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‘Why I Disrupted Jacob Rees Mogg’s Speech at Controversial National Conservatism Conference’

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Demonisation of migrants and a focus on ‘going back’ to some made-up glorious past means Brits need to be alert to ‘fascism’, XR activist Dirk Campbell tells Josiah Mortimer

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The Extinction Rebellion activist who disrupted Tory hardliner Jacob Rees Mogg’s speech at a right-wing conference has told Byline Times he was standing up to “far-right factions” from the US who “openly deny the reality of climate change.” 

Dirk Campbell, a 72-year-old composer from Lewes in Sussex, was ejected from the National Conservatism conference in London on Monday. 

Campbell had secured a ticket, then as Rees Mogg took the stand, took over the microphone to voice his concerns about the “characteristics of fascism” in the UK. 

The conference is organised by the Edmund Burke Foundation, a Washington-based group that is now propagating hard-right Republican ideas and sympathies in Britain.

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As Byline Times previously reported, the radical right-wing conference has ties to Christian Nationalism and the US radical right. Yet it has attracted the backing of the UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, who used her speech to lambast her own government’s high immigration figures. 

Campbell said the NatCon agenda leans toward a “backwards return to so-called traditional family values, reversing societal progress.” 

The event promotes the National Conservatism movement. The group’s Statement of Principles includes demands for nations to be governed on the basis of “humility and gratitude before God and fear of his judgement”, while also backing immigration moratoriums and opposing what it describes as the “grave threat” of “ever more radical forms of sexual licence and experimentation as an alternative to the responsibilities of family and congregational life”, as we previously reported.

Speakers at previous events have included the Hungarian Prime Minister, and autocrat, Viktor Orban, Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Campbell told Byline Times in an interview after the stunt that Extinction Rebellion (XR) has “evolved” from a singular movement to a “movement of movements” – bringing together other activist groups including anti-fascist campaigners.

The conference, Campbell explained, is focused on nationalism, presenting an “overly romanticised” vision of nationhood. This ideology, he contends, is a core defining feature of fascism. “Attempting to define it feels like trying to nail jelly to the wall,” he said. But the “glorification of the British Empire”, touted by one of the opening speakers at the conference, as the most glorious creation in recent centuries, strikes Campbell as particularly alarming.

The musician, who was born in Egypt and grew up in Kenya during the dying days of British colonialism said: “The British empire was responsible for terrible acts of repression, enslavement, and killing across the globe. There’s nothing about it we should be celebrating.” His early life was marked by the brutality of British colonial rule, including the severe treatment of the Mau Mau and the numerous crimes committed by the British military.

He added the current narrative around stopping refugees coming to the UK reflects a fascist-like generating of “enemies and scapegoats”. “It projects an image of greatness onto ourselves and blames others for our problems. Supporters of this ideology believe they’re restoring a glorious past. It’s a dangerous notion.”

Campbell believes the Home Secretary’s language on migrants has echoes of fascism:  “It is an ideology that generates enemies and scapegoats. It projects an image of greatness onto ourselves and blames others for our problems.”

He noted that there will always be a core group of individuals who cling to hard-right ideologies – though he believes it will never fully take root. 

In his speech, former Commons leader and now Tory backbencher Jacob Rees Mogg revealed that the Conservatives’ imposition of mandatory voter ID in England’s local elections this May – a policy he voted for – was a form of gerrymandering intended to benefit the Conservatives. 

For Campbell, this potentially aligns with one of the characteristics of fascism outlined by the historian Laurence Britt: the unjust maintenance of power. Britt’s list of the hallmarks of fascism also include nationalism, identification of enemies or scapegoats, control of the media, glorification of the military, an obsession with crime and punishment, rampant cronyism, and corruption. 

Shortly after Campbell was ejected, Extinction Rebellion protesters disrupted Suella Braverman’s speech — saying that Britain “welcomed people unless they come on small boats, and unless they are brown”. Several activists were removed.

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