Nafeez Ahmed reveals how the most influential think-tank in Boris Johnson’s Government has ties to an anarchist movement, through its top ‘extremism’ expert
The Head of Security and Extremism at Policy Exchange, one of Britain’s largest and most influential right-wing think-tanks, is a 20-year veteran of an anarchist group which advocates violent action to overthrow the state, Byline Times can exclusively reveal. The group also has links to criminal networks in Manchester.
In comments around a decade ago on sections of his blog website that are now deleted, Dr Paul Stott also claimed that “Zionists” are his “enemy”, along with the Conservative Party, Liberal Democrats, New Labour and neoconservatives – essentially the entire democratic political establishment. Despite being offered multiple opportunities to disavow these statements, Stott did not respond to Byline Times' requests for comment.
Paul Stott, who joined Policy Exchange in August 2021 from another conservative lobby group, the Henry Jackson Society, wrote about his long history of membership of the anarchist group Class War in a ‘political obituary’ written for the late Class War activist James May published on 5 December 2012.
Noting that May had joined Class War in 1992 from a splinter group of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPB), Stott confirmed in the article that he had “worked politically with James for nearly twenty years” from 1992 until 2011, as a member of Class War.
The original blogpost has been deleted but obtained by Byline Times via the Wayback Machine.
Class War was founded in 1982 by Ian Bone, once labelled by the Sunday People as Britain’s most dangerous man due to his belief in violent action to overthrow the state. The group engaged in various violent street actions including smashing up shops. Its newspaper, which Stott edited for a decade, regularly featured photos promoting and glorifying violence against politicians, police officers and the royal family.
Stott was associated with the group up to around 2011, when he travelled to Salford to represent Class War at the funeral of Ken Keating, a Class War activist and close associate of the organised crime figure Paul Massey.
Keating was well-known in Salford as an “ageing pony-tailed thug” who used to drive around in an ex-police transit van called ‘GrassWatch’, as part of a one-man campaign against informers for the police. Text on his van called for “zero tolerance for the police”. He would distribute leaflets featuring a man’s head ringed by a rifle’s target sights, saying: “Informing can seriously damage your health. It is a major cause of smashed knee caps and regular visits to the hospital.” Keating’s zeal for violence against people providing information to the police about criminal activities was notorious.
Keating’s old friend, Paul Massey, had turned up to the funeral along with Paul Stott and James May. Photos of Massey at the funeral were published by Stott in a now-deleted blog post in July 2011. They show Massey as a pallbearer at Keating’s funeral.
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Massey himself was a Class War activist in Ordsall, an inner-city suburb of Salford, in the late eighties and early 1990s. He had been featured in the centre pages of a 1989 edition of the Class War magazine brandishing a police surveillance bug he had found in his car. Shortly before he was eventually killed in a gangland execution in 2015, Massey had become a UKIP supporter.
The Times describes Massey and his links with Class War as follows:
“Massey’s resentment of the Establishment remained, and he became an alternative authority figure in Ordsall, mediating disputes, warning heroin dealers — whom he despised — to stay out of the area and flirting with the street politics of the anarchist group Class War.
Police were the enemy. Police vans were lured onto local estates and firebombed, a police station was besieged and shots were fired at officers during one disturbance…
In July 1998, at the height of his power, Massey took the camera crew on a night-time trawl of Manchester city centre. It ended in disaster. He was drawn into a row outside the Beat’n Track club and, incapable of backing down, stabbed a clubber from Leeds in the groin; the man almost bled to death.
Massey fled to Amsterdam but was caught, extradited, convicted and jailed for 14 years, reduced to 10 on appeal.”
Writing in 2004 during his active membership of Class War, Stott’s sympathies with the likes of Keating and Massey are unmistakable clear. He explained in another now-deleted blog how Ken Keating had fallen out with his son Sean in the nineties because he believed him to be a police informant and had taken out a £10,000 contract on his life. Sean Keating, himself a Class War activist who’d spoken at the 1991 Class War International conference in Shoreditch, had fled to Bolton as a result where neighbours wanted him moved on for fears of the safety of other residents.
Stott’s obituary of Class War activist James May reveals his intimate involvement with the group’s internal politics through much of the nineties and noughties. However, in 2015, he sealed his departure from the group by joining Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP).
