By Tash Shifrin
The racists and fascists of the English Defence League have announced a tie-up with the British Freedom Party, which emerged from a splinter group of the fascist British National Party last year.
The BNP is stricken by crisis, with disaffected members joining splinter groups and draining into the EDL, whose own leadership includes former BNP members.
The EDL-BFP lash-up is a new attempt at realignment. It brings together the two elements of a classic fascist organisation – an electoral, suit-wearing BFP wing and the EDL’s army of street thugs – in an open alliance of linked organisations.
The EDL’s announcement was made at a meeting of core activists in Birmingham by EDL leader Stephen Yaxley Lennon (AKA “Tommy Robinson”). Other senior EDL leadership figures, who avoid the limelight, have also pushed the turn to the BFP.
A report posted on both the “British Freedom” and EDL websites says: “The EDL will utilise their divisional structure to support British Freedom.” The EDL is also set to continue its own activity.
The BFP was formed by dissidents surrounding former BNP webadmin Simon Bennett, former legal officer Lee Barnes and Eddy Butler, who launched a BNP leadership challenge against Nick Griffin. Butler did not formally join the BFP when it was launched.
No real differences
But apart from opposition to Griffin and his disastrous handling of the BNP’s finances, the BFP has no real political differences with the fascist BNP.
Perhaps mindful of the legal ruling against the BNP’s previous “whites only” membership policy, the BFP launched its website with a picture including two black people… hurriedly recruited from a well known photo library.
And in an attempted clean-up earlier this month, the BFP took its most prominent former BNP members discreetly off its executive committee and announced former UKIP election candidate Paul Weston as its new chair – although he joined only in September.
It is believed that Weston tried to arrange a tie-up between the EDL and UKIP, but quit UKIP when the party refused to play. He has now arrived at the BFP with a ready-made street army in tow.
The BFP, in comments echoed recently by the EDL, are fond of rhetoric about “indigenous British people” – Nick Griffin’s code for white people – while Weston claims war between “native Europeans” and Muslims is “inevitable” unless Europe “wakes up to the danger it is in and expels all its Muslims”.
The BFP’s size is not clear. It has yet to organise any actual activity, and is likely to be fairly small, but it includes politically experienced former BNP cadres.
The EDL’s move to “go political” with the link to the proposed electoral campaigns of the BFP will not be popular with all its street thugs. But the lash-up may prove attractive to disenchanted BNP members and supporters who see the alliance as greater than the sum of its parts.
The BNP, British Freedom, the EDL and its splinter “Infidels” group are all in a state of flux, with activists and supporters drifting between the groups.
In two and a half years of existence, the EDL has had several shake-ups as its leaders try to solidify its organisation and harden up its politics. This may not be the last.
The new alliance – by bringing together the electoral BFP and the EDL thugs – gives the fascists their traditional two-pronged attack.