I do not pretend to be knowledgeable or even well informed about the English Defence League. The group were formed after I left the UK and the main source of detail I receive is from Facebook groups or minor newspaper articles.
However, even with such a trickle of knowledge, I had a hunch from very early on that there is more ton this group than meets the eye.
The EDL are clearly a defeatist party who will never gain mainstream acceptance. There is nothing new about this of course. Both sides of the political spectrum have small groups who want to live out some form of fantasy (think neo-Nazis or neo-Bolsheviks) and take pride on being outsiders, destined to be political losers forever. What seems to make the EDL different is the speed with which they have formed and become organised and the amount of attention they are receiving. The group are already organising marches around the nation, receiving lots of hits on their website and everyone involved in politics has an opinion on them. Compare this to the controversial BNP or even the National Front. Both groups took years to gain enough support to yield attention or concern.
Part of the reason for the EDL's appeal lies in the simplicity of their message. They're not a 'ballot box' political party, so they don't need to even pretend they have policies. Their focus is simple: march in support of the flag and against Islam. They do not have a racial agenda (though many on the left dispute this) and no political aspirations. If you're English, you're one of them. Or so they claim.
With immigration such a huge political issue at the moment and the government (new or old) appearing so weak in dealing with the failure of multiculturalism, the EDL's simple message reaches out to many disenchanted working class Brits who feel so betrayed by politicians and sick of political correctness. They are searching for a voice and they believe the EDL gives it to them.
But the problem is that a greatly simplified message will - for the most part - attract fairly simple people. It's no coincidence that the biggest reaction to the recent "Police are telling people in pubs they cannot wear England Shirts" hoax that did the rounds online and in the UK media came from EDL supporters. They took no time to consider the authenticity of the message or check any sources. They read it, so it must be true.
This is not a description of all EDL members and I'm sure many of them are more intelligent, qualified and wise than myself, but I think the majority of members fit my description.
EDL marches paint a similar picture. So many shaved heads, hooded tops and angry faces play perfectly into the hands of their objectors or despicable groups like the UAF who seek any excuse to silence groups whom they dislike. There have been claims and accusations of widespread violence and anti-semitism on display at EDL marches. It should go without saying that if these claims are true, this is despicable. The problem is that however vehemently EDL staff deny these charges, people will always disbelieve them for the reasons mentioned above. They can't win.
With so much negative publicity and no apparent benefits from their existence, the obvious question is: Who is running the EDL? And to what purpose?
Sections of the left would claim the group is either a front-group or a militant section of the BNP or NF, often citing a few examples of far-right personnel who have joined the group. I think that's rubbish. The BNP have worked a long time to distance themselves from the 'football hooligan' image and have nothing to gain from setting up a group that achieves little more than a bunch of bad publicity. BNP Chairman Nick Griffin has also publicly criticised the group ins strong terms.
I think two far stronger possibilities exist. First - the EDL is run by a political party or person in a position of wealth or power on the left. This is not a conspiracy theory, it's simply a matter of realpolitik. The notions of patriotism, anti-Islam and groups like the BNP have been on the rise in recent years. Far-left groups have attempted to silence them and waves of politically correct politicians have attempted to stereotype them. For a long time it worked. But slowly society is waking up to the fact that opposing Islam is not racialist and patriotism is not inherently evil.
What better way to smash the growth of such sentiment than creating guilt by association? If you're against immigration or militant Islam you're just like those stupid hooligans marching and screaming in the street. In other words, you're a Fascist. And Fascists worked with Hitler.
The second possibility is that the EDL are a group designed to further split the right wing vote. After the BNP won a seat on the London Assembly, the government set about using new legislation to try and bankrupt the party, to whoops of delight from the "anti fascist" far-left. That failed. The idea of a party similar to the BNP in its message but at loggerheads with each other seems a perfect way to split votes and weaken the enemy. Again, if this sounds like conspiracy talk to you, ask yourself: what do you call it when a government grants itself new powers to bankrupt an opposing political party?
The other possibility is that the EDL is run by a coalition of far-right groups with the aim of creating fear and anxiety in certain areas for the purpose of enjoying violence and aggression. This is possible, but the level of funding, organisation and support seems to be out of their league.
Whatever the truth of the EDL, I want their well-meaning members - of which I'm sure we have many - to consider this: there is a good chance that the EDL is actually doing harm to every cause you stand for.
Leftists love nothing more than kidding themselves that nationalists of any type are stupid, gullible and inarticulate. It helps them to kid themselves they are smart. The government (any of the big three parties) love to portray opponents of immigration as uneducated, violent people, and the small proportion of Muslims who are militant love to portray EDL marches as 'Islamophobic' and 'hateful'
Yes, the growth of Islam in the UK is a massive concern. Yes, immigration (but not immigrants themselves) probably is a threat to our identity and way of life. Yes, political correctness is a cancer. And yes, the government have almost certainly encouraged all these things at the expense of the ethnic English. None of these facts justify support of the EDL. On the contrary, the reality of the problem is the reason why we should avoid such groups. A deeply complex problem should not be solved with a very simple yell of anger (at least, not without something else to go with it).
The real solution is this: study the problem, consider workable, genuine solutions to the problems. Decide which UK political party best suits your principles. UKIP and the English Democrats are both respected political parties with sensible policies to tackle immigration and protect traditional cultures.
Read bit more, learn about the inner workings of the political system, perhaps even become a candidate for your party. In short: tackle the enemy from within. It makes you so much harder to deal with.
One place to start wuld be the book "Saving England" by Vernon Coleman. Th ebook is short, easy to read and contains some good ideas.
EDL supporters, I repeat: if you care for any of the causes your group professes to support, my advice is to vent your passion in a very different way. The real defence of England does not lie with the EDL.