BY the end of this week, with the approval of Parliament, National Action will be outlawed as a terrorist organisation. This will mark the first time a UK extreme-right wing group has been proscribed.
This racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic neo-Nazi group has promoted and encouraged acts of terrorism, including glorifying the brutal murder of Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox on June 16. In the wake of this senseless and shocking attack, the group took to social media to praise the terrorist murderer Thomas Mair with the sickening caption “don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain... Jo Cox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans”.
National Action has stirred up hatred, sown division and promoted a vile ideology since it formed in 2013. It is no stranger to violence. The group has brought its threatening demonstrations to the streets of Yorkshire and its intimidating messages into local communities. In May this year some of the group’s members held a flash demonstration in York, leading to several arrests, and last year members hosted their annual conference in Leeds.
Well I am not going to stand for it. It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone.
Earlier this year, the group’s activities and propaganda crossed the threshold from extremism into terrorism, which enabled me to pursue their proscription.
As a result, the group will be officially banned as a terrorist organisation. This means that being a member of the group – or showing support for it – will be a criminal offence, with a penalty of up to 10 years behind bars.
The Government is committed to tackling terrorism in all its forms, and regardless of what motivates it. And National Action is a group whose views stand in direct contrast to the core values the vast majority of people in this region share. Despite its name, the group is determined to divide communities.
Proscribing the group will prevent its membership in Yorkshire growing and stop the spread of propaganda which allows a culture of division to thrive. We know the group has been deliberately targeting the recruitment of young people through its Yorkshire-specific Twitter account, and this ban will help protect vulnerable individuals who may be at risk of being taken in and radicalised by their toxic narrative.
Thankfully extreme-right wing terrorist attacks are rare. But one attack is one too many and, as the senseless murder of Jo Cox demonstrated, some people are willing to engage in cold-blooded acts to publicise their despicable views. I am absolutely determined that this violence, and the ideologies that underpin it, will be defeated.
Of course, it is important to stress that groups which do not currently meet the threshold for proscription are not free to spread hatred and incite violence as they please. The police and Crown Prosecution Service have extensive powers to take action under criminal law to deal with people who endorse hatred. But we have shown that where there is evidence for a group to be categorised as a terrorist organisation we will be unwavering in our determination to pursue this path.
Through our Prevent strategy, we are protecting those vulnerable to radicalisation from all forms of terrorism, including extreme-right wing. This work is fundamentally rooted in and led by communities. We are also supporting those who take a stand against extremists and hate. This includes helping Voluntary Action in Leeds, who have devised a project which seeks to help prevent hate crime by challenging the beliefs and attitudes that can underline such crimes. We are also funding additional protective security measures at six places of worship in Yorkshire.
As Home Secretary, I am absolutely determined that we challenge extremism in all its forms.
Readers of this paper will be familiar with the values Jo Cox stood for; those that she regularly voiced in columns on these pages. She knew that tackling hatred and division is not something that can be done by Government alone but by working in partnership with local people and groups, getting involved and speaking up for the values that make us the country we are proud to be. Jo’s life and her dedication to Yorkshire was cruelly taken away. It falls on all of us to redouble our efforts to make sure the principles that she stood for live on. And, in doing so, we must not be afraid to categorise these people for what they are: terrorists.
Amber Rudd is the Home Secretary.