The watchdog, which keeps a register of all political parties in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, announced the decision on its website on Monday, and said the party had “met the legal criteria” for registration.
In a statement emailed to supporters following the regulator’s decision, Britain First described it as a “stupendous victory” for the movement and confirmed that they would field candidates in future elections as a “fully-fledged political party”.
“Although our street activities will continue, this day marks the birth of Britain First as a traditional political party that will take the fight to the establishment through the ballot box,” they said.
The decision has been met with anger by Twitter users, who have described the group as “grotesque” and “fascist”:
Founded in 2011 by former members of the British National Party, and described as “anti-Islam” and “anti-immigration” by HOPE not hate, Britain First first registered as a political party that same year - according to Electoral Commission records.
It’s now led by Paul Golding, a convicted criminal who was previously a member of the BNP.
While leader, Golding has been at the centre of multiple scandals and convicted of a number of criminal offences, which we have the displeasure of listing for you now.
In 2014, another founding member of Britain First, Jim Dowson, stepped down after the political group carried out what he described as “unchristian” mosque invasions to hand out leaflets and bibles to Muslims – according to a report by The Mirror at the time.
“No matter how many times I told [Golding] I did not want decent Muslims intimidated, he just continued doing it.
“I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I tried, you cannot escape from the fact that the group is being overrun with racists and extremists,” Dowson told the outlet.
The “mosque invasions” later led to an injunction being requested by Bedfordshire Police, as the group had targeted mosques and Muslims in the county.
This ban prohibited Golding from entering any mosque in England and Wales.
Turning their back on Sadiq Khan
While Britain First can now stand in elections again, it wouldn’t be the first time if Golding decided to put his name on the ballot paper, as he stood for the party in the 2014 European Parliament elections, and in the 2016 election for Mayor of London – won by Labour’s Sadiq Khan, of course.
In both elections, Golding only managed to achieve around one per cent of the vote, but it was his reaction to Khan’s mayoral victory which made headlines at the time, after he chose to turn his back on the winner.
Golding told Buzzfeed News at the time that the move – which was mocked online as looking like he needed to urinate on stage – was not racially motivated.
“Racist? I didn’t turn my back around because he’s Asian. I turned my back on his because he’s a vile man. The extreme left lunatic fringe of Labour have taken over with Corbyn,” he said.
Khan was also described as “London’s Islamist mayor” by deputy leader Jayda Fransen, who said in an email to supporters that there is “an increasingly shrinking number of Britons left in the capital overall” and “far too many Muslims”.
We don’t think we need to explain why that’s a load of racist nonsense.
Golding’s campaign for Mayor of London also attracted criticism for using the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby – who was killed in a terrorist attack in 2013 – as part of their party election broadcast.
This was despite Rigby’s family saying in a statement that they had “repeatedly asked” Britain First “not to use Lee’s name to promote their views”.
Religiously aggravated harassment
In 2018, both Fransen and Golding were found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment after distributing leaflets while a gang-rape trial was underway.
Fransen was given a 36-week sentence after she was convicted on three counts, while Golding was handed an 18-week sentence on one charge.
Both were convicted on a joint charge after they banged on the windows and doors of 555 Pizza in Ramsgate in May 2017, with Fransen shouting the words “paedophile” and “foreigner” during the incident.
The debunked ‘Muslims celebrating Paris terror’ video
Just to remind you of how little Britain First care for cold, hard facts, Golding shared a video on Twitter in 2017 of individuals celebrating something, writing: “Oh look, a crowd of ‘moderate’ Muslims celebrating the Paris terror attack in London.”
Except, that wasn’t what they were celebrating at all. Obviously.
The reason they were chanting “Pakistan” was because they were celebrating their team’s victory in a cricket game.
“You numpty,” as one person commented at the time.
The Trump retweets
Back in November 2017, when Fransen and Golding had Twitter accounts, the former made headlines when her tweets were retweeted by then-US president Donald Trump – a move which led to Theresa May’s official spokesman (back when she was prime minister) to say “it is wrong for the President to have done this”.
One of Fransen’s videos claimed to show “Muslim migrants beating up a Dutch boy on crutches”, another was captioned “Muslim destroys statue of Virgin Mary”, and a third read: “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death”.
The retweets came not long after Fransen was arrested over a speech she made in Belfast in August, as part of a demonstration by a group calling themselves Northern Ireland Against Terrorism.
In 2016, the political group were forced to issue a statement amid reports that Thomas Mair, the man who murdered Labour MP Jo Cox during the 2016 referendum campaign, shouted “Britain First” during the attack.
A senior member of the group told ITV’s Rohit Kachroo at the time that Mair was “categorically not a member of Britain First”, while Golding issued a video before Cox’s death saying that Britain First “had nothing to do with it”.
“We would not condone actions like that. We carry out protests and we stand in elections … so that’s the kind of political activities that we carry out.
“Yes, we do direct actions sometimes … but this kind of thing is disgusting. It’s an outrage.
“I hope the person who carried out this heinous crime will get what he deserves,” he said.
Golding’s 2020 terrorism conviction
Oh, and Golding’s been convicted on terrorism charges, too, after he refused to hand over the passwords for his iPhone and Apple computer to police when he was stopped at Heathrow Airport in October 2019.
Golding, along with other members of Britain First, had just come back from Russia, where they carried out media interviews and visited the country’s parliament building in Moscow.
They were stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, but Golding was charged with wilfully refusing to comply with a duty under the law.
He was then found guilty following a trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which saw him handed a nine-month conditional discharge. He was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £21 and £750 in costs.
However, when they appealed to members of the public to send in information about places which could be housing these supposed “illegal immigrants”, pro-migrant groups saw it as an excellent opportunity to carry out some trolling, in what one person described as a “wild goose chase”.
In a video featuring Golding and regional organiser Ashlea Simon, the latter explained that “when we visited these hotels, we were met with empty rooms – no one in the building”.
Libelling the Halal Food Authority
Finally, on the same day that Britain First became a registered political party, Golding and Fransen agreed to pay “substantial damages” to the Halal Food Authority and two of its former employees after they falsely accused them of funding terrorism.
We should mention that Fransen stepped down as deputy leader in 2019, and later that year a secret recording was shared in which she can be heard saying that Golding “tried to come at me, tried to hit me [and] said you were going to kill me and threw a bottle of drink at my face”.
Golding would later say in the recording that “the only girls I lay a finger on in my life is [name withheld] and you”.
When the BBC put these allegations to Golding, he didn’t respond to their specific questions, instead saying “I have been advised to warn you that any libel or defamation will result in legal proceedings.”
We really hope that Britain First’s latest tenure as a registered political party is short-lived, too.
This article was updated on October 27 after we wrongly stated that Golding was a former member of the National Front. He is a former member of the British National Party. We are happy to set the record straight.