As we’ve noted in previous posts and elaborate on in the notes at the bottom of this page, one time top UKIP official and City of London councillor Matthew Richardson is worth looking into because of his personal ties to fellow City politician Edward Lord and national press stories about him and his former Young Britons’ Foundation colleagues. As Richardson is a controversial political figure within City of London politics, we’re also curious to see what happens later this year when he is scheduled to stand down as alderman in the business vote dominated ward of Billingsgate. Should Richardson stand again we hope there will be a contested election. Sadly but predictably the City’s undemocratic political system means elections are frequently uncontested.
While we believe Richardson met all legal requirements with regard to his current register of interests and previous ones, these can still illustrate how difficult it is for both the electorate in the City and the wider public to fully understand such declarations because entries can be opaque. We have previously flagged up a problematic instance of this with regard to the now former City of London councillor Sir Michael Bear. With non-pecuniary interests in particular what these declarations actually represent is sometimes hard to determine. Richardson’s current list of non-pecuniary interests appears straightforward:
Freemasonry (see the notes at the bottom of this page)
St Mary at Hill Parochial Church Council
Society of Computers and Law
Law and Liberty Circle
Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn
Barrister (Bar Council)
It is some of the non-pecuniary interests on a previous declaration by Richardson – published 22 January 2015 – that we’ve struggled to unravel. Items found there but not on his current register are: Christ Freedom Trust, Society of Young Freemen, UKIP, Young Britons’ Foundation, Liberty League. The UKIP and Young Britons’ Foundation entries should require little explanation, we have addressed them in a previous post (and there is more information in the notes at the bottom of this page). The Society of Young Freemen is an organisation primarily aimed at freemen of the City of London aged up to 40. Richardson would have had to become a freeman to stand in City elections and he may have been the youngest person ever elected to the office of alderman. Moving on, we assume Richardson doesn’t belong to the American intercollegiate athletic conference that goes by the Liberty League name, and therefore it would appear he was formerly affiliated to a right-wing neo-liberal ‘young people’ grouping connected to the Adam Smith Institute. The Wikipedia entry on the Adam Smith Institute includes the following about the Liberty League (UK):
The Adam Smith Institute facilitates regular meetings of young people who have interests in free markets and libertarian ideas. These 16- to 30-year olds form a group called The Next Generation (TNG). MPs and prominent media figures are typical guest speakers (for 10-minute speeches) at monthly meetings of The Next Generation. The Liberty League, an affiliated network for groups across the UK, was founded by members of the TNG Committee.
The Liberty League was a UK student organisation in the early 2010s founded by James Lawson, William Hamilton, and Anton Howes to support classical liberalism; its annual Freedom Forum conference was transferred to the Institute.
We’re pretty sure Richardson’s Libery League entry is invoking this group. What we’ve found hardest to figure out is his non-pecuniary interest in the Christ Freedom Trust. We did web searches using this term on various different days and drew a blank for an organisation of that name. The result that came out top for this entry across a variety of search engines was the True Freedom Trust. This organisation belongs to the Evangelical Alliance. Its webpage on beliefs includes the following:
Our vision is to see the Church uphold traditional biblical teaching on sexual relationships and gender with understanding and compassion, so that Christians who struggle with same-sex attractions or gender dysphoria gain increasing acceptance, wholeness and maturity in faith within their local church
Our mission is to teach and encourage individuals, their families and friends as they deal with issues around same-sex attractions and gender dysphoria, working in partnership with Christian leaders and local churches to promote a biblical pattern for gender and sexual relationships
Churches and individual Christians will honour the pattern for gender and sexual relationships established in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 and reinforced throughout the Bible, recognising that any sexual relationship outside of marriage between one man and one woman falls short of God’s plan for His creation.
What the True Freedom Trust appears to do is recruit Christians wrestling with sexual identity issues, tell them that the ‘temptations’ they face are common, that since ‘The Fall’ we are all sinners, and that Jesus loves everyone regardless of whether they experience same sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria or not – but ‘God’ wants them to refrain any sexual activity. The aims of this charity seem to include breaking up same sex relationships and encouraging gay Christians to be celibate.
Neo-conservative propaganda from Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF) a now defunct group in which Matthew Richardson was prominent. After allegations of bullying and sexually inappropriate behaviour centering on another YBF figurehead, Mark Clarke, even the right-wing press began to view such graphics as disturbing. See These conservative posters now look really awkward following allegations of sexual harassment in the Tory party by Jeremy Wilson, Business Insider, 9 December 2015.
