The Independent reports that Rees-Mogg was assured by the Traditional Britain Group (TBG) that the warnings he had received about their views had been “a smear” (a device resorted to by the group rather a lot). His assistant contacted Conservative Central Office “who had no knowledge of the group that they could give me”. The latter were either careless or downright inept.
There is enough background knowledge regarding the TBG’s regulars to be able to know that this is not some benign gathering of Tory moderates. Take recent speaker Adrian Davies, “previously an executive council member of the Conservative Monday Club [and] a former executive committee member of Tory Action”. The latter group was co-founded by Airey Neave and G K Young.
Tory Action’s “aims” included a “repatriation programme”. The Monday Club was frequently addressed by Enoch Powell, solely because of the notoriety he had gained from his 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech which had caused “Sailor” Heath to kick him out of the Shadow Cabinet. If TBG are inviting Davies to speak at their meetings, one might expect mainstream Tories to steer clear.
Another TBG favourite is Sam Swerling, self-confessed “Tory Nationalist” and former chairman of, yes, the Monday Club. Swerling had also, by his own admission, been a member of the BNP for five years. He has advocated “the construction of a doctrine of national preference for our people ... National preference would follow the ideals of our own Imperial Preference of earlier years and Commonwealth Preference”.
In other words, some vision of a past where Britain could exploit its then colonies while keeping Johnny Foreigner out – so more pie in the sky. And then there is Gregory Lauder-Frost, former political secretary of the Monday Club, whose speeches to TBG include one on “Immigration and repatriation”. Lauder-Frost is vice president of TBG. And he was involved with another fringe outfit.
In between the Tories severing ties with the Monday Club, and TBG being formed, there was the Conservative Democratic Alliance (CDA), which fetched up on the Tory Conference fringe in 2002. Their meeting was addressed by the then leader of UKIP, Roger Knapman. It was at about that time that Davies asserted that “the ideal candidate for the Conservatives now was a black, one-legged lesbian”.
Given that this trio of singularly unappealing individuals were all associated with the Monday Club, which was once associated with the Tory Party, one might expect that party to keep tabs on any successor groupings, especially if they turn up on the conference fringe. That the Tories have missed them, and messed up, only helps us see that these fringe groups have not gone away.
So a big thanks to Rees-Mogg, who may choose engagements more wisely in future.