‘Britain First’: Telegraph recycles fascist slogan with terrible history

This is a good lesson in how not to debate the European Union


It’s not every morning you see political extremism of a kind the prime minister often warns about plastered on the front of a newspaper.

Yet this morning’s Telegraph manages to serve up a slogan straight from the 1930s in today’s gripping headline:

Telegraph 9 10 15

‘Britain First’ is not only the name of a neo-fascist group of ex-British National Party types currently filling the market hole provided by that party’s implosion.

It also featured in the masthead of The Blackshirt, a newspaper produced by Oswald Mosely’s Nazi-supporting British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.


The slogan was later nabbed by the America First Committee in the United States, whose spokesman Charles Lindbergh famously accused ‘the Jewish’ of trying to drag America into World War II.

It’s worth noting that the phrase ‘Britain first’ or ‘Time to put Britain first again’ does not appear anywhere in the Telegraph’s story – not in the quotes, nor in the related article by Joe Foster, co-founder of Reebok and funder of the ‘Out’ campaign in the coming EU referendum.

Yet there it is in the Telegraph’s front page headline, in quotation marks.

One hopes the paper was not aware of its sordid historic and present associations.

As the prime minister meets with German chancellor Angela Merkel today to discuss EU reforms, campaigners on all sides should take note:

Recycling a fascist slogan, consciously or otherwise, is the worst possible way to debate membership of the European Union.

And if this is the only way to express your argument, perhaps there is something rotten about it.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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26 Responses to “‘Britain First’: Telegraph recycles fascist slogan with terrible history”

  1. GhostofJimMorisson

    MediaWatch: taking barrel-scraping to new levels.

  2. screaminkid

    Our Veterans must b horrified and our dead WWI&II defenders must b spinning in their graves at the Telegraphs ultimate BETRAYAL of encouraging this FASCISTS reemergence from the primordial Slime?

  3. Cole

    Not at all. It shows how dim and uninformed Telegraph journalists must be. Or they’re just insensitive.

  4. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    Would you care to explain precisely how is it ‘barrel-scraping’ to point out that the Telegraph is echoing fascist sentiments?
    Why do you think this is not worthy of comment?

  5. GhostofJimMorisson

    If you honestly think the Telegraph is echoing genuine fascist sentiment, or is in any way, shape or form, a fascist newspaper, then you are delusional beyond help. Because, obviously, when the Telegraph decided to put the two words ‘Britain’ and ‘first’ together, they should, of course, have remembered that particular article from Blackshirt magazine, written over 70 years ago. How silly of them!

  6. GhostofJimMorisson

    The headline and article in question concerns Britain and the EU. It had nothing to do with fascism, or that bunch of pillocks on Facebook of the same name. You want to talk about being insensitive? How must the families of the victims of IRA murderers feel when Corybn and McDonnell were defending acts of terrorism? How must Britain’s Jews feel when Corbyn refers to Hamas – a group committed to the annihilation of Israel and the extermination of all Jews – as his friends? Pretty bloody insensitive, wouldn’t you say?

  7. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    Whether it means to not, the Telegraph is undeniably echoing Fascist sentiment – and it is delusional beyond help to deny that. Of course I don’t believe that the Telegraph is a genuinely fascist newspaper – it’s just an obnoxiously right-wing one. However, it’s journalists would have to be singularly ill-educated not to have spotted the connection. After all, it should be familiar to anyone with the slightest acquaintance with British politics in the 1930s – hardly the most outre of subjects.

  8. GhostofJimMorisson

    If I was so inclined – if I could really be arsed – I believe I could quite easily find an example of some far-left rag echoing Nazi sentiment; something along the lines of anti-democracy or state ownership. I’m reasonably familiar with British politics in the 1930s, and I know the similarities between fascists and the far left.

  9. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    So, we don’t need to worry that the Telegraph is ecoing fascist sentiment because you suppose that – if you could be arsed – you could find an example of some far-left rag echoing Nazi sentiment. Oh good, that’s fine then.

