“… while I’m not one to ‘blow my own trumpet’, the reason that we can win is because I do have a huge personal recognition and respect”. So said Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party, in an appeal yesterday for donations of £10 a time to support his campaign for re-election to the European Parliament next May.
He may be right about the personal recognition. Respect is an entirely different matter. And as for blowing his own trumpet, he barely does much else.
On Friday Griffin appealed to English Defence League activists to join the BNP following the very public departure of their leader Tommy Robinson, whom Griffin accused of being pro-Zionist, the worst possible crime in Griffin’s book clearly.
“The days of division are over!” wrote Griffin, hoping that everyone will forget that he is himself the cause of many of the divisions on the far right. “Now we stand together side-by-side as a much stronger force on the political scene,” he continued. In other words, the BNP has lost a lot of its activists over the past three years or so and Griffin is desperate for some new troops.
Especially attractive for Griffin is the fact that most EDL activists are not interested in real political activity and issues so are unlikely to present any challenge to his leadership. “The BNP is the perfect home for nationalists: we operate a clear distinction between politics and street-level activism,” writes Griffin – a very revealing statement.
The EDL was already wracked by division before Robinson and Carroll made their move. Many activists had decamped into splinter groups such as the Infidels, or moved into longer established violent extremist organisations such as the National Front. Although the EDL demonstration in Bradford last Saturday attracted a relatively large number of participants – around 700 according to the police – that was probably an attempt by the remnants of the EDL to show the organisation is not dead and by the various other groups on that scene to recruit.
Who exactly has taken over the leadership of the EDL is unclear and it would not be surprising if a power struggle is going on. One report says Tim Ablitt is the new leader. This is the man who runs the EDL’s merchandising operation and processes donations to the EDL through the company NRNLS Ltd, registered at his address in Poole. The company faces strike-off for its failure to submit its annual return to Companies House. Another man who has staked his claim to the leadership is Elliot Fountain, a former English Democrat councillor in Boston.
Meanwhile Robinson’s departure from the EDL and link-up with the Quilliam Foundation has attracted disproportionate media attention. Many commentators purport to know what is going on in his mind and much of what has been written is pure speculation. These writers mostly come from a very different background from Robinson. The common theme is scepticism about how genuine his change of heart is. That appears to be based on the fact that he has not adopted a political position that meets with the full approval of the various politicos and academics who have “analysed” his recent statements and interviews.
For what it’s worth, I think it is far too early to tell. Robinson has started on a journey of political and self awareness and no one, including Robinson himself, knows where it will end. I can believe that his spell in prison helped him to examine his actions and his conscience. My advice to him now would be to retreat from the limelight that he so clearly enjoys, spend time with his family, including his cousin and former co-leader of the EDL Kev Carroll, and close friends (those outside the EDL that is) and devote some time to prayer, meditation or other form of reflection to discern the guidance he needs to continue his personal journey.