A protester who interrupted Jacob Rees Mogg giving a speech has warned that “national conservatism” is divisive and has some core tenets of fascism.
Dirk Campbell, 72, walked up to the stage of the National Conservatism conference in Westminster where Jacob Rees Mogg was speaking and said, “I would like to draw your attention to a few characteristics of fascism”, before security bundled him off stage.
Campbell, a member of Extinction Rebellion, told Novara Media, “We are being asked […] to romanticise nationhood. That’s what a lot of the speeches were about.
“This is actually a core definition of fascism, and everything that follows from that is that we are asked to give up our individual self determination in favour of the nation.
“I don’t like rightwing politics. I think it’s exclusive. And exclusivism leads to blaming, shaming, othering and scapegoating.”
Campbell is the father of Anna Campbell, an anti-fascist martyr who was killed by Turkish air strikes while fighting against the Islamic State in north-west Syria with the Kurdish Women’s Defense Units (YPJ). He said his knowledge of the experience of the Kurdish people has driven his concern about nationalism.
“The attacks by Turkey are very much case in point,” he said. “The Turks regard the Kurds as an existential threat, because of [President] Erdogan’s propaganda, whereas in fact they’re not at all. But it’s a very useful motif in order to create a sort of spurious unity in a governed people to make them hate and fear another group of people.
“And as I started off by saying [to the NatCon crowd], I’m sure you’re all very nice people. You look lovely to me. But you need to consider where this is heading.”
The conference, taking place until Wednesday, is hosted by the Edmund Burke Foundation, “a new public affairs institute dedicated to developing a revitalised conservatism for the age of nationalism already upon us”, based in Washington DC in the US.
A statement of principles promoted by the event organisers says, “No nation can long endure without humility and gratitude before God”, decries “ever more radical forms of sexual license and experimentation” and calls for “much more restrictive policies” on migration.
Miriam Cates, Conservative MP for Peniston and Stocksbridge, gave a speech at the conference in which she said “cultural Marxism” is “destroying our children’s souls”. Cultural Marxism is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik used in his manifesto.
On Monday, after Rees-Mogg’s speech was interrupted, XR activists also interrupted the speech of home secretary Suella Braverman.
Novara Media and other leftwing outlets were not given passes to the conference despite hosting a number of speakers who purport to promote free speech.
Campbell was removed from the meeting but managed to get back in, before deciding he couldn’t take listening to Rees-Mogg speak any more.
“They forgot to take my lanyard off me, so I put it in my pocket, went round the front, put it back on and went back in,” Campbell said.
“I sat in a different seat and then one of the security men eventually came over to me and sat down next to me and said, ‘I appreciate your bravery and I’m just doing my job and could we have a chat?’”
“I knew he was just going to take me out for the second time and take my lanyard off. Eventually, I couldn’t stomach any more of Jacob Rees-Mogg. So I said, ‘I’m going out’.”
The Edmund Burke Foundation has been approached for comment.
Update, 18 May 2023: A previous version of this article said that Anna Campbell fought with the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) rather than the YPJ. This has been corrected.
Simon Childs is a commissioning editor and reporter for Novara Media.