A Tyneside MP has slammed Facebook pages which exploit patriotism after unintentionally backing one set up by Britain’s ‘most influential’ far-right activist.
Mary Glindon, MP for North Tyneside, clicked like on a Facebook page entitled ‘I am Proud to Wear My Poppy’, agreeing with the sentiment.
However, among the patriotic photos and memorials to soldiers lurks a more sinister message.
The page has been linked to the Knights Templar International – a Christian militant group based in the UK.
The page has also shared posts by the Knights Templar International, including videos of it’s frontman Jim Dowson discussing the Manchester and London terror attacks this year.
In the video, he claims “Muslims are running rampage” and “other cities in the world don’t have this problem, that’s because they don’t have a Islamic problem,” before going on a rant against Jeremy Corbyn.
An investigation by the BBC and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network named Mr Dowson as the most influential far-right activist in the UK.
It is estimated the 14 Facebook pages which are linked to him have earned 2.5 million ‘likes’ from the social network’s users.
Mr Dowson is believed to have been involved in the formation of Britain First, a group he left in 2014 and has been described by The Times as an “extremists’ marketing mastermind”.
After Ms Glindon was alerted to the nature of the Facebook page, she moved to distance herself from it.
She said: “I unliked this Facebook page as soon as I was told of its dubious links with fascists who have no respect for our armed forces, not least those who fought Hitler and Mussolini, and simply exploit patriotism for their warped purposes.”
Government figures have shown an increase in right-wing extremism in the region.
Statistics show that referrals to the Government’s anti-terror Prevent programme have gone up up by nearly a tenth in a year in the North East.
While the overall number of people referred to the Prevent programme in the region fell in 2016/17, the number of individuals where concerns have been raised in relation to right-wing extremism has gone up by 8%, from 159 in 2015/16 to 171 in 2016/17.
Last year, Newcastle councillor Nick Kemp said the city and wider region had become a target for far-right groups.
Laura Hill , Local Democracy Reporting Service