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The Freedom Association (TFA) is a right-wing British pressure group. They combine conservative and libertarian positions, generally favouring small government except when it comes to defence spending. They also oppose "statist" institutions such as the BBC and European Union. As with many right-wing libertarian organisations they are notably less keen on things like workers' rights and gay rights. They also include some climate change denialists.
In the past they opposed sanctions against apartheid South Africa and campaigned against the largely Asian workforce in the Grunwick dispute, and several members had strong Powellite sympathies, leading to suspicions that they might have been a little bit racist. All long, long ago...
They oppose or formerly opposed:
- Membership of the European Union
- The television licence (and they think the BBC's full of lefties)
- Sugar tax and other sin taxes
- Taxation in general
- Trade unions
- Superinjunctions and legal restrictions on free speech (fair enough)
- The Provisional IRA (again, fair enough)
- Mohammed Fayed (supporting disgraced MP Neil Hamilton in his legal action against Fayed)
- Compulsory ID cards (although some supporters had been in favour)
- Benefits scroungers
They support or supported:
- Apartheid in South Africa
- White Rhodesia
- Strong national defence
- Libel law reform (strengthening freedom of the press)
- The Magna Carta (possibly reflecting an interest in feudalism)
- Bribe-taking but comical Tory MPs (Neil Hamilton at least)
- Giving away council houses
They're ambivalent about:
- Gay marriage (some of their governing council voted against it as MPs, although some members support it)
- Climate change (certainly reluctant to take action against it)
- Scottish independence (they held a debate in 2014 but didn't seem to take a side)
- Drug legalisation (they've published pro-legalisation articles but seem conflicted)
It was founded in 1975 as the National Association for Freedom, concerned by Britain's "decline" in the past 10 years, which they blamed on the Heath-Wilson political consensus of the time. Founding members included Norris McWhirter and Ross McWhirter, founders of the Guinness Book of Records. Ross McWhirter was killed by the IRA the same year. It became the Freedom Association in 1978, supposedly to avoid confusion with the similarly-initialled National Front, which naturally makes you suspicious as to other similarities.
During the Grunwick industrial dispute in the late 1970s, they supported the bosses of film processing company Grunwick against their striking workforce, which was mainly poor, female, and of south Asian origin. The dispute was a major cause célèbre in left-wing, feminist, and anti-racist circles, being the first time British trade unions had taken the concerns of Asian workers seriously. During the strike the Conservative Party (then in opposition) took a comparatively moderate position, with the "wet" Jim Prior as Shadow Employment Secretary, and it was left up to those on the far right such as Thatcherite Tory Keith Joseph and the Freedom Association to intervene on the side of capital; TFA campaigned vocally and supported legal action by the company's owners.
In the 1980s they opposed any action against apartheid-era South Africa, bringing more legal actions to try and overturn a ban on the South African cricket team visiting the UK. Maybe they just really liked cricket.
Comedian David Baddiel, who made the TV program The Norris McWhirter Chronicles, suggested co-founder McWhirter would be sympathetic to the fascist Oswald Mosley and called the Freedom Association "a very, very right-wing, kind of sub-BNP, slightly posher version of the BNP organisation". This didn't amuse those on the far right who questioned the BNP's commitment to small government. Baddiel had met McWhirter as a child, when he was disappointed that McWhirter droned on about right-wing politics rather than enumerating world records.
Although they claim to be not aligned to any political party, they have a close relationship with the British Conservative Party, including a number of present or past MPs in senior positions and being known for their "Freedom Zones" at the party conference. Several Conservative MPs sit on its council, including Gerald Howarth who supported Enoch Powell's infamously racist Rivers of Blood speech, opposed anti-racist measures by the British police following Stephen Lawrence's death, opposed gay marriage, and lobbied for the British arms industry. Rhodes Boyson, the curiously-whiskered right-wing Conservative MP known for his opposition to homosexuality and support for flogging, was a supporter in the 1980s. John Whittingdale MP, who won praise for his work investigating abuses by the News of the World but opposed gay marriage and equal pay legislation, is another supporter.
They are also apparently known for their Westminster pub quizzes, which according to the Daily Telegraph have "cult status". The paper does not mention whether the questions are on world records or the dangers of uncontrolled immigration.
- Simon Richards: chief executive
- Norris McWhirter: co-founder, former Conservative parliamentary candidate, and creator of the Guinness Book of Records. McWhirter was a regular on children's TV show Record Breakers where he would demonstrate his vast memory for world records alongside the much-loved host Roy Castle. Castle later died of lung cancer from passive smoking after a lifetime working in bars and clubs; the Freedom Association opposes restrictions on smoking.
- Ross McWhirter: Norris's brother and co-founder, killed after campaigning against the IRA
- John Gouriet: first director, a former army officer and campaigner against trades unions and the EU; also a parliamentary candidate for James Goldsmith's Referendum Party
- Ranulph Fiennes: the explorer is a celebrity supporter
- Christopher Monckton: the climate change denialist, who advocated regular compulsory AIDS tests for homosexuals, is another member
- John Redwood: the creepy-looking Conservative ex-minister is speaker at some of its events
- Gerald Howarth: far-right Tory, on the association's council
- Christopher Gill: former Tory MP and UKIP candidate, on the association's council
- Field Marshall Gerald Templer: ex-soldier who pioneered the use of Agent Orange in Malaya and was Eden's chief military adviser during the Suez Crisis, an early council member
- Viscount De L'Isle: a distant relative of atheist socialist poet Percy Shelley, he was another co-founder
- Alec Bedser: a professional cricketer was another board member; this may explain some of their passion for South African cricket
- Ratepayers associations, which particularly in the 1970s had similar ideas
- I Heart Freedom, TFA
- Norris McWhirter Obituary, The Scotsman, 21 April 2004
- See the Wikipedia article on The Freedom Association.
- Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979, Dominic Sandbrook
- Gay marriage: a libertarian view, Nicholas Rogers, TFA website, 2012
- Climate Change of Approach, TFA website, 2011
- History, TFA website
- See the Wikipedia article on Grunwick dispute.
- BBC: The Freedom Association is a 'slightly posher version of the BNP', Daniel Hannan, Daily Telegraph, 2010
- When a young David Baddiel met Norris McWhirter, Liberal Burblings, 1 April 2011
- Top 100 most influential Right-wingers: 100-51, Iain Dale, Daily Telegraph, 2013
- See the Wikipedia article on Gerald Howarth.
- See the Wikipedia article on John Whittingdale.
- Council and Supporters, TFA website