MARK Rowley, a retiring assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, last week announced that London police had foiled four extreme right-wing terror plots last year.
Rowley, who was the head of counter-terrorism policing in Britain, used his retirement speech to warn against the rise of the far-right and to draw parallels between far-right groups and figures and the Islamist extremists they claim to despise, in the annual Colin Cramphorn memorial lecture in central London.
In a conference with journalists before the speech, Rowley said the far-right terror threat was “significant and concerning,” and the public should be “gravely concerned” by the existence of National Action, the white supremacist, neo-Nazi group banned under terror legislation.
“The right-wing threat was not previously organised,” he said. “Every now and then there’s been an individual motivated by that rhetoric who has committed a terrorist act but we’ve not had an organised right-wing threat like we do now.”
He said a third of referrals to the Government’s Prevent strategy, reducing radicalisation in communities, are now individuals engaged with far-right terrorism.
In his speech, Rowley draws many comparisons between Islamist and far-right groups and figures, such as ISIS and Anjem Choudary in the former, and National Action and former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon) in the latter.
“Ironically, while Islamist and extreme right-wing ideologies may appear to be at opposing ends of the argument it is evident that they both have a great deal in common,” he said.
Tommy Robinson reacted angrily to Rowley’s speech and has threatened to “find” Britain’s most senior counter terrorism officer, after he warned of the growing threat of far-right terrorism.
The EDL figurehead on Monday re-posted a tweet by a supporter who said the police were “so so wrong” to equate Mr Robinson with ISIS-supporting hate preacher Anjem Choudary. “I’m gonna find Mark Rowley,” said Robinson. He did not immediately elaborate about what he meant.