THE BLOG

EDL Leader Tommy Robinson on Fear and Boozing

27/05/2013 22:35 BST | Updated 26/07/2013 10:12 BST

A shadowy group has infiltrated the country and it seeks to divide us. It frightens and intimidates mainstream society, despite the fact it makes up a tiny minority of the population. Its ranting leaders exploit every opportunity to publicly advance their dogma and they are increasingly using the internet to spread their message. Devout followers, who hang on every word of leaders as though they are charismatic prophets, sometimes veil their faces.

This group of zealots was quick to exploit the murder, in Woolwich, of soldier Lee Rigby. They enthusiastically took to the internet and streets to press home their discourse of division. I am, of course, referring to the English Defence League.

Many people regard the EDL as so ludicrous and marginal that it's not worth even thinking about - until they invade your own town. Their rallies often give the impression that a gang of skinheads fell into a drunken coma in 1981 and just woke up, angry and confused. Perhaps they were jolted from their slumber by recordings of Warren Mitchell playing the pitiful comedy throwback Alf Garnett.

For those of us who enjoy living in a multicultural society, it is easy to mock the EDL and to point out the many similarities it has with Islamic extremist groups. Both are preoccupied with a mythical past and fantasy future, both exploit the frustration of vulnerable alienated young males and both push divisive ideologies. The two 'sides' have a symbiotic relationship - each feeds off and feeds the fear of the other.

Despite the marginality of the EDL, the Woolwich murder demonstrated that tragic events have the potential to draw people, however fleetingly, to their ideologies. Since Lee Rigby's death, the number of people 'liking' the EDL's Facebook page has risen steadily. It currently stands at around 125,000. We will soon see if social media success translates to boots on the street.

As well as an event at Westminster today, there will be other opportunities in the coming days and weeks for new blood to show their faces - or balaclavas. A recent march in Newcastle attracted between 1,500 and 2,000 supporters, according to the police. EDL leader Tommy Robinson disputes this, claiming there was "a minimum of five to seven thousand supporters on the street." An event in Woolwich attracted around 100 men, some of whom clashed with police and threw bottles at officers.

The EDL rallies I have witnessed were rather drunken and incoherent affairs, reminiscent of bank holiday Mondays on Blackpool seafront. In a YouTube broadcast on May 26, Mr Robinson acknowledged that his own alcohol consumption has historically hindered his ability to communicate. He believes his current sobriety can only help the organisation.

He said: "If I'm honest, I'm quite guilty myself when I look at the last three or four years how I carried myself, because I drunk a lot. The last documentary I done, a lot of it I was drunk. The message I'm portraying is so serious that I was doing that a lot of the time to deal with the stresses and pressures of leading the English Defence League - with everything that's come with it.

"I've only had a drink once in the past nine months, on Saint George's Day, so I feel like a new person. I feel so focused on what we are doing and so dedicated to what I'm doing that it is going to grow," he added.

Asked about Muslims being fearful of being victimised by EDL supporters, he also said: "What really angers me, in all this now, how has Muslims become the victims? All I hear is "We're scared", all I see on the TV is Muslim leaders saying "We're scared, our women are scared". Your women are scared? Your women are scared? Our soldier's wives - how do you think they're feeling now when they're walking into the barracks with their kids? Do you think they're looking over their shoulder? Course they are. How do you think a parent feels when their 11-year-old daughter is going to play in the park with all these grooming gangs?

"You're scared? We're scared everyday but somehow it's been progressed that you're the victims - your community are the victims. The biggest weapon Islam has is the cry of persecution. You're scared! We're not cutting your heads off, we're not planning to blow you up, we're not raping your kids, but you're scared? It's a liberty, an absolute liberty! But at the same time I will progress that you're not going to get anywhere by attacking innocent Muslims. It's completely the wrong thing to do - it's a moronic thing to do."

Let us hope Mr Robinson's less erudite followers hear and heed his message. A number of mosques have been targeted and Muslims attacked since the death of Lee Rigby. Proceedings are ongoing so, at this stage, EDL supporter involvement has only been speculated rather than proved.