The EDL has fragmented since it suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) over the past few years.
Its leader, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson), defected to an “anti-extremist” organisation, abandoning his former supporters. The motley crew that turns out at EDL protests has been reduced to a handful of thugs, many associated with old fascist groups.
Infighting between the National Front, the BNP and EDL splinter groups such as the Infidels has become a feature of its events. The EDL was only able to mobilise some 300 supporters for its national demonstration in Birmingham in October. EDL supporters chanted anti-Muslim slogans, then turned on one of their own LGBT supporters after he raised the rainbow flag.
Yet the threat has not passed. The EDL was able to mobilise over 700 of its supporters for its “demonstration against Asian grooming” in Rotherham on
25 October. It has also targetted Ukip strongholds such as Clacton-on-Sea, looking to capitalise on the sharp shift to the right. It is clear that the EDL wants to find a home as the “third force” on the far-right.
With the BNP imploding — it recently expelled chairman Nick Griffin — and Ukip sucking up votes from the mainstream parties, the EDL is attempting to position itself as the ground troops for the far-right. It has attempted to piggyback on the rise of racism, exploiting the murder of Lee Rigby and the Rotherham scandal, in an attempt to carve out other fascist parties.
Its limited success so far is due to the constant mobilisations by anti-fascists, trade unions, community groups and others.