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Searchlight Magazine

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Searchlight Magazine

Editor Gerry Gable
Categories Politics
Frequency Monthly
Publisher Gerry Gable
First issue 1975; Template:Years or months ago (1975)
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Searchlight is a British magazine, founded in 1975 by Gerry Gable, which publishes exposés about racism, antisemitism, and fascism in the UK.

Searchlight's main focus is on the British National Party (BNP), Combat 18, the English Defence League (EDL) and other sections of the Far right in the United Kingdom, as well as covering similar entities in other countries. The magazine is published and edited by Gerry Gable.

Early history

The current Searchlight magazine was preceded in the early 1960s by a newspaper of the same name, edited by left-wing Labour Party Members of Parliament Reg Freeson and Joan Lestor with Gerry Gable as "research director". It ceased publication in 1967, but Gable, Maurice Ludmer and others stayed together as Searchlight Associates before re-launching a regular journal. The pilot issue of the new Searchlight appeared in February 1975, with Maurice Ludmer as its editor.[1]

Ludmer and Gable were also amongst the first sponsors of the Anti-Nazi League, with Ludmer sitting on its first steering group.[2]

In the Ludmer years, Searchlight had a close relationship with CARF, the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, whose magazine was published as an insert from 1979.

After Ludmer's early death in 1981, British academic Vron Ware briefly took over the editorial role until 1983.[3]

State links

Publisher Gerry Gable is known to have links with MI5. His leaked 1977 London Weekend Television memo stated that he had "given names I have acquired to be checked out by British/French security services".[4] A 1987 profile referred to Gable's "wide range of contacts, including people in the secret services".[5]

Since Searchlight split with HOPE not hate in September 2011, Searchlight has opposed co-operation with the state.[6]


At the insistence of the British National Party, Searchlight and the associated Searchlight Educational Trust were investigated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales as a result of a complaint that claimed that the Educational Trust had been engaging in political activity incompatible with its charitable status.

The Commission's report stated that, in its opinion, the Searchlight Educational Trust had gone beyond the Commission's guidelines on political activities, and found there was a need for a greater distinction between the public activities of Searchlight magazine and the educational trust. The charity agreed to follow the Commission's recommendations, so action was taken.[7] Searchlight was, consequently, divided into three main bodies: Searchlight magazine, the monthly anti-fascist and anti-racist magazine; Searchlight Information Services (SIS), a research and investigatory body which briefs governments, politicians, journalists, and the police; and, finally, Searchlight Educational Trust (SET), a charity devoted to teaching the negative aspects of racism and fascism.[8] SIS and SET later joined the HOPE not hate campaign and are no longer associated with Searchlight magazine.

Dr. Larry O'Hara, editor of Notes from the Borderland, and Left-wing critic of Searchlight, said in 1992 that

"Without doubt there are matters on which Searchlight is usually reliable—election results, court-cases, as well as the occasional publication of primary source documents. Outline sketches of individual careers are of rather more mixed reliability. And When it comes to actual interpretation of the significance of events on the far Right, Searchlight is often very questionable indeed."[9]

In his history of Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), author Sean Birchall includes several instances of unreliability and questionable tactics by Searchlight.[10] In the 1990s, Direct Action Movement, which worked with the AFA, was among the first to criticise Searchlight's motives and tactics.

Elsewhere, O'Hara also argued that Searchlight manufactured or exaggerated stories about anti-Semitism in order to secure funding from Jewish sources[11] while also playing "dirty tricks" against other groups on the Left, such as the anarchist group Class War.[12]

Also, in 1984, editor Gerry Gable was commissioned by the BBC to produce research for a BBC Panorama programme Maggie's Militant Tendency. The episode was to focus on a claim of right-wing extremism in the Conservative Party. Gable claimed that his research drew upon the information previously published in Searchlight.[13] The claims by Gable that two Conservative party figures, Neil Hamilton and Gerald Howarth, were secret extremist Nazi supporters was met with libel action against the BBC. The programme had alleged (not admitted as evidence in court) that Hamilton gave a Nazi salute in Berlin while 'messing around' on a Parliamentary visit in August 1983. The Guardian reported that "Writing for the Sunday Times after the collapse of the case, he admitted he did give a little salute with two fingers to his nose to give the impression of a toothbrush moustache. "Somebody on the trip clearly did not share our sense of humour," he wrote." [14] The BBC capitulated on 21 October and paid the pair's legal costs. Hamilton and Howarth were awarded £20,000 each and in the next edition of Panorama on 27 October, the BBC made an unreserved apology to both.

