Rees-Mogg Dinner Date Highlights Fringe-Right Groups

This one has already had widespread coverage; from the Independent:

The prominent Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has become embroiled in a race row after he spoke at a dinner organised by an extreme right-wing group which backs the repatriation of ethnic minority Britons.

Mr Rees-Mogg spoke of his shock of learning about the views of the Traditional Britain Group which this week called for Doreen Lawrence, mother of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, to leave the country.

However, it has emerged that the MP had been warned about the group by Searchlight, the anti-fascist organisation, the day before his speech and still decided to deliver it. The organisation describes itself as a “home to the disillusioned patriot”.

After ignoring the warning, Rees-Mogg learned the hard way after the dinner came to the attention of Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy and from there took off into mainstream media

Friends of Rees-Mogg have been quick to explain the fiasco as an unfortunate consequence of his “unworldliness”, and there is no reason not to take him at his word when he says he was shocked; he has no “form” when it comes to matters of race and extreme nationalism. However, while Rees-Mogg’s personal foibles may have played at part (“he doesn’t use Facebook or Twitter. Only recently accepted e-mail and then only in a pinch”, according to Louise Mensch), the incident does once again show how easy it is for particular groups or indviduals to co-opt hapless MPs and other public figures.

The story has also drawn attention to the Traditional Britain Group and its leader Gregory Lauder-Frost; the Independent ran a follow-up piece called “Gregory Lauder-Frost Exposed”, although “Gregory Lauder-Frost Noticed” would have been more accurate; the man is quite open about his views.

Not all Conservatives consider Lauder-Frost to be toxic; Norman Tebbit attended a small dinner at which he spoke in 2007. However, the right-wing UKIP MEP Roger Helmer pulled out of a dinner engaging in 2008 involving Lauder-Frost under the auspicies of the “Baldwin Dining Club” (presumably named for Stanley rather than James). On his website, Helmer wrote:

I was invited some weeks ago to speak at the Club, and I understood that it was a group of conservatives and like-minded people.  However I was approached last week by colleagues who expressed some concern, and suggested I research the Club, and its leading members, on Google.  Having done this, I found some apparent connections with which I was very uncomfortable.

I make no accusation against the Club, and I am not in a position to verify the information on the internet.  Nevertheless, I have had to make a judgement call based on the information I have to hand, and on the advice of colleagues, and I therefore decided to err on the side of caution…

Helmer’s decision enraged a close associate of Lauder-Frost named Michael Keith Smith (since deceased), who characteristically threatened to sue Helmer for “breach of contract and negligence” and for “libel”, although no legal action followed.

Lauder-Frost should have been easy enough for one of Rees-Mogg’s staff to check out; his name is distinctive, and for many years he was a leading light of the anti-immigration Monday Club. In 1984 he successfully fended off an attempted libertarian take-over of the Club by a group of radicals (“the Camberley Group”) associated with the Club’s only black member, Derek Laud, although for a while after he worked with conservative libertarians through the Western Goals Institute (more on that here). Conservative libertarians eventually disassociated themselves from WGI over links with characters such as Jean-Marie Le Pen (1).

In 2008, Lauder-Frost was again the news over a spat with a certain Alan Harvey over membership of another fringe-right group, called the Swinton Circle; Hugh Muir noted at the time:

Back with discomforting news about discord within the Swinton Circle, the group that inhabits the murky ground between the crazies on the far right and the outer reaches of David Cameron’s Conservative party…There was, it seems, a furore about the alleged infiltration of the meeting and of the group itself by NF/BNP types who only serve to lower the tone. Bad blood between Alan Harvey, the London chair, and Gregory Lauder-Frost, the former political secretary of the Monday Club, appeared to sour everything – reflecting what one web poster described as “scenes more redolent of a bear garden than a meeting of a respected Conservative organisation”…

I discussed the follow-up to this a number times, such as here, and culminating here. Harvey also runs a group called the Springbok Club, which at the centre of its own dinner-speaking controversy when Johann Hari noted Andrew Roberts’ involvement with one of its events in 2007.


(1) Lauder-Frost’s dinosaur views have long since fallen out of favour with the Conservative Party, and links between the party and the Monday Club were suspended in 2001. However, conservative libertarianism also came to be seen as a liability by Conservative Central Office; Tebbit closed down the libertarian “loony right” Federation of Conservative Students in the mid-1980s (some activists from which found refuge with the Greater London Young Conservatives), and there were subsequent claims by Tebbit and Keith Smith of a shadowy libertarian faction called “the Movement” which was out to depose Tebbit as a form of revenge.