Freedom Association

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Founders Ross and Norris McWhirter on Record Breakers.

The Freedom Association, originally known as the National Association for Freedom, is a right-wing pressure group which was set up in the 1970s by a group of businessmen, aristocrats, military figures, journalists and politicians on the far right. In its early years it played a prominent role in disrupting campaigns for workers rights and racial equality led by trades unions and anti-apartheid campaigners. Its influence diminished somewhat after its far right agenda was taken up by the Thatcher government, but it remains a well known fringe group within the Conservative Party.

Origins and History

The Freedom Association was founded as the National Association for Freedom on 31 July 1975 by William Sidney, (also known as Viscount De L'Isle), and Norris McWhirter, who with his brother Ross McWhirter, had founded the Guinness Book of Records. [1] In 2003, Norris McWhirter, recalled how the group originated from a chance meeting with Viscount De L'Isle on a plane from London to New York:

The two had a detailed discussion about the seriousness of Britain’s decline since the death of Winston Churchill. Lord de L’Isle had just received a letter from Michael Ivens [the director of the anti-union pressure group Aims of Industry], asking him to consider leading a new association pledged to support individual freedom and to resist ever Bigger Government. As a result of the long flight, Ross and Norris McWhirter were invited to Lord de L’Isle’s home at Penshurst Place in Kent for a further discussion. It was on the hottest day of the year, Thursday 12 June 1975. At a light lunch on a small round table that Lord de L’Isle had acquired at an auction at Chartwell, home of Sir Winston Churchill, plans were hatched to convene a meeting of fifty prominent people from politics, business, the armed services, the church and the professions at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on Thursday 31 July.

These were the original council members of what was then called the National Association for Freedom. They included figures as varied as Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, the constitutional expert Lord Blake and the cricketer Alec Bedser. [2]

The Grosvenor House hotel on London's Park Lane. Here in one of London's most exclusive and wealthy neighbourhoods the original members of the Freedom Association met in July 1975

The group's other founding members included a number of radical right-wingers from journalism, academia and the Conservative Party. Michael Ivens was a founder member, as was Brian Crozier of the Institute for the Study of Conflict and his close associate Robert Moss, [3] who was appointed director of the Association. [4] Other founding members included John Braine, Professor D.R. Deman (professor of Land Economy at Cambridge), Sir John Foster, Jill Knight, David Mitchell, Nicholas Ridley Sir Frank Taylor, (managing director of Taylor Woodrow), Kenneth Watkins of Sheffield University and Peregrine Worsthorne. [5]

Companies House document showing the names of the National Association for Freedom's original subscribers when it was officially incorporated on 18 March 1977 (Click on the doc to see a higher definition).

Ross McWhirter was murdered by the IRA shortly before the planned launched which took place on 2 December 1975, with Norris McWhirter under protection by armed police. [6] Recalling the killing years later John Gouriet, another key member of the group, told the BBC: 'It was almost certainly a KGB crime because there were definite links between the IRA and the Soviet Union and I remain convinced today that that is what actually happened.' [7]

It absorbed a small pressure group the Middle Class Association, [8] which was led by the Conservative MP John Gorst.

When The Economist reported on the Association's progress in 1976 it stated that it was directed by Robert Moss and chaired by Viscount De L'Isle. Its governing council was said to include Norris McWhirter, and seven Conservative MPs including Winston Churchill, Jill Knight and Nicholas Ridley. At that time it had a full-time staff of ten at its London headquarters located 'near Shaftesbury Avenue'. [9] John Gouriet was reportedly administrative director of the group. [10]

It was incorporated as a limited company on 18 March 1977.


The Freedom Association sponsored legal actions to promote their right-wing agenda. They also published a fortnightly paper called The Free Nation. In 1976 The Economist reported that it was written 'using unpaid contributors who are often professional journalists -- of which 30,000 copies are printed at a non-union printing press "somewhere in the west of England". Half of the print order is, the NAF claims, sold at 15p a copy, mainly in the home counties and in the Manchester area, the remainder is distributed free.' [11]

Brian Crozier revealed in his memoir that founding members of the Freedom Association met with Margaret Thatcher on 9 March 1976. The meeting took place at Viscount De L'Isle's house in London's Eaton Square, and was attended by Brian Crozier, Norris McWhirter, John Gouriet and Robert Moss. [12] Brian Crozier recalls that:

Mrs Thatcher was listening and writing because I was telling her things nobody had yet mentioned to her, about Soviet subversion in the United Kingdom and worldwide, about the penetration of our trades unions and of the Labour Party, still in power at that time. [13]

According to the Guardian:

Naff's crowning glory was the battle over Grunwick, a photo processing lab in north London where an industrial dispute over union representation blew up into a cause célèbre in 1976. The dispute saw mass picketing, including Arthur Scargill's miners, and court actions by the company, which were financed by Naff. The organisation was widely credited with winning a small business victory against trade union might, and the affair prepared the ground for the Conservatives' anti-union legislation of the 1980s.[14]

The Freedom Zone

The Freedom Zone was a conference arranged by the Freedom Association in Manchester, UK, on 5 and 6 October 2009. In charge of running the event was Jane Broadhurst, the Freedom Association's office manager.[15]

