I’ve had threats from people on the far left who think I’m insincere but especially people on the far right who think I’m a traitor,
A white supremacist active as recently as the start of this year says today he is publicly renouncing 40 years of hate. Speaking on Channel 4 News he comes out as gay for the first time – and admits to a violent past.
Much of Kevin Wilshaw’s life has been defined by a belief in white supremacy.
He said he had hurt people, “but not unprovoked, in defence. In a by-election in Leeds I smashed a chair over someone’s head.”
But he denied ever having approached minorities and assaulted them.
“I’d never do that, but I have seen incidents where people were singled out because they were black by a group of people. It turned my stomach, I rejected that, I pushed it to the back of my mind.”
He joined the BNP after being part of the National Front and flirted with dangerous fringe groups like the Racial Volunteer Force.
Mr Wilshaw says he remembers meeting David Copeland – the Brixton and Soho nail bomber. More recently he took to social media – and until the start of year was still speaking at rallies (2017).
In his interview with Britain’s Channel 4 news, Wilshaw showed a few of the decorative items in his apartment, including a Nazi flag and a bronze bust of Adolf Hitler.
When the interviewer asked Wilshaw “at what point did — well, Nazism — start to be attractive to you?” Wilshaw thought for a moment, then said “I must’ve been about 11 years old…. my father was very right-wing, and I think I took it a bit further than him.”
Wilshaw did not discuss specific dates or timelines, but according to HOPE Not Hate, a British non-profit that “campaigns to counter racism and fascism,” WIlshaw had belonged to the far right “since 1974 and even a little before.”
He admitted he hadn’t had many friends at school, and thought joining far-right groups would bring him a sense of “comradeship.” By age 18, he’d joined Britain’s far-right National Front party, and was a party organizer by age 20. He was particularly notorious (or just well-known) in Britain during the 1980s. Wilshaw’s original membership card, made out in the name of John Kevin Wilshaw, calls for “Racial preservation” and adds “Coloured Immigrants and their descendants must be returned to their lads of ethnic origin.”
Over the past 44 years, between the ages of 14 and 58, he has worked with UK far-right extremist groups peddling Neo-Nazi ideology.
His actions ranged from mundane “leafletting” to “occasionally getting involved in political violence”.
But now he claims to have put his days as a Mein Kampf-reading racist behind him to address the contradictions that have plagued him in private.
Mr Wilshaw is not only gay, but has Jewish blood through his mother.
Despite Wilshaw’s father’s “very right wing” tendencies, he married a partly Jewish woman, Kevin’s mother. “Her maiden name was Benjamin,” Wilshaw said. “We do have Jewish blood in the family on that side.”
Under Jewish law, a child is considered Jewish if his mother was. Yet Wilshaw’s own background clearly did not prevent him from joining a political group dedicated in part to the notion that this very background made him an inherent threat. This might be largely due to the fact that Wilshaw’s physical appearance has nothing in common with anti-Semitic caricatures regarding what Jews “look like.” (His mother died in 2015.)
HOPE Not Hate reports that other aspects of Wilshaw’s family life were at odds with far-right doctrines: despite the official Islamophobia of British far-right parties (he was once arrested for vandalizing a mosque in Aylesbury), he has a close relationship with his sister, who married a Muslim man and converted to Islam in 1970, and is also close to her Muslim children.
On an application form to join the National Front, he wrote about his hatred of “the Jews”.
“That term ‘the Jews’ is the global faceless mass of people you can’t personalise it, not individuals. That’s the generalisation that leads to 6 million people being deliberately murdered.
“I tended to compartmentalise things,” he said.
“I put my political life in one section and my normal life in the other.”
Mr Wilshaw was recently arrested on online abuse charges — the second time he has been arrested.
He said he quit the movement for good after being attacked for his sexuality.
“On one or two occasions in the recent past I’ve actually been the recipient of the very hatred of the people I want to belong to … if you’re gay it is acceptable in society but with these group of people it’s not acceptable, and I found on one or two occasions when I was suspected of being gay I was subjected to abuse.”
Mr Wilshaw admits that being a Nazi who is gay – but with a Jewish background – is a contradiction.
“It’s a terribly selfish thing to say but it’s true, I saw people being abused, shouted at, spat at in the street – it’s not until it’s directed at you that you suddenly realise that what you’re doing is wrong.”
“You have other members leading National Front who are overtly gay. And nobody could see the contradiction of it that you have an overtly gay person leading a homophobic organisation, makes no sense.”
“Then you have someone like Nicky Crane, one of the hardest people who would be gay.”
“Even when people found out, they’d rationalise it, ‘He’s not really gay’ or ‘gay and ok’.””I’ve had threats from people on the far left who think I’m insincere but especially people on the far right who think I’m a traitor,” he said.
“I can’t win!”.
Support has come from a fellow former extremist.
Matthew Collins was once an organiser for a far-right group and knew Neo-Nazis “who were involved in extreme violence … and did kill people”.
He turned informant and fled to Australia between 1993 and 2003 for his own safety.
Now he works for anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate, researching the state of the UK far right and trying to convince people to leave the movement.
“Is Kevin cured? No, I don’t think so … but Kevin’s on the way,” Mr Collins said.
“The work with Kevin is about socialisation. He wants to walk down the streets with another man and maybe hold hands.
“Our thing is to mix him in with regular normal people, drinking beer without dressing up like a [WWII German] tank commander, [and] having nice pictures on your living room wall, not pictures of Hitler.”
Kevin Wilshaw & Matthew Collins
“I feel appallingly guilty as well, I really do feel guilty, not only that, this is also a barrier to me having a relationship with my own family, and I want to get rid of it, it’s too much of a weight.”
“I want to do some damage as well, not to ordinary people but the people who are propagating this kind of rubbish – want to hurt them, show what it’s like for those who are living a lie and be on the receiving end of this type of propaganda, I want to hurt them.”
Fearing some level of revenge, Mr Wilshaw says “one or two would want to sort me.. they’d see it as betrayal.”
“I am going to find it difficult, granted, to fill a void that has occupied my life since childhood.”
The latest figures show right-wing extremism only makes up about 10 per cent of cases dealt with by the UK Government’s main deradicalisation program.
Anti-fascist campaigners believe the country’s extreme far right has declined significantly in recent years, perhaps to its lowest point in two decades, and some commentators have dismissed the remaining members as weird, uneducated white men with uniform fetishes.
But the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a Nazi sympathiser, just before last years Brexit referendum, showed the danger posed by elements of the movement has not passed.
Since then, three far-right groups have been banned by the UK Government and two people have been charged over a plot to kill another politician.
“We are very concerned by the number of the arrests and the nature of the arrests”, Mr Collins said, when asked about the most extreme end of the movement.
“What we are looking at are groups that look like terrorists, talk like terrorists, act like terrorists and our belief for the last 18-months to two years is that they will eventually become terrorists.”
- Kevin Wilshaw: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know by Jennifer Abel https://heavy.com/news/2017/10/kevin-wilshaw-national-front-jewish-nazi-gay-hope-not-hate/
- The gay Nazi with Jewish heritage and the man with an Australian connection who helped him by James Glenday http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-28/neo-nazi-gay-man-jewish-heritage/9197168
- Exclusive: Neo-Nazi and National Front organiser quits movement, opens up about Jewish heritage, comes out as gay by Paraic O’Brien https://www.channel4.com/news/neo-nazi-national-front-organiser-quits-movement-comes-out-as-gay-kevin-wilshaw-jewish-heritage.