a listen. I stress, this is not a recommendation, it’s just to illustrate my point about agendas. As you’d expect, la Kuennsberg reigns supreme in the discussions, shares titbits of gossip she’s prised from her “sources” and predicts, usually wrongly, what’s going to happen next! There’s a lot of giggling too. It is essentially a gathering of egos consumed by their own sense of importance. Yet, somehow, they clearly believe they’re allowing us a great privilege by opening their wee chats up to the public.

        While politicians drive me daft, I’m sorry to say that the group I blame for the sorry state we are in must be journalists. The former may attempt to deceive and weave their tangled webs of lies but journalists are meant to cut through the webs and expose the truth. And the sad fact is that’s not happening. When it comes to deceit, it’s almost impossible to tell politicians and journalists apart.

        Sorry for the rant.

        1. Chris Connolly says:

          Don’t be sorry! It’s all true.

        2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

          No apology required, Jo. It was no rant, and like all your postings worth a read even though from time to time there is an aspect with which I disagree.

          What I was commenting on with my opinion that I felt some of the media staff did not understand, was in the context of Mr Small’s mentioning of the Livingston band and matters relating to that. I think that they do not understand the significance, because it is ‘news where we are’ and not the important stuff they talk about amongst themselves. I remember once when we were dealing with a fairly troubled adolescent, and we had a good, but fairly refined psychologist who came from an affluent background, and she commented approvingly that the young man ‘played the flute’ and that this displayed ‘a sensitive side’, that we should focus on. He was a member of the local ‘True Blue Truth Defenders fife and drum band. When we explained this, she was quite sincerely uncomprehending because the kinds of things related to this had never been in her sphere of experience. I think there are people in the metropolitan media, whose social experience is pretty narrow. (Incidentally, the young man had a number of very good traits and, like most, as he grew up, he grew out of some of the behaviours causing concern.)

    2. She is, she has had a semi-permanent status there for many years. Her colleague Mick Hume had a column in The Times for a out a decade. Brendan O’Neill is a regular in The Spectator, the Sun, the Telegraph and SkyTV studios. They are bankrolled by Charles Koch a far right climate denying US billionaire. Edgy outsiders eh?

  5. Jo says:

    I think it’s also appropriate to highlight two Tory politicians who were happy to deliver their own threats this week, on television.

    Nadhim Zahawi was able to warn about “unleashing forces” during an appearance on Politics Live. The even more odious Mark Francois went further. Standing in the Commons practically spitting across the chamber he shouted about making “people very angry, so don’t say that you weren’t warned!”

    These things were being said while we were also hearing about death threats being received by MPs. Yet here were two MPs, one a minister, making threats….all filmed. Mark Francois yesterday claimed he wouldn’t vote for May’s deal if “you put a shotgun in my mouth”. Such vile rhetoric is despicable considering we saw a Member of Parliament murdered on the street less than three years ago. Later he was in Parliament Square whipping up the mobs with messages to pro-EU people of “UP YOURS!”

    It seems to me that the discipline wing in the Tory Party need to be having words with both Zahawi and Francois. The Metropolitan Police should be hauling them in too for their attempts to threaten and incite violence.

    1. Alistair Taylor says:

      Absolutely agree, Jo.
      Unpleasant people.

  6. Charles L. Gallagher says:

    Did anyone else notice, I counted three, that some of the Brit Nats surrounding Wastemonter on Friday couldn’t even manage to fly their ‘union rags’ the right way, no one seems to have taught them that the broad white band on their rag should be at the top and closest to the pole!!!

  7. Lorna Campbell says:

    Why is there such surprise around this issue? It was so evident in 2015 when the NO was broken down into its constituent parts that there was something going on here that no one wanted to admit to. It was evident from 2015 that many in the Unionist camp were not at all exercised about the economics, but about remaining part of the UK. The huge vote for the SNP in 2015 was a sign that those who had chosen independence were still there, and that they were angry at what they saw as the vote being hi-jacked by the right. That is certainly how I saw it, and I have been abused and accused of racism by the very people who are, themselves, anti Scots and racists. It would gar ye greet. The Brexit vote was so obviously an extension of a large part of the NO vote, with the bigger of the two Leave votes being NO/Leave (two thirds, more or less, to one third YES/Leave) yet, still we are being told that we must pander, and kow tow, to these groups in Scotland ‘because we need their vote’. No, we do not need their vote. What we do need is to start the dissolution of the Treaty of Union and get out from under. These Unionism-till-I-die Scots and rUK NO voters (75% almost of the total here) together, brought us to this pass. The last thing Scotland needs is their far right-wing influence here. We need independence and now, not ten years down the line when it will be too late.

