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Sunday, 6 March 2011

Should the EDL become a political party?

EDL Extra comments on the Independent on Sunday piece, 'Far-right group 'to become a political party'', by Paul Bignell and Chris Atkins, 6. March.2011. (Comments are in red.)

The leader of the far-right English Defence League last night confirmed that the group would be holding talks with a view to becoming a legitimate political party.

Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said last night: “We’re having a meeting this week with politically minded people and we’re discussing the options. We know the support we’ve got from one end of the country to the other because we talk sense. So we’re having more discussions this week. It’s something we’re seriously looking at. [There are a lot of EDL in the ranks who are strongly against the EDL becoming a political party. That’s because, apart from the EDL’s position on Islamism, sharia, etc., many EDL members don’t share that much else politically. Indeed the EDL has stressed this itself. However, we shouldn’t necessarily rule out becoming a political party, it simply depends. It depends on a hell of a lot.
Also, I can see that many EDL are becoming increasingly frustrated at sticking exclusively to demos. That's fine. But that doesn't mean the EDL should get into party politics. There are lots of other things the EDL can do. In fact, it is already doing some of them. It can get involved in the community, raise money for ex-soldiers, bring out an EDL newspaper, organise concerts for kids, have knitting evenings, engage with local councils in more direct ways, etc. The possibilities are endless. But the question remains: Is party politics the be all and end all of politics? In many respects, if you want big things done, perhaps it is.]

“We’ve been meeting with top political people for a year about this and now we’re getting close. We’ve been sitting down with a couple of lads who are posh-speaking, public school boys, who have been in politics before, and we’re discussing with them where it can go.” [I’m not sure what ‘posh-speaking, public school boys’ will have to teach the EDL. How to play ‘real politics’ like them? How to use your hands a lot (with insincere and over-the-top I’m-a-real-statesman hand gestures), as Cameron, Clegg and all politicians seem to do nowadays? How to wear smart suits and ties? How to pretend you like football and beer to one crowd and Chardonnay and multiculturalism to another? Me personally, I’m a little sceptical.]

Supporters of the group, which formed in 2009, have often been involved in violent scuffles with anti-fascist demonstrators in areas with large Muslim populations including Luton, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent and Bradford. Several journalists have received anonymous threats in the past when covering EDL demonstrations. [And the relevance of this to this article is?]

In a bizarre twist, the move towards legitimisation for the far-right group is said have come after the Daily Star newspaper last month published what Richard Peppiatt, a former reporter on the paper, believed at the time to be a false story. The article stated that the EDL planned to field candidates at a general election.

Last week Peppiatt quit the tabloid, admitting he produced made-stories for the Star and saying he believed it gave sympathetic coverage to the EDL.

The Independent on Sunday understands one reporter, from a different news organisation, who recently interviewed Mr Robinson, claims that the EDL had the idea to become a political party after seeing the Star’s fabricated article.

But Mr Robinson distanced himself from that suggestion, saying starting a political party was something the EDL had intended to do for at least a year.

Mr Peppiatt said of his decision to quit: “Going public has been at once the easiest and most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make. The messages of support from all quarters of the media and beyond, has confirmed to me I’m fighting the good fight, if belatedly. Obviously it was shocking when the attempts to intimidate me began, but it only served to harden my resolve.” [What’s this article really about? The EDL going into party politics or the Daily Star and Mr Peppiatt? There seem to be a lot of non sequiturs going down here.]

The Daily Star rejected the suggestion it supports far-right organisations. “For the record, the Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam and the paper never, and does not endorse the EDL.” [Who cares, anyway, what the Daily Star says or does not say? Admittedly, I personally did have some slightly good feelings about the Star when it seemed to come out in support of the EDL. But those good feelings didn’t last long. About two days in fact.

The Star is primarily in the business of making money. If criticising Muslims looses it money, then it will stop criticising them. If supporting Muslims or Islam makes it money, then it will support them. That’s all fair enough. But let’s not loose any sleep about what the Star does and does not do, as the Guardian seems to do.]

Since making his resignation letter public, Mr Peppiatt has received numerous emails, phone calls and text messages from unknown sources. One such message says: ‘We r (sic) doing a KISS AND TELL on u.’ Whilst an email reads, ‘I’m one of your FB [Facebook] friends and it’s about time you were honest with people. Stop the bullshit Pepps. We all know everything about you. Meet me at 8pm outside GH.’ [Eh? What’s all this about? The title of this piece is ‘Far-right group ‘to become a political party’’. I didn’t know Mr Peppiatt was a leader of the EDL. In fact, I’d never heard of him before this business about the Star’s supposed support of the EDL.]

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