By Chris York
In one particularly shocking incident, Tory MP Anna Soubry was repeatedly called a “Nazi” during a live BBC News broadcast, in an incident described as “aggressive, threatening and intimidating”.
On Tuesday police held a special press conference to say officers had been “briefed to intervene appropriately” in the event of physical intimidation or abuse outside parliament.
But who are the people shouting at MPs – and what do they want?
The most prominent member of the group appears to be a man called James Goddard, who featured prominently in a number of videos posted on social media on a particularly adversarial day outside Parliament in which he heckled Soubry, and journalists Owen Jones and Kay Burley, all in the space of just a few hours.
Not a lot is known about him – and he did not reply to interview requests from HuffPost UK – but his social media presence and pages on crowd-funding websites appears to paint a picture of a pro-Brexit, anti-Muslim activist with a love of confrontation, a propensity to believe in conspiracy theories, and a fondness for the far-right activist Tommy Robinson.
There’s nothing wrong with supporting Tommy. He’s got balls of steel along with many other patriots. You’re English is rather good. I know full well who you are. I also know you don’t have the minerals to confront me in person.
— James Goddard (@JGoddard230616) August 16, 2018
A page under his name the on crowd-funding website Patreon is currently “under review” but according to an archived version, Goddard began campaigning after the deaths of three teenagers in January of last year.
Harry Rice, 17, and 16-year-olds George Wilkinson and Josh McGuinness were killed in a hit-and-run on their way to a birthday party in Hayes, west London.
In March, Jaynesh Chudasama, 28, was jailed for 13 years after pleading guilty to causing the death by dangerous driving – he was more than two-and-a-half times the legal alcohol limit and doing 71mph on a 60mph road. Traces of cannabis were also found in his system.
Chudasama is a Muslim of Pakistani origin, and a conspiracy theory claiming it was in fact an act of terror that was being covered up by the government has gained some traction.
There is no evidence to suggest this is true, but members of the far-right, including Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – have promoted the theory on YouTube and social media.
Goddard’s campaigning has since expanded and he is now “seeking to make change in Britain” and “make it great again”, a reference to Donald Trump’s catchphrase. The Patreon page also claims he covers the “many injustices our people who have suffered at the hands of the British Establishment”.
“I’ve had to give up my life to dedicate myself to this cause and believe me I will not stop until I have made a difference in this country and that’s exactly why I will need help from people who support the cause, to take it to the next level. I speak out against the many issues that are destroying the fabric of our society and I’m not afraid of confronting Leftists or Imams.”
A profile bearing Goddard’s name and picture on the Gab website, well-known for hosting right-wing groups and figures, contains a number of posts revealing Goddard’s opinion on Islam and Muslims.
It reads: “I oppose Islam and everything that it stands for, as long as Islam exists in the West, there will never be peace.”
And a caption under a picture of the East London Mosque, reads: “This place needs closing down, along with every other Mosque, that currently besmirches our great country.”
Goddard has recently donned a yellow high-vis jacket in an apparent attempt to mimic the French protesters currently demonstrating against the economic policies of President Emmanuel Macron.
— James Goddard (@JGoddard230616) December 30, 2018
But Goddard has been most visible in videos that show him hurling abuse at police and politicians. In one video filmed earlier this month and posted on Twitter, he shouts at a police officer: “You want a war I’ll give you a war. You want it, it’s on. Every Saturday, you are fair game.”
When the officer says he is “not deaf, you don’t have to shout”, Goddard responds: “You’re not even British.”
Here’s footage of Far Right ‘Yellow Vest’ leader James Goddard telling people (police?) they’re ‘fair game’ and threatening ‘war’. When is enough going to be enough? When someone’s hurt? Killed? (via @dunc_saboteur) pic.twitter.com/yUkjCZSPHT
— Mike Stuchbery💀🍷 (@MikeStuchbery_) January 7, 2019
Goddard has since claimed the police “shoved him to the floor”.
Morning everyone, I’ve noticed the mainstream media haven’t shown the footage of me being shoved to the floor, they’ve also failed to mention @Anna_Soubry‘s lies about me on Twitter, so much for a free press. Onwards and upwards. We’ve got the government rattled!
— James Goddard (@JGoddard230616) January 8, 2019
On Monday, Goddard followed Broxtowe MP Soubry through the streets of Westminster just after he had been part of a group of protesters who called her a “Nazi” on live TV.
In the video, Goddard appears to mistake the man holding the camera for black Labour MP David Lammy. When his mistake is pointed out to him, he replies: ”Ooh, is that cultural appropriation, you mug.”
I shouldn’t really be surprised that the thugs who today verbally abused and harassed @OwenJones84 and @Anna_Soubry can’t tell the difference between me and @femi_sorry. I wonder what it is that confused them? 🤔 https://t.co/r0rhiCYmwv
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) January 7, 2019
Goddard’s Patreon page was set up “cover the expenses of traveling through the UK and Europe” and “move onto the next rung of the ladder” of his campaigning. So far it has not received any donations.
Goddard offers a number of incentives to contribute to his cause, including a “Twitter follow and shout out” for $10 and “A day with Goddard” for $50.
This consists of “a day with James talking politics or just chilling over a beer.
“You will even get to buy him dinner!”
Goddard has a small social media following, with just over 3,300 followers on Twitter and 1,600 “likes” on Facebook.
His Facebook page contains a number of reviews, but only around a third (34 of 89) are positive.
A large number of people have branded him a “racist” and an “idiot”, among other things.
But he does have his supporters, who describe him as “brave” and praise his “anti-Islamist” stance.
The behaviour of Goddard and others has prompted a massive response from MPs.
Commons’ speaker John Bercow has written to Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick asking for help to tackle “aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour” outside Parliament.
At a press conference held just before Bercow’s comments, deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor said the policing presence in Westminster had been beefed up following Monday’s events.
He said: “We have increased our policing presence around Parliament recognising the contentious issues that we have to police.”