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Mixed reaction to the “defection” of EDL leaders

EDL by lionheart photography, file at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lionheartphotography/4650421596/sizes/s/in/photostream/The announcement by the Qulliam foundation of the departure from the English Defence League (EDL) by its leaders ‘Tommy Robinson’ (Stephen Lennon) and his cousin Kevin Carroll is clearly a significant development. The Quilliam statement explained that “having set up the EDL, infamous for its street protests, in 2009, they wish to exit this group, because they feel they can no longer keep extremist elements at bay.”

Tommy Robinson’s interview with Channel 4 news last night clearly demonstrated some movement on his part, stating that he renounced “the racists and violence” and withdrawing his support for the planned EDL action this Saturday 12 March, but neverthessless insisting that the EDL “had to happen“. Unsurprisingly reactions have varied and will no doubt evolve over time.  HOPE not hate‘s response to the “defections” expressed “cautious optimism” but added:

what is less clear at this stage is whether Robinson and Carroll are renouncing the racism, Islamophobia and violence that they promoted, or for the anti-Muslim hatred that followed in their wake.

HOPE not hate director, Nick Lowles, said:

We celebrate Quilliam’s efforts here, but only a complete renunciation of the violence and hatred the EDL leaders have promoted, and a turning away from the anti-Muslim rhetoric they have championed, will be enough for the many thousands who have suffered from the EDL’s ugly actions over the past three years.

EDL supporters have called for mosques to be burned, holy books to be destroyed, Muslims to be deported, they have cost us £10m in policing bills, brought disorder to our streets, and many, many more have been sentenced for acts of violence, gun possession, paedophilia and other crimes.

To claim they represented working class Britons was laughable: HOPE not hate and others have worked closely with unions, faith groups and the real working class of Britain to oppose the blind hatred and violence promoted via the EDL and its counter-jihadist backers. What happens now to those wealthy individuals who have backed the EDL leaders to the hilt? We doubt they, or Lennon/Carroll, will disappear so quickly from the scene.

Merely setting up a new party or anti-Muslim organisation will not be enough to convince anti-hate campaigners, and those interested in democratic government, that Lennon and Carroll have truly renounced their ways. We hope they have. Well done to Quilliam but many questions still remain.”

Unite against Fascism‘s chair, Steve Hart, said:

Robinson et al have left a sinking ship. However leopards do not change their spots. This is only a tactical retreat and just like other European far right leaders Robinson and Carroll will use other methods – possibly through electoral means – to spread their Islamophobic message. As Robinson said himself in a tweet on 2 October ‘The biggest decision I have to make is how to evolve , how to use this voice we have created so it is taken more seriously.’ This about evolution of his brand , not abandoning hate, racism and islamophobia.”

Unite against Fascism‘s secretary, Sabby Dhalu, said:

EDL street mobilisations began to lose momentum following the massive demonstration in Tower Hamlets in September 2011 attended by over 5,000 people, uniting a broad range of communities in opposition to the EDL, that prevented the EDL from even entering the borough. This had a decisive impact on the EDL. Prior to this the EDL were mobilising 2-3,000 on the streets. After the defeat in Tower Hamlets they could barely mobilise 500 people.

The EDL attempted to revive itself by stirring up racism, Islamophobia and division following the murder of Lee Rigby, but this did not gain the sympathy with public opinion they were hoping for. UAF mounted a national campaign under the slogan “Don’t let the racists divide us”. This culminated in another demonstration in Tower Hamlets last month, where over 6,000 people mobilised against only 500 of the EDL who could not enter the borough.”

On Left Foot Forward, Dominic Ashton gave a more positive “cautious welcome“, saying:

Quilliam’s announcement is to be well-received, and that scepticism be moderated by acceptance that the general principle at work is valid: engagement with all extremists and alliance with none.”

12 Comments

  1. David Pavett says:

    Like most people I have mixed feelings about this and clearly only time will tell the real meaning of these resignations.

    I just wish that the left were clear about the difference is between islamaphobia (a rather over-used term by many left-centre journalists) and active rejection of religious fundamentalism, including Islamic fundamentalism. Ken Livingstone, for example, as London Mayor seemed quite unable to make the distinction.

    It is neither racist nor islamophobic to say that there are many things about the Islamic religion, along with other religions, that one rejects, including cultural practices which are confusedly associated with the religion by some Muslims and some non-Muslims alike.

    As socialists we are social critics. That starts from our own society but has no reason to stop there. In a multicultural world social harmony requires that as many people as possible caste a critical eye over the views and practices of all the social groups that make up society as a whole.

  2. Rod says:

    I expect some sort of electoral project, perhaps in time for the E.U. elections next year, certainly in time for the general election.

    Yaxley-Lennon has previously endorsed UKIP, saying: “they are saying exactly what we say, just in a different way”. It now looks as if he’s adopting that “different way.”

    Yaxley-Lennon as the leader of the ‘working class’ wing of UKIP wouldn’t be surprise. Now that he’s ‘reformed’, he’ll receive the backing of the Murdoch, who has already met with Farage.

  3. Rod says:

    I expect some sort of electoral project, perhaps in time for the E.U. elections next year, certainly in time for the general election.

    Yaxley-Lennon has previously endorsed UKIP, saying: “they are saying exactly what we say, just in a different way”. It now looks as if he’s adopting that “different way.”

    Yaxley-Lennon as the leader of the ‘working class’ wing of UKIP wouldn’t surprise. Now that he’s ‘reformed’, he’ll receive the backing of the Murdoch, who has already met with Farage.

  4. swatantra says:

    I suppose its too much to expect that he might have converted to Islam and will be praying 5 times a day? With Lennon gone EDL will collapse; but there still remains Chowdray to deal with.

  5. John Reid says:

    Rod, five seconds on google,would have revealed, Ukip, denounced his support,

  6. Rod says:

    @ John Reid

    When was then John?

  7. Robert says:

    I’ve a feeling they may be starting up their own political party.

  8. Gerry says:

    David – excellent post.

    Hopefully Quilliam and Robinson will now unite to fight the far-right/hard-right extremists both neo Nazi and Islamic.

    These Islamist and neoNazi groups are mirror images, and as socialists we should equally oppose both (Unite Against Fascism, are you receiving?!)

  9. Rod says:

    @John Reid

    That was before Yax-lennon’s supposed conversion – you should’ve noticed that within five seconds of being on google.

    UKIP, if they choose, are now able to welcome him without the encumbrance of street violence.

  10. John p Reid says:

    Ukip, if they choose arenow able to welcome him, just because he’s left the EDl, and if they did ,they wouldn’t be reminded of it in every interview. Lol.

  11. Rod says:

    @ John Reid

    I’m sure they’d be happy to fend off objections with a character reference from the Quilliam Foundation.

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