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Colin Jordan: Leading figure in British fascism

Colin Jordan, who has been described as the grandfather of post-war National Socialism in Britain, was an ardent admirer of Hitler who for decades carried the flag for Nazism. Despite his long devotion to the cause, few rallied to his standard. His decades of activism none the less made him a prominent figure in the ultra-right undergrowth which included the National Front, British National Party and a myriad of other groups.

Jordan was a member of many of these and an opponent of many more, since the far-right proved at least as vehemently schismatic as the left, and has been riven with often bitter splits over personalities, policies and tactics. Jordan was at the heart of one such rift when he broke with one-time associate John Tyndall over what they said were policy differences. The widespread belief, however, was that the real reason was that Jordan married the jailed Tyndall's ex-fiancée.

She was Françoise Dior, an eccentric niece of the famous designer Christian Dior. She was as fervently Nazi as Jordan: as part of their marriage ceremony they cut their fingers and mingled their blood over a copy of Mein Kampf. Although she said she wanted to "give birth to a little Nazi", they had no children, and after a few years of marriage she ran off with a teenager. At one point she was charged with arson attacks on synagogues.

The Jordan-Tyndall fall-out meant that two of the major figures in the ultra-right camp were permanently estranged from each other. Both struggled unsuccessfully to make inroads beyond the most extreme fringes, and never managed to establish any significant electoral foothold.

Jordan was involved with an entire lexicon of micro-groups, ranging from the League of Empire Loyalists to the British Movement, and from the National Socialist Movement to the White Defence League. He also formed attachments with neo-Nazi elements on the continent and in the US. One of his groups, Spearhead, was a paramilitary outfit which in the early 1960s landed him in prison for one of his spells behind bars. He had been observed taking part in military manoeuvres by police, who seized Nazi flags and portraits, pistols, knives, helmets and other paraphernalia. On one container of chemicals the words "weed-killer" had been replaced with "Jew-killer".

Jordan and several others were sent to jail. He was locked up again in 1965 under strengthened race-relations laws after he issued a pamphlet, The Coloured Invasion, in which he railed against blacks, Asians and immigration. He made many court appearances following rallies and protests, and for the dissemination of literature said to incite racist hatred. At one point the cabinet discussed banning one of his demonstrations, with deputy prime minister Rab Butler saying the government "must do something", but it was allowed to go ahead.

The son of a postman, Jordan was educated at Warwick School and at Cambridge, where he took a history degree. His mentor was Arnold Leese, a right-winger who before the war had quarrelled with Sir Oswald Mosley, whom he denounced as "kosher fascist". Later on Mosley was to jeer at Jordan and similar figures as "pygmies posing in the jackboots of dead giants".

While at Cambridge Jordan formed what he called a nationalist club. Later he taught mathematics at a secondary school, but lost the job because of his activism. In the years that followed he attacked immigration and "Jewish control" of politics, business and the media. In his scheme of things democracy was "a master method to deter people from any critical appraisal of the Jews". He declared: "Democracy is death".

Annoyed by such pronouncements Denis Healey, while Secretary of State for Defence, once punched him at a public meeting as Jordan and others sought to push the immigration issue during by-elections.

But Hitler – "this wondrous man" – was always Jordan's primary focus. He asserted that there was "no reliable evidence whatsoever" that six million perished in the Holocaust. His attachment went far beyond mere hero-worship, extending into the realms of spirituality. Discounting Jesus as "the counterfeit Christ of the Christians", Jordan described Hitler as "messiah" and "saviour", and as a seer and priest who brought a "message of salvation". In a 1989 essay he declared: "The crucifixion of his creed was by the spears of baleful war alone, devoid of higher sanction from any worthier creed. His was the spiritual victory." He went on to forecast Hitler's "resurrection" as "the spiritual conqueror of the future".

With few takers for such a vision, Jordan faded in his leadership role in the far-right underworld, though he continued to write books and pamphlets and at no point showed any sign of moderating his views. His credibility was further damaged by a court appearance on a charge of stealing three pairs of red knickers from Tesco's; he was found guilty and fined £50.

Jordan's writing landed him in court once again in 2001 when he faced charges of publishing material likely to stir up racial hatred. He brought into court a large box marked: "Freedom is in peril – defend it with all your might." The judge ruled that, at the age of 78, he was unfit to stand trial because of a serious heart condition.

Two years ago he issued an appeal for far-right unity and an end to the toxic in-fighting in which he had participated for so many years. "Whatever tiny chance remains at this very late hour for National Racial survival and revival depends on acting in unison", he wrote. The far right must, he said, "make the essential ascent from that pettiness of vision and spirit, with all its attendant squabbling, which has been the curse of British nationalism and the joy and benefit of our opponents." His partner Julianna Safrany survives him.

David McKittrick

John Colin Campbell Jordan, far-right activist: born Birmingham 19 June 1923; married 1963 Françoise Dior (marriage dissolved 1967); died Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire 9 April 2009.