Tory chairman spoke to far-right meeting

Jo Dillon,Political Correspondent
Sunday 21 October 2001 00:00
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David Davis, the Tory Party chairman, is among a number of senior Tories who have addressed a hard-right group with links to the British National Party, despite the Tories' efforts to distance themselves from right-wing groups.

Mr Davis spoke to the Swinton Circle, set up by devotees of Enoch Powell who backed his views on immigration, in February 2001, four months before the general election. He has defended his decision to speak at the meeting, held in the House of Commons, despite deciding to sever links between the Conservative Party and the right-wing Monday Club last week.

According to sources at Searchlight, the anti-Fascist magazine, the Swinton Circle is "on a par with the Monday Club when it comes to anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiments".

The Swinton Circle describes itself as a "House of Commons-based cultural Conservative pressure group for the maintenance of traditional Conservative and Unionist principles". It says its members are "campaigning to dismantle the BBC" and reverse the "lurch to the left" in the modern Conservative Party, and calls the British National Party a "breakaway party" from the Conservatives.

On immigration and asylum, a recent newsletter said: "Blair's widely advertised 'Bribes for Votes' policies have caused an asylum invasion." Another, dated May 2001, calls the decision by the Conservative Party to sign up to the Commission for Racial Equality's pledge against racism during the election campaign as "sheer folly".

In an associated publication – Tough Talking From the Right – the Swinton Circle backed Iain Duncan Smith as Tory leader because "he is pro-capital punishment and he demonstrated his opposition to libertinism by voting against the age of homosexual consent being reduced from 21 and he has also opposed legalising cannabis."

Mr Davis spoke to the Swinton Circle on 6 February. Other Tories believed to have addressed the group include frontbench spokesman Bill Cash.

On Thursday, Mr Davis suspended the hard-right Monday Club from the Conservative Party, warning it would only be readmitted if it stopped campaigning on immigration.

The move was part of a drive led by Iain Duncan Smith to bring the Conservative Party back into mainstream politics and lessen its right-wing image.

A Tory spokesman said: "Our judgement is that we don't regard the Swinton Circle as being in the same category as the Monday Club. As part of the review of groups associated with the Conservative Party – and the association with the party is pretty loose – we have looked into other groups besides the Monday Club and we don't think there is a problem with the Swinton Circle."

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