    Incidntally, good luck finding a far-left rag which enjoys a readership of more than a couple of hundred.

  10. Reconstruct

    God, that’s pitiful.


    It is the duty of all elected politicians to put their country first and that should include the electorate.
    Maybe if Corbyn had spent less time sucking down to islamic fascists and Irish Republicans he would have gained more respect. His past will not go away.

  12. GhostofJimMorisson

    Why should we worry? You said it yourself, the Telegraph is not a fascist newspaper. Personally, I’m more concerned about the behaviour of some of the protesters in Manchester last weekend. One Jewish Tory was alleged to have been told to ‘fuck off back to Auswitz’. I accept that Corbyn cannot be held responsible for this dispicable behaviour, though his anti Israel, pro Hamas stance does him no favours in attracting anti-Semites.

  13. Henry Page

    But there hasn’t been ONE Labour leader that you lot have not insulted, harassed or conducted a press vendetta against … so I think this sort of comment is biased beyond reason.

  14. Henry Page

    Just remember that Churchill’s brainchild, the EU, has seen Europe free of major conflict (within the EU) and if that takes ‘putting the EU first’ then I for one am all for it.

  15. Duckman

    This is a ridiculous accusation. This is a fallacious on many accounts. Firstly, it is a fallacy of strawman as it misrepresents the Telegraph’s headlines. Secondly, it is fallacious because it is an assertion that because X said Y; Y was said by F; F was evil therefore X is evil. A similar idea is that because North Korea asserts itself as the democratic people’s republic of Korea it must be because it says so.

  16. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    Do you not consider that the inflammatory language of a handful of marginalised protestors is rather less concerning than the inflammatory language of a national daily newspaper?

  17. Cole

    I agree with you about Corbyn, as it happens. But the Telegraph headline was crass. Probably written by some ignoramus who knows nothing about history.

  18. GhostofJimMorisson

    To suggest that Europe would descend into WW3 should the EU dissolve is hysterical nonsense.

  19. GhostofJimMorisson

    Crass maybe; but fascistic? No

  20. GhostofJimMorisson

    Marginalised? Don’t make me laugh! Most of these ‘protesters’ are white, middle class, well educated.

  21. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    What is it that you’ve got against education? And has it not occurred to you that the readership of the Telegraph is predominantly white and middle class?

  22. Henry Page

    The only hysterical nonsense is your comment. May I suggest that you look at the number of conflicts between what are now the EU states from 1800 to 1945 and then look at the period 1946 to 2015. Churchill certainly believed it, even if you don’t (or don’t want to). Go to this web page: http://www.churchill-society-london.org.uk/astonish.html

  23. CJW111

    Corbyn and Mosely, ideological bedfellows.

  24. Serf

    It’s time to put people first and this means a total ban on any and all future unaccountable, unfair, undemocratic, secretive and authoritarian agreements in the form of TISA (Trade In Services Agreement), TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), CETA being an agreement between Canada and EU.

    TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA allow multinational corporations, private companies and the rich ruling elite to sue nation states, organisations and people for failing to open up public services to private business and the market as this prevents the private sector from generating immense private profits from the taxpayer and government subsidies. Governments and other public service providers that want to provide and maintain publicly funded and accountable public services such as nationalised industries and transport, postal services and publicly funded healthcare such as NHS and welfare state will be forbidden from keeping these services publicly funded and controlled by TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA.

    Global trade agreements such as TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA are secret, unaccountable and are permanently binding without any democratic oversight or public participation. TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA and other agreements of this type are also against the continued provision of basic human rights such as access to clean safe drinking water. The EU parliament fully supports TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA and therefore the only way for people in the UK to avoid this is to vote to leave the EU (Brexit) and then to elect a government that that will not agree to TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA.

    John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are globalists that fully support the EU, TISA, TTIP, TPP and CETA and have been responsible for 18 of 36 years of the neoliberal policies of Thatcherism, privatisation, deregulation, market forces and reduced welfare state.





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