This week, BBC Three aired a documentary entitled We Want Our Contrary Back, which saw film director Miles Blayden-Ryall follow the leadership of far-right party Britain First on the streets of the UK. Saturated with the cries of protestors, neo-fascists, police officers and religious zealots, the hour-long documentary is the most detailed and focussed examination of the anti-Islamization party to date.
Britain First is a new brand in far-right politics. The undisputed face of the party is its deputy leader, 29-year-old Jayda Fransen. With a woman at the helm, and with an online following bigger than any mainstream UK party, Britain First affirms its conviction that it can and will become a major force in British politics as it seeks to combat the Islamization of Britain and to defend traditional Christian culture. The leader of the party is Paul Golding, himself only 33, who resigned from his role as BNP press officer to join Fransen’s burgeoning movement.
To prove just how popular their movement is, Fransen and Golding take the presenter for a drive around Luton and Rotherham, where they hand out leaflets and invite members of the public to air their grievances against local Muslim populations. That’s the acceptable face of Britain First – but Blayden-Ryall captures a darker, more primitive side to our couple when they get into a battle of wits with two men in a Luton shopping street. Golding urges the two men, both Pakistani Muslims and visibly so, to ‘go back to the desert’. Threats of violence are exchanged, but in the end the two factions part ways. Fransen insists that she and Golding were simply ‘giving as good as they got’, refusing to shy away from confrontation. The quick and cheap resort to racism, however, hardly spoke of a party leadership whose interest was solely in promoting religious heritage and shunning extremism. Instead, they came across as bigoted thugs – and, given their support base, that’s hardly a surprise.
The documentary sets out to address a question: has the British public really become so intolerant that it will get behind a party with such extreme views? The resounding answer after watching this documentary is negative. That’s in part because there was a very obvious and explicit anti-Britain First bias at every moment of the programme. That much is understandable, given the abhorrent and uncomfortable sentiments expressed by the leadership on camera, and their strange attempts to ‘de-Halal’ all restaurants in the UK by a grassroots campaign of visiting every known Halal restaurant across the country and insisting that the proprietors stop using Halal meat within 7 days pending a return visit from some Britain First heavies. The convictions of Fransen in particular bordered on the maniacal when she discussed her mission from God to defend Western European Christendom. The programme ends with our couple depicted as isolated, disenfranchised souls anxious to insist that their problem is not with brown-skinned people: it’s with Islam. The problem is, of course, that their actions speak louder than words. There is no shortage of racism captured by Blayden-Ryall to put Britain First to shame.
We Want Our Country Back can be lined up next to masses of other output on race and religious diversity that BBC3 has been making over the last few months. The rise of the BBC3 documentary is a distinctive phenomenon with its own ‘edgy’ style. The presenter, almost always fresh-faced and under 35, presents themselves as uninformed about the subject as the audience is taken to be. So audience and presenter walk arm-in-arm on a journey of discovery together. Besides the obvious charges of condescension and presumed ignorance among the youth, these documentaries do seem to be enjoying popularity on iPlayer. And they are, at any rate, getting people talking about issues that, for too long, have been deemed toxic by the BBC, and have allowed people like Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding to ride on a wave of conspiracy.