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In The News

Birmingham paper hypes story of 1990s MI5 mole in National Front

Andy Carmichael – MI5 mole in the NF – operated long after the party had already gone into decline

This weekend’s edition of the Birmingham-based Sunday Mercury gives great prominence to a recycled story from the 1990s, under the headline Revealed: How MI5 mole ‘sabotaged’ National Front in the West Midlands.

This is just another retelling of the Andy Carmichael story, first revealed by the Sunday Times in 1997.  Carmichael was recruited by MI5 in 1991 and via a West Midlands Police Special Branch handler was paid to act as an informant and agent of disruption inside the National Front.

The Sunday Mercury‘s latest twist comes from personal and party documents handed to Warwick University archives by Wayne Ashcroft, then a teenage NF activist, who is best known for his close association with Nick Griffin during the latter’s attempt to build a power base in the nationalist movement before he became BNP leader in 1999. Ashcroft’s dealings with Griffin were exposed in an edition of ITV’s investigative programme The Cook Report in 1997.

Wayne Ashcroft during his NF days in the 1990s

Contrary to the impression given by the Mercury, the NF was already a shadow of its former self by the time MI5 deployed Carmichael. Multiple splits had crippled the movement during the 1980s and during the early 1990s it was obvious that John Tyndall’s BNP, rather than the NF, was the significant force in British nationalism. Most of the senior figures in the NF’s ‘Flag’ faction (which by this time had unquestioned use of the party name) had already quit or were about to quit before Carmichael started doing MI5’s work.

Some of Ashcroft’s documents indicate that Carmichael helped to stir up a factional dispute within the NF, allying with party chairman Ian Anderson in changing the party’s name to National Democrats in 1995. Anderson’s rival John McAuley kept the NF name going, though Anderson had won a ballot of party members and took several leading activists with him as well as the party’s bank account.

In a bulletin included with the Ashcroft papers, John McAuley wrote:
“Carmichael was the main instigator of the ‘name change split’. Anderson could not have done it without Carmichael’s total support.”

Ian Anderson during an interview in 1991: the same year that Carmichael (who later duped him) was recruited by MI5

Curiously another important backer of Anderson (and personal friend of Carmichael) is not mentioned in the Mercury‘s story.  Simon Darby went on to be right-hand man to Nick Griffin in the BNP for more than a decade, despite suspicions among anti-Griffin nationalists that Darby might also have been a state operative.

Meanwhile Wayne Ashcroft (like Lancashire-based former NF/ND activist Stephen Ebbs) moved on to the Conservative Party. He changed his name to George Ashcroft and was elected a Tory councillor for Telford & Wrekin and deputy chairman of the Telford Conservative Association.  However he quit the Tories as part of a local dispute in 2008 and sat as an independent councillor until losing his seat in 2011.

Mr Ashcroft is now an MA student at Wolverhampton University and has had no connection with the nationalist movement for many years.  He told the Mercury:
“I am deeply ashamed of my actions at the time and I have renounced racism and anything of that kind. …I admire the work the security services do, they are very good at diverting people from such groups and many people went on to normal lives and families and today are not involved in racism. If it had not have been for Andy Carmichael and others like him there are many people who could have gone down a very, very different path. In that respect I greatly admire him for putting himself on the line, he is a remarkable man.”

Former MI5 agent Carmichael is now a window salesman in Sutton Coldfield.

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