Relations with other anti-fascist groups

The magazine has hostile relations with some other anti-fascist groups in Britain. The magazine group was original part of the steering committee of Unite Against Fascism, but resigned their position after differences over tactics.[15] Recently, Sonia Gable has written critical articles on her blog[16] about Searchlight's former creation, HOPE not hate, a highly visible civil rights campaign from whom it split in late 2011.[17]

Despite this however, Searchlight magazine maintains friendly relationships with other groups, such as Australia's FightDemBack and some other groups.


Searchlight relies for its material on those involved in the far-right. This includes a range of infiltrators, defectors and casual informers.

Its most famous defectors were Ray Hill,[18] and Matthew Collins,[19] now of the HOPE not hate campaign.

Most of its material, however, comes from informers, such as Alan Harvey, who do so because of feuds with their fellow right-wingers and not from any conviction of Searchlight's cause.

In 2013 it was revealed that BNP member Duncan Robertson[20] had been a Searchlight informer,[21] in particular of the New Right group.[22] Commenting on the matter, anarchist Larry O'Hara queried whether Gerry Gable was a beneficiary of Robertson's will.[23]


In the early years of the 21st century, Searchlight launched two interlinked anti-BNP and anti-racism campaigns, Stop the BNP and HOPE not hate. HOPE not hate has received endorsement and national publicity from the Daily Mirror newspaper, and revolves around an annual two week bus tour in the run-up to local elections.[24]

In the 2010 general election campaign, SIS spent in excess of £319,000, primarily targeting the BNP.[25]

Since Searchlight split from HOPE not hate, it has concentrated on publishing the results of its investigation, research and intelligence gathering and supporting direct action against fascist demonstrations, such as those of the English Defence League in Walthamstow on 1 September 2012 and Chelmsford on 18 August 2012.[26] As well as articles exposing the BNP, EDL and the moves towards the formation of a new party spearheaded by the former BNP MEP and veteran fascist Andrew Brons, Searchlight has focussed on the areas where the far right and Conservative ultra right meet, such as the Traditional Britain Group, and the New Right, the powerhouse of far-right ideological development.[27][28][29]

See also

Further reading

  • White Noise by Nick Lowles, 96 pages (November 13, 1998), Publisher: Searchlight Magazine Ltd. ISBN 0-9522038-3-9.
  • Searchlight for Beginners by Larry O'Hara, 30 pages (June 1996), Publisher: Phoenix Press. ISBN 0-948984-33-3.
  • From Cable Street to Oldham-70 Years of Community Resistance edited by Nick Lowles, 165 pages (October 2007), Publisher: Searchlight Magazine Ltd. ISBN 0-9522038-7-1.
  • Notes From the Borderland no 10, pp34–80, by Larry O'Hara and Heidi Svenson, Publisher: Larry O'Hara. ISBN 0-9537434-8-9, which explains in detail the split between Searchlight Magazine and HOPE not hate.


External links

  • magazine website
  • Searchlight Information Services Press Pack
  • Stop the BNP Searchlight's anti-BNP website
  • Operation Wedge: Protecting and educating youth against racism
  • The fight against Racism:Searchlight Article on Searchlight by the Connections history project.

Public statements

  • by Gerry Gable, vice chair of the Independent Advisory Group to the Diversity Directorate of the Metropolitan Police Service at Scotland Yard.

Anti-fascist criticism of Searchlight

  • Green Anarchist
  • KSL Bulletin 28, 2001)
  • "Two Fascisms; Anti-Fascist Fascism" in I Couldn't Paint Golden Angels, AK Press
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