On the 8th of October Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, the two leading members of the English Defence League, resigned. The pair left the organisation as they disagreed with extremist wings of the group, and acknowledge that their street protests are “no longer productive”.
The EDL, or English Defence League, was founded in 2009 by Robinson and Carroll. Formed to oppose Islamic extremism and the spread of Sharia Law, the organisation has exponentially grown and radicalised. The EDL has never rallied huge support, considering its claims of being a political party. Its 161,000 Facebook followers rarely translate into the same level of support on the streets. It has also been continually undermined by tensions over ideology, with splinter groups forming; most notoriously the extremist North East Infidels. Robinson blames the growing tensions and demands for a more extremist approach, along with growing death threats towards him and his family, as the main reason for his resignation.
So, what does the future hold for an already divided EDL? Having lost Robinson, arguably their most unifying factor, where does the movement go from here? Political commentators alike have asserted this as the end of the EDL as we know it. Most expect the formation of smaller regional groups, as the EDL already has a strong system of organisation at a local level. But others speculate that many members will move to more extremist, far-right groups such as the North East Infidels or the English Volunteer force. The EDL has made progress in restructuring their operative hierarchy, holding a Skype conference on the 9th of October in which they elected new regional committees and a new chairman, Tony Albitt.
…possibly a foreboding sign for the future of the movement…
Perhaps the best way to assess the future of the EDL, is to look at its actions since Robinson’s resignation. On the 12th of October, about 300 supporters rallied in Bradford protesting against apparent child sexual exploitation within the Muslim community. Not the largest turn out for an EDL street protest, possibly a foreboding sign for the future of the movement. Gary Hastings, manager of the anti-EDL website EDL news, corroborates this idea. He claims the turnout was still sizeable because many of the protestors had already bought their coach tickets before Robinson’s resignation.
So perhaps we shall have to wait until the next street protest, when protesters loyalties aren’t dictated by the price of a coach ticket; to truly understand the future of the EDL. Whether they form splinter factions or follow a more extremist ideology; one thing they are certain of is that “we collectively will not surrender”. We shall see.