If Richardson’s mysterious Christ Freedom Trust entry is a misrendering of True Freedom Trust, then this may deepen our understanding of the ideological motivations behind his 2010 transphobic speech as reported by UK media, as well as his friendship and apparent flat sharing with fellow City councillor and LGBT activist Edward Lord. That said we’re not currently in a position to know one way or another what Richardson’s Christ Freedom Trust entry on his 2015 register of interests actually represents. Search engine results are sometimes quite random and Richardson’s Christ Freedom Trust and the True Freedom Trust may have nothing to do with each other.
The header shows right to left: Donal Blaney, a neo-liberal icon, Andre Walker, Mark Clarke and Matthew Richardson.
Matthew Richardson’s current register of interests at the Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20180731234150/http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/mgDeclarationSubmission.aspx?UID=374&HID=2896&FID=0&HPID=506223826
Wikipedia entry on Adam Smith Institute currently including a passage on the Liberty League (UK): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Smith_Institute
True Freedom Trust ‘beliefs’ page at Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20171015195739/http://truefreedomtrust.co.uk/beliefs
For another take on exactly where Richardson stands ideologically there’s this from Zelo Street:
(Carole) Cadwalladr’s (Guardian/Observer) investigation… (is) joining up of the dots (between the pro-Brexit leave campaigns). So let me point up some of the key names – and suggest a few more which may be of interest.
The article mentions those we knew about: Steve Bannon, Nigel Farage, Arron Banks, Dominic Cummings, and of course businessman Robert Mercer. But this time it pitches one important addition: “It was the general secretary of Ukip, a British lawyer called Matthew Richardson, who effected Leave.eu’s introduction to Cambridge Analytica”.
By bringing in Richardson, who apparently works for the Mercers among others, Ms Cadwalladr inserts another key piece in the jigsaw – and also guarantees the attention of lawyers: Richardson has a reputation for being highly litigious. But why he is key to all of this is that this links directly to not just UKIP, but the Tory Party. And that link is via the now-dormant Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF).
A feature in Slate had already noted the presence of a charitable organisation called the Government Accountability Institute, which paid significant sums to Steve Bannon, and two other Breitbart contributors. Slate tells “The institute was Bannon’s brainchild”.
There is more: “the institute has been closely tied through personnel and donations to a network of nonprofit organizations that have pushed a conservative agenda … The institute received nearly $4 million in donations between 2012 and 2014 from two conservative charities – Donors Trust and the Mercer Family Foundation”.
Mercer again. According to the WaPo, “The institute’s board of directors included Rebekah Mercer”. She is Robert Mercer’s daughter. And, wait for it, “Institute director Ron Robinson is the longtime president of Young America’s Foundation”. This is where it begins to get interesting: the YAF inspired the YBF and its main man Donal Blaney.
The YBF was intimately involved in the Tory Party bullying scandal, one reason being that the group has in the past made itself indispensable to the Tories by being the one body that could provide and train significant numbers of young activists. By doing so, its more ideologically pure conservatism – virulently anti-EU, pro-US right wing, pro-guns, and very much pro-small state – was gradually injected into the Tories’ body politic.
Richardson was an alumnus of the YBF. Also from that circle, and joining UKIP at around the same time, was Breitbart’s Raheem Kassam, former bag carrier to Farage and present in the group photo taken in the golden lift at the Trump Tower.
Also an alumnus of the YBF, and in receipt of their Golden Dolphin award – until he became too hot to handle even for the Tories – was Mark Clarke, another key name in the Tory bullying saga. Bring in the YAF and YBF and a lot more names come into play.
The YBF has got its alumni into Government and the whole range of media organisations – lobby groups, the press, PR firms. One key part of its training agenda is media training: the use of the soundbite-perfect pundit to leverage the right-wing presence.
And it also got some of those alumni into the Leave campaign. This is not to suggest that all of those organisations mentioned are part of some vast conspiracy, but to show the reach of The New Conservatism, how it links in to those actors in the Leave campaign, and through to the Trump Gang and those bent on shoring it up.
Carole Cadwalladr has identified the tip of a very large iceberg. As with all such entities, the part below the surface is infinitely more interesting. Her article talks about following the data: but as ever, one should also follow the money.
Brexit – Keep Following The Money by Tim Fenton, Zelo Street, 14 May 2017.