That year, he published a paper in the journal Twentieth Century Communism about Class War which makes repeated reference to the organisation’s ‘internal bulletins’ from the 1990s – these are not publicly available.
At the time that Stott had published his obituary on James May, he was conducting PhD research in terrorism studies at the University of East Anglia on ‘British Jihadism’. His old ‘About’ page, which appears to have been deleted sometime in 2013, explained: “I am an exhausted Anarchist, having been involved in the UK Anarchist movement since the early 1990s. From 1997 to 2007 I was one of the editors of the Class War newspaper.”
In a discussion underneath this entry, Stott offers a comment dated 6 December 2010:
“I have stated before I disagreed with Israel's actions in Gaza. I am not however going to march with Islamists, because they are as much (if not more?) my enemy as Zionists, Neo-Conservatives, New Labour or the Con-Dems.”
Although dated 2010, this comment was not deleted by Stott until 2013. The comments seem to show that Stott considered himself an “enemy” of mainstream political parties and groups in Britain, including Jewish people who believe that Jews deserve a national homeland – which is what the majority of Jews today believe (including those who might criticise Israeli policies).
Class War activists had also burned effigies of religious figures on bonfire night, including a hook-nosed effigy of the Prophet Muhammed, prompting accusations of racism from other anarchist networks. In 2011, in a further now-deleted post, Paul Stott himself complained about an anarchist bookfair holding a session on ‘white privilege and racism’:
“It is depressing to see American leftist ideas on race enter the UK Anarchist movement, as evidenced by the meeting on ‘white privilege and racism’ or the rise of related literature over the past couple of years. Such guilt-tripping is common to approaches to race in what were ‘settler’ societies - the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.”
Byline Times could find no record of Paul Stott ever renouncing or condemning these views, or disassociating himself from the violent anti-state politics of Class War. Despite this, Stott has written briefings for Policy Exchange purporting to criticise anti-Zionist activism.
From Far-Left Anarchist to Alt-right Think-Tanker
Before joining Policy Exchange, Stott was a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, another right-wing lobby group with close ties to the Conservative Party and far-right networks in the US from where it has received the bulk of its funding.
As Byline Times previously revealed, since joining Policy Exchange, Stott authored a recent report about the Muslim Brotherhood based on the work of an advocate of the racist Great Replacement conspiracy theory, Lorenzo Vidino, who previously worked closely with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist Steve Emerson (whom former Prime Minister David Cameron called an “idiot” for describing Birmingham as a Muslim-controlled no-go-zone). Stott’s report was commissioned by the Sweden Democrats, a neo-Nazi political party currently being boycotted by Israeli government officials due to its antisemitic tendencies.
Most recently, Stott was co-author of Policy Exchange’s latest report, Delegitimising Counter-Terrorism, which claimed that critics of the Government’s Prevent counter-extremism programme are ‘enabling terrorism’. Two of Stott’s co-authors, Sir John Jenkins and Damon Lee Perry, had also worked closely with Lorenzo Vidino.
The Great Replacement theory, of course, has played a key role in inspiring white nationalist terrorist attacks, including the shooting of 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York in May.
Stott has also criticised environmental protest movements such as Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain on behalf of Policy Exchange, despite his own record of affiliation with an anti-state movement some of whose members were involved in criminal activity.
Policy Exchange is one of the most influential think tanks in Britain. Since its founding by two Tory MPs, it has been known for feeding the Conservative Party with ideas. Under Boris Johnson’s premiership, its lobbying clout has grown considerably, playing a central role in consolidating No. 10’s executive authority.
Policy Exchange and Paul Stott did not respond to multiple requests for comment or provide any confirmation these previous positions have been disavowed.
Paul Stott’s role at the think-tank as its top expert on extremism appears to wholly contradict what he openly stood for less than a decade ago – the violent overthrow of the democratic order. The revelations raise urgent questions about Policy Exchange’s vetting processes, and how the think-tank is being influenced by extremist ideas. It also raises questions about the integrity of its recent research, which under Stott’s watch has taken an increasingly conspiratorial turn, especially in relation to Britain’s Muslim communities.
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