  8. Jo says:

    I was watching Channel 4 News last night when Jon Snow made this accurate observation about the march yesterday. I thought to myself, “You’ll get pelters for that Jon.”.

    And, yep, Channel 4 News has apologised today (that its presenter stated something accurate).


  9. Simon says:

    Another area where the Spiked network (which includes Tracey Brown at Sense About Science UK) has been pushing a right-wing agenda is in relation to disability, and the promotion of a biopsychosocial model of disability which is used to justify cuts to spending on disability benefits. The Science Media Centre has been heavily involved in misrepresenting results from the PACE trial, the only medical trial to have received funding from the DWP, and in attempting to smear those pointing out problems with this work. This £5 million piece of research has since become an international scandal, though the UK Establishment continues to try to cover-up the problems here.

    One can see those connected to the Spiked network promoting stories that encourage the view that critics of this flawed research are somehow attempting to limit the free speech of researchers by criticising their work, or because a few people have sent rude tweets. This is a topic where they seem quite happy to tone police and attempt to shut-up those challenging authority.

    Some further reading that may be of interest:


    1. Hi Simon – thanks – yes there’s a frequent clash between the networks ‘libertarian’ rhetoric and authoritarian action.

      They are rife in genetics and medical research and have integrated themselves into senior positions in an incredible way. I sound like a broken record about them I know.

  10. Willie says:

    Yes Editor, respect and mutualism is gone. Hate is the currency now and hate it will remain.

    The hostile environment, the anti immigrant message, the anti everything foreign save for the Great United Kingdom has been the message for a long time. And we sat by and let it happen. We accepted the governance of a right wing Conservative party. Now we have no one to blame.

    The genie is out of the bottle, the die is cast, and Scotland is part of it.

    The call to leave a light on so that we can find our way home more than tells you that as our politicians vote for a soft Brexit.

  11. Colm mccloskey says:

    Mainstream fascism localised: This week, Rutherglen Reformer has front page and inside article devoted to an obituary tribute to a ‘popular’ local orange band member. This paper has long had a peculiar history of treating the orange lodge as if it were a branch of the Salvation Army. This week’s article goes beyond normalisation. Instead it is akin to hagiography.
    The deceased is pictured, full front page, in all his orange band finery, banging away at a Lambeth drum. Beside him, also wearing the regalia, is his 9 year old daughter. The deceased had died in his sleep after playing at an ex Rangers players football match in Blackpool. The Rutherglen Reformer is owned (and edited?) by the Daily Record.
    Meanwhile, yesterday’ s Evening Times ‘neutrally’ reports on a Protestant Flute Band’s application to march past two Catholic churches (one of whom is St Alphonsus, where a priest was assaulted and spat on last year)
    on Easter Sunday, the most important day of the year for catholic worship. Glasgow City Council, having already sanctioned a march subsequent to the assault, is considering the application.

    1. Chris Connolly says:

      I was shocked last summer, when travelling up the M90, to discover I couldn’t go to Cowdenbeath even if I wanted to because there was an Orange Order festival going on there and the roads had been blocked by the police. Cowdenbeath, for goodness sake! Why?

      Both Colm and the article’s author are absolutely correct to describe all Friday’s thugs as fascists. They don’t speak for anyone but themselves. On Saturday morning an old fellow in the queue at Aldi was buying the Daily Mail along with his wine and Tunnock’s tea cakes so it’s reasonable to assume he is a Brexiteer. He told me he was fed up with politics; in other words, he was disappointed that 29 March had gone by and we are still in the UK. He didn’t threaten anyone with violence, play a flute or carry a Union Jack, though, because most Brexiteers are ordinary, non-threatening folk who happen to disagree with us.

      1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

        A good final sentence, Chris Connolly. We have to keep a sense of perspective. We should not assume that because there are some people on the other side of the argument to ourselves hold abhorrent views on a range of matters that they all do. Most have as strong a distaste for the nastiness as we do.

