ITV is running a new thriller next month based on the life of Matthew Collins, a former far-right activist who now works for the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate. Today's Guardian interview with Collins reveals that he ran four spies inside the BNP's Belfast office, three of them English. There's also this nugget:
His work as an informant handler meant he frequently crossed paths with MI5 and counter-terrorism police, although he says the security services never tried to recruit him.
Yet he does allege that the security services continue to receive intelligence from senior figures within the far right.
“Some of the most senior people in the British far right are in the employment of the security services.”
In 2018, MI5 took over from the police as the lead agency targeting extreme rightwing terrorism, a development Collins says has led to a more aggressive stance.
“Since the move, even though they’re going in too hard too early, they’re getting results.”
Although the counter-extremism rubric is a new one, it is in some ways a revival of MI5's older responsibility for counter-subversion. In the 1930s, MI5's infiltration of of the British Union of Fascists was very effective, though of somewhat ambiguous significance. Their top agent-runner, Maxwell Knight, was a former fascist organiser who used many agents recruited on the right against the left.