The actor Laurence Fox has been threatened with legal action over his plans to set up a political party called Reclaim, after a charity that champions working-class teenagers said it already used the name and would face “substantial damage” from any association.
Fox has said that he has millions of pounds in private funding for his party, including from the prominent Brexiter and former Tory donor Jeremy Hosking. He will use it to fight for freedom of speech and against what he regards as a “culture war” taking place in Britain.
However, a small Manchester charity that works with young people from poor backgrounds has now presented him with a legal “cease and desist” letter, warning him to stop using the name Reclaim for his project.
The charity, established in 2007 in Moss Side, a deprived area of Manchester, was set up to “power young working-class people to change the country today and lead it tomorrow”. It wants to end the “leadership inequality that prevents working-class young people with talent, imagination, ambition and drive from fulfilling their leadership potential”. It helps people set up campaigns on issues they care about and recently ran a leadership programme for young women.
Last year its campaign #IfWeDidThis called for an end to politicians using violent and de-humanising language. It is not a political party, but one of its aims is to see the UK elect its first working-class prime minister of the 21st century.
A Twitter account has already been set up for the new Reclaim party, though the name has not yet been formally approved by the Electoral Commission. However, the charity’s lawyers have given Fox until Wednesday to stop using the name, surrender the website domain and remove use of Reclaim from associated social media accounts. The charity is also starting a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for its attempts to protect its name.
Olivia, 18, from Manchester, and a participant in the charity’s programmes, said: “Reclaim is an amazing charity that has provided me and lots of other working-class young people with loads of great opportunities to speak up for the issues that actually matter to our communities. I think the decision Laurence Fox has made to take our name is completely wrong. It just feels like another example of working-class people getting pushed aside.”
A spokesman for the Reclaim party project said: “We are aware of the charity’s view. While pointing out the obvious fact that no party name has actually been registered, lawyers are looking at their recent contention.”
Choosing a name can be a hazardous enterprise for new political parties. Last year Change UK, formed when Tory and Labour MPs defected to form a new group, applied to change its name after a dispute with the petitions website Change.org.
It is not the only legal action facing Fox. Simon Blake, the deputy chair of the charity Stonewall, says he is suing Fox over a comment he had made during an exchange on Twitter.
Fox is a controversial figure since emerging as a self-proclaimed champion of free speech. He recently accused the supermarket Sainsbury’s of promoting “racial segregation and discrimination” after it supported Black History Month. He has also attacked black and working-class actors for criticising the industry once they have “five million quid in the bank”.
Earlier this year, appearing on BBC’s Question Time, Fox claimed the media treatment of the Duchess of Sussex was not racist, saying such allegations were “boring”. He told the audience it was racist to describe him as “a white, privileged male”.
He later said it was “odd” to show a Sikh soldier in the first world war film 1917. The comment saw him taken on by historians who pointed out that there were 130,000 Sikhs in the British army during the war. Fox later apologised for expressing himself in a “clumsy” manner.