Read the full Zelo Street piece here: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2017/05/brexit-keep-following-money.html
And an older tabloid take on Richardson and those closely associated with him:
The ‘Tatler Tory’ scandal took a new turn last night after it emerged that Mark Clarke and his cronies are Freemasons.
They are members of the Phoenix Lodge, based in Wandsworth, South London, where Clarke lives – and meet there to hatch political plots….
Other Phoenix Freemasons include Clarke’s henchman Andre Walker. Walker helped Clarke bully Elliott Johnson, before the activist took his own life. He also tried to trap one of Clarke’s female Tory foes into being caught on camera snorting cocaine.
Ukip general secretary Matthew Richardson, another close friend of Clarke’s, is a former Worshipful Master of Phoenix Lodge.
As an Oxford student, Mr Richardson set up an online forum where people could post gossip anonymously– until it was shut down amid legal threats…
Fellow Phoenix Freemason Donal Blaney runs the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward, where Mr Johnson worked. He was one of Clarke’s closest friends – until he disowned him as a ‘narcissistic sociopath’ after a recent fall-out.
Tatler Tory’s Freemason cronies: Mark Clarke goes to the same lodge as councillor who formerly worked for law firm chosen to conduct inquiry into bullying scandal by Simon Walters, The Mail on Sunday, 5 December 2015.
According to an old register of interests, Richardson’s friend, fellow City of London councillor and it seems one time flatmate, Edward Lord, is also a member of the Pheonix Lodge at which their (Lord’s) chum was – if The Mail is to be believed – once Worshipful Master. There is more than one Phoenix Lodge but it seems fairly clear the Tatler Tory circle didn’t belong to Phoenix Lodge 94 in Sunderland and that The Mail have got some details wrong in their cribbed story. Lord provides the number 173 for their (Lord’s) Phoenix Lodge and this branch meets in the Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden according to the UK government’s National Archives website and various masonic websites. We’ve no idea why The Mail thinks this Phoenix Lodge convenes in Wandsworth when it is clearly identified as lodge 173 in a Byline.com piece that appeared the day before their cribbed article. Byline suggests Harry Cole (until 2015 a part of the hard right Guido Fawkes blog) and Paul Abbott from the same neo-conservative political circle may also be Phoenix Lodge 173 freemasons. See EXCLUSIVE – “Worse than Militant”- The Gang of Four caught in Tory Bullying Allegations, with Freemasonry links by Nick Mutch, Byline, 4 December 2015: https://www.byline.com/project/30/article/645
Typically sexist Young Britons’ Foundation ad.
Further insight into Richardson’s political milieu might be gleaned from this broadsheet report:
The Independent can reveal the inside story of how Mr (Roger) Bird was pushed out (of Ukip) – amid claims from his allies that he was doomed before the (sexual harassment) scandal erupted, having made enemies two of the most powerful figures in Ukip – party secretary Matthew Richardson and treasurer Andrew Reid,
These men are said to have taken exception to the successful internal reforms he established after his promotion to one of the party’s most senior positions last July.
Ukip officials also failed to tell Mr Bird the company that carried out the investigation into the sexual harassment claims, HRx Consultancy Services, is closely connected to a leading Tory activist.
The firm is run by Victoria Walker, the sister of former Tory councillor Donal Blaney, who is not only chief executive of both The Margaret Thatcher Centre and campaign group Conservative Way Forward, but also co-founder of Young Britons’ Foundation (YBF), which has close links to US neoconservatives.
Mr Blaney, 40, who has described YBF as “a Conservative madrasa” that radicalises young Tories, is also the head of Kent-based Griffin Law where Mrs Walker, 36, works as a HR consultant in addition to her work at HRx. Mrs Walker led the investigation into Mr Bird.
Sex, power, and the truth about the scandal that rocked Ukip: Far from losing his job as general secretary because of his affair with the party’s poster girl, Roger Bird was the victim of internal enemies by Paul Gallagher, The Independent, 9 January 2015.
Read the full Independent piece here: https://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/sex-power-and-the-truth-about-the-scandal-that-rocked-ukip-9969180.html
Young Britons’ Foundation propaganda – where did the money for it come from and was it money well spent?
For more on the Young Britons’ Foundation propaganda posters (including the one beneath which uses a Conservative Scottish referendum campaign slogan) see Young Tories group linked to bullying scandal used sexy posters to attract young Conservatives by Mikey Smith, Daily Mirror, 8 December 2015.