  12. Ottomanboi says:

    Scotland’s version of anti-Catholicism is a by-product of Unionism and its Protestant political ascendancy mantra. Protestantism was viewed as a fire wall against ‘papalist’ Catholicism and the perceived ‘predatory’ designs of European powers. Linda Colley in her book Britons lays stress on the confessional facets of the Union arrangement and its counter-Catholic aims.
    In character, influenced by mainly English historical experience , it was grafted on to a Scotland with a different experience, along with a raft of other elements suggestive of a fearful insular perception of the neighbouring world.
    This is a strand in Scottish history that is conventionally viewed through the filter of a Unionist integrationist and anglocentric narrative which deliberately marginalizes or ignores Scotland’s own relationship with the rest of Europe even after the Protestant Reformation. The large pre-Union Scottish diaspora both Catholic and Protestant springs to mind.
    Sectarianism is not a result of Scotland’s history but a largely external phenomenon into which Scottish society has become embroiled by a political Unionism, energized by the Britannic myth of ethnic exceptionalism and England’s centuries old ambitions in Ireland.
    The notion that anti-Catholicism does not exist in England is false. Generally veiled and more subtle than in Scotland it does influence England’s perception of itself as geographically part of the European continent but not socio-culturally of it. The idea of Catholicism as rather un-English and part of the subversive ‘Italian mission’ endures even in its liberal, secularized press. The perception of a hallowed special relationship with that other ‘Protestant nation’, the USA adds grist.
    Independence ought to initiate a cleansing of this unpleasant Augean stable and a refreshing, decolonizing review of our entire corpus of history too.
    After 300 years Scotland might enter the world to see herself as she is and not as others, for their own nefarious ends, would choose to see her.

    1. florian albert says:

      ‘Sectarianism is not a result of Scotland’s history’

      Since the mid-19th century it has been an integral part of Scotland’s history. It might – arguably – have been ‘grafted on’ originally but Scotland – rather eagerly – assumed ownership.
      It is, of course, correct that England also has a long history of sectarianism – as we are obliged to call anti-catholicism these days.

      However, after the First World War it faded in significance in England, with the partial exception of Liverpool and the area around. In Scotland, the inter war years were a time of intensified anti-catholicism. This displayed itself in the Church of Scotland’s resolution of 1923 and in the success of explicitly anti-catholic political parties in Glasgow and Edinburgh at the height of the Great Depression.

  13. Iain MacKinnon says:

    It’s an important piece, Mike, and thanks for it.

    It provoked a memory in me.

    I went to primary school on the Isle of Skye. Somehow or other I knew and could sing ‘The billy boys’ by the age of about seven. I learnt it at school. Except I thought it was ‘the bailey boys’ (whoever they were) and that they came from ‘Brixton’ (probably I was influenced by the riots in London at that time). But I would heartily sing the line about being up to my knees in ‘fenian blood’ although I had no idea what a Fenian was.

    As I grew older I began to realise there was something wrong with this song. But some of my friends who had become staunch Rangers fans kept singing it into their teens and twenties. I remember one night in the local pub when a couple of them thought it would be a good idea to sing it. An older man came over and shouted at them, absolutely laying into them about their bigotry. They were shocked. I hope it shocked them out of it.

    I don’t know if ‘the Billy boys’ gets sung on Skye any more, but today it astonishes me how naturally this filth was able to infiltrate and pollute tender young minds on the shores of the distant Hebrides in the 1980s. How much more naturalised must it be in those parts of Scotland where it has formed part of daily life and family life for generations? The exposure of our children to this insidious, hateful cancer outrages me.

    1. Iain MacKinnon says:

      I should add that when I say ‘I learnt it in school’, I meant in the playground – not in the classroom! Mrs Macleod, the wife of a Free Church minister, would most certainly not have approved of it.

  14. Jim Ferguson says:

    Art of Hostile

    The government has made this land
    Hostile to migrants
    Hostile to travellers who aren’t just tourists
    Hostile to youth and to those without cell phones
    Hostile to folk who don’t own their own homes
    Hostile to languages other than English
    Hostile because you can’t find the right job
    Hostile to those who don’t wear the right clothes
    Hostile to those who can’t walk very far or fast down the road
    Hostile to those who resist exploitation
    Hostile to those who go on strike
    Hostile to walking or riding a bike
    There’s always a welcome for money and cars

    But if these prized possessions you are without
    The government made this land
    An hostile environment
    Hostility, passive-aggressive and smart —

    The creation of hostile environments
    Has now become a very fine art

  15. Sam Hunter says:

    This is complete and utter bollocks. The Irish troubles are dead and buried, despite the efforts of Remain maniacs to revive them. There is no desire on either side (Republican or Loyalist) to go back to the past. There were many groups represented at the march, the Loyalist contingent was tiny and there was no involvement from any of the people around Spiked. What united the many groups and individual marchers was not the colour of their skin (there were many ethnicities represented), not their political ideology (I met many people on the march and they held a wide range of political opinions) but rather a belief in British democracy and a strong desire to defend it. There was a small fringe event, which had absolutely NOTHING to do with the main Leave Means Leave rally, organised by UKIP and Tommy Robinson, where there was a tiny nationalist contingent.

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      I take it Sam is referring to Brit/Nationalists and white supremacists?

  16. jimmyboiy says:

    Push back against the liars in the media and the crooks in our government/corporations = far right?

    Nice try, no one believes this crap anymore.

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