December 8, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

The National Front in Bradford in the 70s

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In 1976, the National Front held a major march through Bradford that ended in a battle with anti-fascists and proved to be their high water mark in the city

In the 1970s, the National Front saw Bradford as a fertile recruiting ground. In the video above is footage of an NF demonstration in Bradford in 1976 – a year that saw many violent racist attacks against Asian Britons.

Bradford is a city I know well having been involved in some community-based projects there. Today it’s a mix of white working class, Asian heritage and eastern European communities. Back in the 1970s, the NF organised a ‘British Campaign to Stop Immigration‘ targeting the growth of the Asian British population.

These were people who had come from Pakistan mainly, which had formerly been part Indian Raj – the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. After independence in 1947, many people came to Britain to work in the mills and factories encouraged by the British government, which wanted to fill labour gaps after the Second World War.

Tension grew in the 1970s with the collapse of traditional manufacturing industries – that had employed both Asian and white workers – and a new influx of Asians from Kenya and then Uganda. The Ugandan Asians were expelled by that country’s unstable dictator, Idi Amin.

Many Ugandan Asians brought their business acumen to Britain and today form the bedrock of the business community in cities like Leicester. But in the 1970s, there was tremendous angst that was stoked by groups like the National Front.

DISCOVER: Anti-Nazi League carnival in 1978

They decided to march through Bradford mirroring similar provocative demonstrations in other cities. The resulting stand off between the NF and anti-fascist demonstrators was dubbed the ‘Battle of Bradford’. Looking back, it was the high water mark for the NF in that city.

The National Front speaker that day in Bradford was their taciturn leader John Tyndall – whose written outpourings in the 1960s had been explicitly pro-Nazi and Tyndall had also been photographed wearing a uniform that looked suspiciously Nazi.

As the National Front imploded after the 1979 general election, some of the Bradford activists made their way into the British National Party while others, of a more violent disposition, joined Combat 18.

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