Thomas Mair is being described as an extremist, a fanatic, an assassin – even ‘a constituent’. But make no mistake – he is a terrorist: Just like the 7/7 bombers who caused carnage on the London transport system in 2005; Just like the killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby in south London in 2013.
Terrorists don’t look a certain way. They don’t have a certain religion. They don’t have to shout ‘Allahu Akbar’ before launching their attack. What defines them is the political motives of their actions.
Most media organisations have been reluctant to use ‘the T word’ to describe Mair: after all, it has a vague definition which means that many politically-charged criminal acts can be argued either way.
But the slaughter of a pro-European, pro-immigration politician during the EU referendum campaign by a white supremacist could hardly be more terroristic.
The killing of Jo Cox MP was not the consequence of a sudden, psychotic episode but the result of years of slow-building revulsion. As a community volunteer, ‘Tommy’ managed to hide his hate.
But receipts from the 1990s show he spent more than 600 dollars buying propaganda from a neo-Nazi group – including a munitions handbook. In 2000, he travelled to central London for a meeting of white supremacists where one attendee said he was “vitriolic”.
During the sixteen years that have followed, Britain’s far right movement has grown. White supremacist groups seem to have gained confidence and attached themselves to concerns about immigration.
In Britain and in many European countries, just as Islamist groups have expanded their recruitment programmes, far right organisations have been campaigning and protesting more effectively.
Currently around ten percent of all referrals to the government’s Prevent counter-radicalisation programme relate to the extreme right wing. And in some parts of the country, cases linked to neo-Nazism equals the number of referrals for Islamist extremism.
What does this tell us? Alongside Islamist and Irish-related terrorism, the far right is the third threat for Britain’s intelligence agencies. And it’s growing.