Tommy Robinson has decided to ‘step down’ from his leadership of the EDL due to ‘extreme far-right elements’ (the membership to you and me). The several thousand boneheads who regularly turn out for EDL events are not about to change their views, so what lies ahead for the ‘street’ elements of the far-right, Robinson himself, and far-right in general?
In 2009 Robinson created the EDL, he declared himself the leader, worked to establish the brand, held all monies, owned the web domains etc, and if rumours are to be believed – made a decent living through EDL merchandise.
His decision to effectively close down the ‘official’ EDL should not come as particularly surprising. He has toyed with ‘serious’ politics by joining up with the short lived British Freedom Party in 2011. It became apparent that Robinson had bigger plans than running a group of street thugs and was just using the EDL brand as a vehicle to gain exposure and to stroke his inflated ego.
Whilst Robinson may not be an ideological fascist, he certainly didn’t have any problems with extreme elements within the EDL when he was able to control or expel them. His leadership has become increasingly fraught with difficulties ever since the demonstration in Blackburn where he expelled several individuals who subsequently became the North West Infidels. Whilst he has fought tooth and nail for the EDL to gain some kind or respectability, the majority of his membership has wanted anything but.
Whilst he tries to claim his members are not Nazi’s, racists, or thugs, the behaviour of those members suggests otherwise. They didn’t join with the EDL to play nicely, that’s why the BNP haemorrhaged supporters, and why the EDL’s street movement grew so quickly in the first place. Many boneheads had become disillusioned with electoral politics since Griffin’s experiment with the ballot box and respectability had failed miserably, albeit following a promising start in 2002/3.
So what now? Well, Robinson and his ‘team’ will no doubt re-launch themselves as political moderates and will get stuck into next year’s local and Euro elections. Robinson is damaged goods by anyone’s standards and is likely to fail miserably. More of a concern is what happens to the thousands of people who travel up and down the country on EDL demonstrations. Whilst many of them may have got their first taste of far-right politics with the EDL I cannot see them disappearing back to their keyboards. What is more likely is that they are swept up by the various other far-right sects, such as the Infidels of Britain, English Volunteer Force, Casuals etc. I expect many of them to be disappointed as they will quickly realise how organised (don’t laugh) the EDL have been in comparison to their new bedfellows.
There may even be an attempt to re-establish the EDL with another leadership, although I believe that it would be doomed to failure. Firstly Robinson would attempt to scupper any such move (maybe using legal means), and secondly the average EDL supporter would realise how much money and organisation it takes to run such an operation (especially in the face of constant interference from the police and anti-fascists).
Interestingly Nick Griffin, who once labelled EDL supporters as ‘idiots’ and made the EDL a proscribed organisation seems to be changing tactics. Since the late 1990’s Griffin has changed his public persona to appear as moderate and respectable as possible. Swapping the street for the ballot box had some initial successes, real electoral influence seems as far away as it ever was. A quick read of Griffins twitter shows some changes. He is now advocating a ‘street’ anti Jihadist movement, encouraging EDL supporters to join the Infidels of Britain, and the English Volunteer Force – both groups are overtly Nazi and advocate the armed struggle. He has also taken to write letters to prison governors, demanding transfers for the 6 fascists from the North West who were jailed last month for an attack on musicians on their way to an anti-fascist gig. He labels them as ‘political prisoners’ yet seems to forget that they were on CCTV launching an unprovoked and vicious attack on a couple of people in a cafe (he also forgets that they pled guilty to all charges) So much for the BNP being the party of law and order. How does he expect to win the Daily Mail voters over by supporting actions like that?
As an aside, Griffin and the six jailed fascists from Liverpool/Blackburn should realise that political prisoners do not tend to plead guilty to the charges. Hilariously, despite being caught on CCTV ad pleading guilty, their supporters claim they are innocent, that there is a two tier justice system, and that there has been a miscarriage of justice.
Whilst it may not seem significant, Griffin is definitely saying and doing things that he would not have done over the last decade or so. It may be insignificant, but it also may signal a move back to the BNP of the 80’s and early 1990’s – which many in his party and wider far-right would support. Perhaps the thousands of EDL boneheads looking for a new home has come at the right time for Fuhrer Griffin. Whatever happens there will be interesting times ahead.