The following extracted from a Hope Not Hate report places Matthew Richardson’s UKIP activities in an international context:
BREITBART LONDON: UKIP, BREXIT AND BEYOND
Since its establishment in February 2014, Breitbart London – the UK wing of central alt-light outlet Breitbart News Network – has been intimately tied to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Steve Bannon, a co-founder of Breitbart and its executive chair from March 2012, entered the intellectual centre of the Trump administration when he was appointed White House Chief Strategist following the election, though, as of August 2017, he has returned to his former position at Breitbart.
In a speech to the Human Dignity Institute in the Vatican, Bannon described UKIP as a constituent part of a “global Tea Party”, an amalgamation of populist right-wing movements geared towards overturning established political powers such as the European Union (EU) and protecting “Judeo-Christian” values against radical Islam.
Bannon made clear in a New York Times interview that the establishment of Breitbart London was accelerated to support a “nascent European Tea Party” before the May 2015 elections.
However, whilst it has proved highly successful in terms of undermining the EU, UKIP is imperfect for Bannon’s vision of an anti-establishment, anti-Islam party. Its core principle of Euroscepticism means the party includes both illiberal, anti-immigration, populists and free-market former Tories uninterested in being part of what Bannon described as a “front” in “our current cultural and political war”.
In order to realise this vision, under Bannon’s willing apprentice, Raheem Kassam, Breitbart London has engaged in a tireless crusade to nudge UKIP into ever-more hardline territory. In doing so, Breitbart London has exacerbated existing rifts within the party which is now in a tailspin towards far-right marginality and potential oblivion.
A new radical right vehicle, founded by UKIP’s former largest donor Arron Banks and headed by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, is now poised to sweep UKIP aside and it will be Breitbart that provides it engine power.
According to The Spectator, Bannon ﬁrst gained a toehold in UKIP via its then-General Secretary, Matthew Richardson, who had spent two years developing contacts for UKIP in Washington.
Richardson also introduced the young, radically right- wing reporter Raheem Kassam to UKIP ﬁgurehead Nigel Farage and the pair quickly became friends. Bannon hired Kassam to head Breitbart’s newly created London ofﬁce in December 2013.
From the outset, Breitbart London’s output has been unwaveringly pro-Farage and received frequent contributions from the upper echelons of the party. The outlet also relentlessly associates Islam and immigration with social degradation and, while Breitbart London’s readership is small compared with that of its American parent, its content has ensured that it is read by a signiﬁcant portion of younger UKIP activists, effectively creating a bubble within which its xenophobic message has taken root.
Such obsequious coverage clearly helped curry favour with Farage, who, in late 2014, hired Kassam. In September of that year, Kassam organised a trip to the USA with Richardson that included events hosted by Breitbart.
Farage was already close friends with Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund billionaire (and future Trump donor) who has donated $10m to Breitbart News Network. This trip helped Farage establish his own links with Bannon.
GENERAL ELECTION 2015
Shortly after the trip, Farage appointed Kassam as a senior advisor and he quickly set about importing Breitbart’s toxic campaign style into UKIP’s 2015 general election effort.
Kassam has been widely held responsible for steering Farage towards more combative and xenophobic messaging and policy during the campaign, for example, referring to a “ﬁfth column” of Muslims in the UK and deploying statistics about foreigners with HIV in order to provoke political commentators and outrage UKIP’s core vote. Breitbart London provided constant positive coverage to such tactics.
In March 2015, Farage travelled to the USA to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of American conservative activists, and received a glowing introduction from Breitbart’s US editor-in-chief Alexander Marlow who stated: “Breitbart London is here to track a revolt, and it’s against the political establishment and the global elites. And that revolt is being led by a party called UKIP and a man named Nigel Farage”.
Farage’s appearance at CPAC and his increasingly inﬂammatory tactics alarmed and alienated large numbers of more moderate party ofﬁcials. After UKIP failed to win a single seat in the election, vicious inﬁghting erupted between the hardline Faragists and the more moderate faction led by the party’s only MP, Douglas Carswell.
Kassam was dropped from his ofﬁcial position within the party and upon his return to Breitbart London began ruthlessly to attack what he described as the “Red UKIP team”. In June 2015, Kassam announced Farage as a new Breitbart London columnist.
The International Alternative Right: From Charlottesville to the White House by Dr Joe Mulhall, David Lawrence, Simon Murdoch with additional research by Abigail Simmonds (Hope Not Hate, Hatfield 2017, page 48). The form for receiving a downloadable version of the full report is at the bottom of the following page once you’ve click into it: https://alternativeright.hopenothate.com/