The day I interviewed Leamington's notorious neo-Nazi Colin Jordan - the man behind the BBC drama Ridley Road

Former journalist Peter Bowen recalls the moment he was granted a rare interview with the leader of the post-war National Socialist Movement

Far-right politician Colin Jordan drinking tea in 1968. (Photo by Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Far-right politician Colin Jordan drinking tea in 1968. (Photo by Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Peter Bowen writes a regular column for the Courier and Weekly News. In this week's column, he recalls the moment he interviewed Colin Jordan, the leader of the National Socialist Movement, who grew up in Leamington.

Colin Jordan, leader of the National Socialist Movement, grew up in Leamington and is played by Roy Kinnear in Ridley Road, the BBC drama shown on Sundays. Jordan echoed anti-Jewish slogans of the Hitler regime at a rally in Trafalgar Square in front of a large hoarding saying “Free Britain from Jewish control” in 1962.

Together with John Tyndall, Jordan used the rally to launch the National Socialist Movement. Following inflammatory speeches feelings ran high amongst the crowd as 800 right-wing Jordan supporters clashed with 4,000 liberals. The police were called as the rally degenerated into a full scale riot.

Colin Jordan (1923-2009), founder of the National Socialist Movement, pictured giving a Nazi salute gesture after being released from Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London on 31st May 1963. Colin Jordan has just completed a nine month prison sentence for Public Order offences. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

The event was the most notable in Jordan's political career spanning over 40 years in which he served several prison terms and was defeated in three parliamentary elections (1969-1970-1974) gaining no more than 700 votes in each. He died in 2009, aged 85, at Pately Bridge in Yorkshire.

Jordan was educated at Warwick School, leaving in 1942, went to Cambridge where he founded a National Club, forming his early political views, and later saw army service during the Second World War.

He took his right wing views to the extreme and favoured a Nazi salute on meeting misguided celebrities and attention seekers during the sixties.

Jordan was not only a failed politician but a cad to boot. He and John Tyndall were in prison in 1962 for setting up a military force, an offence under the 1936 Public Order act. At the time, Tyndall was engaged to French heiress Françoise Dior, niece of the famous fashion designer. Jordan was released earlier than his best friend in 1963 and promptly married Dior, claiming it was to prevent her deportation. The two men fell out as result.

I interviewed Colin Jordan after his marriage in 1964. He was at his mother's home in Leamington and Fleet Street reporters were at the door demanding attention. Jordan sent out a message saying that he would only talk to a local reporter. Much earlier, I had followed Jordan's activities, trying to confirm that he had carried out military manoeuvres at Bascote Heath, near Southam. As it happened, I was the only reporter from the town and was invited in.

Memory fails me. I cannot recall details of the story all the fuss was about. I remember going into a small front room with a bay window and sitting opposite Françoise Dior with Jordan seated on my left. I was in my late twenties and observed a middle-aged, balding, ordinary bloke, looking sad and forlorn, every bit the failed teacher that he once was.

He was not impressive in any way. I thought I will treat this individual in straightforward fashion as just another person. His mother made a cup of tea. He talked for half-an-hour or so. I asked several direct questions, which he answered. Most memorable for me was Dior's crossed legs in nylon stockings, very fetching!

Outside, I remember giving the Press pack a note of what had been said but kept the more human interest bits to myself for my exclusive story. I cannot recall the details as it was so long ago but it ran on page three under a rare byline. I considered it was not the best report I had written but the story did not end there.

Several days later, a letter arrived at the office addressed to me personally from Colin Jordan. In summary, it was complimentary, saying my report was accurate and the fairest he had experienced in his political career to date. I showed it to the editor, who tore the missive in half and threw it in the bin.

Afterwards, the sub-editors commented that I had avoided any Jordan propaganda, in all probability because I was not impressed by him as a leader and considered him pretty ordinary with nothing new to say.

Jordan's marriage collapsed in 1965. Some years later, this sad little man was hauled up in front of the local magistrates and fined £50.00 for stealing three pairs of women's red knickers from Tesco in Leamington in June 1975. Sort of summed up his story for me!