Members of UK House of Lords accused of collaborating with far-right activists

LONDON: An enquiry conducted by a UK-based advocacy group has claimed that some members of the House of Lords were alleged to have collaborated with far-right Islamophobes.

The anti-facist group, Hope not Hate, obtained secret documents that suggested the involvement of British businessman and former leader of the UK Independence Party, Malcolm Pearson, and Baroness Caroline Cox, a crossbench member of the House of Lords, with far-right activists.

Describing the classified documents as “pretty terrifying,” the group’s research director, Joe Mulhall, said: “Our investigation found members of the House of Lords collaborating with far-right Islamophobes.”

The Guardian reported on Saturday that, based on the documents, a secretive organisation called New Issues Group that includes Pearson and Cox and allegedly collaborates with far-right activists, has been operating out of the House of Lords for over a decade.

Although she admits that the group exists, Cox, however, denied that NIG was anti-Muslim.

“It was a meeting of people who support the aims of my bill,” Cox said, referring to a private members’ bill, first introduced in 2011. Her bill reportedly aimed to protect Muslim women in Britain from Shariah law. “I have strong support from Muslim women,” she added.

Maintaining that it was wrong to describe the group by anti-Muslim, Pearson elaborated that NIG’s “main purpose has been to support Cox’s bill.”

On the other hand, the secret papers further suggest that NIG tried to influence the UK parliament by writing questions to be asked in the House of Lords.

Explaining why details about NIG’s existence had not emerged until now and why it had no digital tracks, Mulhall said the group members were constantly reminded of complete secrecy. Founded in 2012, the NIG met as recently as January.

It was disclosed after Pearson sent an email to 235 people and accidently sent it so that everyone could see the entire list instead of bcc-ing them.

Pearson said in his email that Islam was a vast subject that if they attempted to discuss it in public they would be accused of Islamophobia.

“Our MPs are too frightened of the growing Muslim vote to discuss it. Several of my fellow peers jeer when I raise it in the Lords,” Pearson wrote in his email.

When asked about the email, he said it was about “Islamism, political Islam, and radical Islam, which I think we should be allowed to discuss without being labelled Islamophobic.”

According to a 2013 meeting’s minutes, it was alleged that Anne Marie Waters – who in 2016 set up the UK branch of the anti-Islam group Pegida with Tommy Robinson – was asked if she would help draft a question for Cox to ask in the Lords.

Cox declined to comment on the claims regarding Waters.

Minutes of a 2016 meeting said: “Following February’s NIG meeting, MP (Pearson) tabled a number of written parliamentary questions,” which covered Shariah financing, grooming in the English town of Rotherham, and counter-extremism strategy.

Pearson claimed that he drafted the questions by himself, elaborating that the topics raised were “important.”

Alan Craig, a former UKIP spokesperson, was alleged to have also been a member of the group. He labelled himself as a “social conservative by conviction,” denying he was far-right.