October 18, 2013
The English Defence League is likely to splinter into smaller regional units with some supporters shifting to more extreme movements in the wake of the leadership’s resignation, according to a former member of the police unit that spent years covertly monitoring the group.
Even before last week’s shock decision by Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll to abandon the anti-Islamic street movement they formed in 2009 – saying they no longer wished to be associated with the far-right extremists that came to their rallies – there were signs that the group was splintering and losing support.
Local EDL leaders held a Skype conference on 9 October in which they agreed to establish a new committee of regional organisers. They chose a new chairman, Tony Ablitt, a former organiser with the British Freedom Party, a short-lived political front for the EDL. They are due to hold a meeting on 26 October to discuss the group’s future strategy.
“The legacy of the EDL is a few thousand young, working class men who have been radicalised and handed a warped view of British Muslims and their beliefs,” said Matthew Goodwin, associate professor at the University of Nottingham. “It is unlikely that now, with the resignations, those men are simply going to abandon those views.”
Matthew Goodwin, from the University of Nottingham, stated that it would be hard for Mr Robinson to change.
“He comes from a section of society that is already likely to feel left behind by the economic transformation of Britain and under threat from immigration and seemingly ‘new’ groups in society, like Muslims,” said Matthew Goodwin. “Those views were forged during his younger years, so it is distinctly unlikely that he will fundamentally overhaul his beliefs. Once we are hard-wired in this way, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to move in a radically different direction.”