Speakers included Chris Grayling, Lord David Trimble, Daniel Hannan, Roger Helmer, Syed Kamall, John Redwood, Peter Lilley, Tim Montgomerie, "Guido Fawkes" (a pseudonym of the libertarian blogger Paul Staines)[16], Colonel Bob Stewart, Gerald Howarth, Alex Deane, Douglas Murray, John O'Sullivan, Matthew Elliott, Ruth Lea, Robert Halfon, Simon Clark, Brian Monteith, Shane Frith, John Strafford, Graeme Leach, James Manzi, Iain Murray, Matthew Sinclair, John Whittingdale, Mark Wallace, Bruce Anderson, David Aaronovitch, John Rentoul, Jesse Norman, Don Porter and Chris Galley.[17]


  • Honorary Chairman (from 2011 - ): Professor Tim Congdon, who was defeated in 2010 for the UKIP leadership | Former chairman (from April 2007- January 2011): Roger Helmer MEP. Stepped down on 'doctor's orders'. Remains on the TFA Council. [18] | Caroline Cox | Michael Ivens

2011 Staff

Council circa 2011

Hon. Chairman: Professor Timothy Congdon CBE | Hon. President: Christopher Gill | Hon. Vice-President: Vladimir Bukovsky | Hon. Chaplain: The Revd Dr. Peter Mullen | Hon. Secretary: Tony Hilder | Hon. Treasurer: Michael McGough FCA | Jillian Becker | Edwin Boorman | The Rt. Hon. Sir Rhodes Boyson PC | Christopher Chope OBE, MP] | The Baroness Cox of Queensbury | Philip Davies MP | The Lady Fieldhouse | Sir Ranulph Fiennes Bt, OBE, PM | Mike Fisher | Teresa Gorman | Robert Halfon MP | Daniel Hannan MEP | Dr. Charles Hanson | Roger Helmer MEP | Adrian Hilton | Philip Hollobone MP | Gerald Howarth MP | Lindsay Jenkins | John Kershaw | Justin Kornberg | Barry Legg | Russell Lewis | Eric Lomax | Laura Midgley | Professor Patrick Minford CBE, PhD | The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley | Brian Monteith | The Lord Pearson of Rannoch | Margaret Purves GC | Andrew Roberts | Andrew Rosindell MP | Colin Smith | Ewen Stewart | The Lord Stoddart of Swindon | Walter Sweeney | The Lord Vinson of Roddam LVO, DL | The Earl of Wemyss and March DL | Stuart Wheeler | John Whittingdale OBE, MP | Councillor Tony Woodcock[19]

Former Staff

  • Mark Wallace - Campaigns Manager (Sept 2005 - Nov 2007). Left to become Campaign Director of the Taxpayers' Alliance (November 2007 – July 2010). He currently works as a senior account manager for Portland PR [20]and 'writes the very popular 'Crash, Bang, Wallace' blog'. [21]


Circa 1994


Contact, Resources, Notes





  1. The Freedom Association, About TFA, (accessed 22 April 2009); Adam Bernstein, 'Norris McWhirter Dies; 'Guinness Book' Co-Founder, Washington Post, 21 April 2004
  2. Norris McWhirter, ‘A Brief History of the Freedom Association’, 2003. Accessed from <> on 22 October 2009
  3. Philip Jordan, 'McWhirter 'freedom' memorial', Guardian, 3 December 1975
  4. 'National Association for Freedom; Into its stride', The Economist, 28 August 1976
  5. Philip Jordan, 'McWhirter 'freedom' memorial', Guardian, 3 December 1975
  6. Philip Jordan, 'McWhirter 'freedom' memorial', Guardian, 3 December 1975
  7. Tory! Tory! Tory! - The Path to Power, broadcast Friday, 10 August from 2340 BST on BBC Four.
  8. 'National Association for Freedom; Into its stride', The Economist, 28 August 1976
  9. 'National Association for Freedom; Into its stride', The Economist, 28 August 1976
  10. Martin Walker and Peter Chippindale, 'Thatcher guest of NAFF', Guardian, 6 January 1977; p.20
  11. 'National Association for Freedom; Into its stride', The Economist, 28 August 1976
  12. Brian Crozier, 'A secret shield for the Lady', The Times, 28 June 1993
  13. Brian Crozier, 'A secret shield for the Lady', The Times, 28 June 1993
  14. Roger Cowe, Michael Ivens: Champion of the libertarian right and business freedom, Guardian, 21 November 2001
  15. Meet the Freedom Zone team, Freedom Association website, accessed 5 Oct 2009
  16. Home page, Guido Fawkes blog, accessed 5 Oct 2009
  17. Meet the Freedom Zone team, Freedom Association website, accessed 5 Oct 2009
  18. Jonathan Isaby, Roger Helmer steps down as Honorary Chairman of the Freedom Association, TFA website, accessed 2 May 2011
  19. The Freedom Association Council and Supporters, Accessed 12 November 2011
  20. Portland PR, People, accessed 27 April 2011
  21. The Freedom Association, Meet the Team, accessed 27 April 2011
  22. Alex Deane, Alex Deane, Bell Pottinger : A Golden Age For Think-Tanks, PR Week, 08 June 2011, accessed 15 June 2011
  23. Freedom Today, the Journal of the Freedom Association, April 1994, Vol. 19, Issue 2, p. 23
  24. The Freedom Association, About the Hampden Trust, accessed 18 November 2010