This afternoon an EDL demo has been taking place in Solihull, the first of 2013. According to various reports on Twitter, anywhere between 40 and 60 supporters took part. One estimate even placed their numbers as low as 25. Although billed as a ‘regional demo’, the numbers are small. There seems to be little other information circulating about the demo, although its detractors have asserted that its organiser – Matthew Pile – had been involved in a violent racist attack on a fellow bus passenger last October. Press coverage of the protest was limited to an article in the Birmingham Mail, which claimed that there were circa 60 demonstrators in total and whilst hostile in tone noted that the demonstration was peaceful. There was no counter-demonstration.
With Stephen Lennon/Tommy Robinson having recently been sentenced to a ten-month custodial sentence for having entered the US on someone else’s passport, and the EDL seemingly having passed its high watermark in terms of numbers attending demonstrations, some observers have been touting this as signalling the demise of the anti-Islamist campaign group, although in reality the picture is rather more complex. Lennon himself had assumed a high-profile role in the BFP alongside Kevin Carroll in April last year, but left in October, announcing that he was to transform the EDL itself into a political party. Carroll however stayed in the BFP whilst remaining a high-profile member of the EDL. To the surprise of many, Carroll became BFP Chairman earlier this month when Paul Weston stepped down from the role after a little over a year in the position. Adding to the confusion was the fact that the BFP became deregistered as a political party in November 2012 following its failure to pay its annual registration fee. The current status of the party is therefore unclear.
With Kevin Carroll having become BFP Chairman and his cousin now sitting in prison for the best part of this year, will Lennon’s intention to transform the EDL into a fully-fledged political party remain, or will he rejoin the BFP now that Weston has stepped down? It seemed that one of the primary reasons for Lennon’s departure was linked to a failure to see eye-to-eye with Weston’s political agenda despite the party's near monomaniac obsession with Islam, but with Carroll in control, this difference will now in all likelihood have been removed. If the BFP is to continue, it would appear that it will now be the electoral arm of the EDL, although this poses questions both for the BFP’s existing membership and for many EDL supporters who are averse to involvement in electoral politics. It is unlikely that there will be any clarity on this score for quite some time to come, and it seems probable that those EDL protests that do take place in the coming months will be organised by local divisions rather than by the national leadership.