The far-right group the English Defence League is to put forward its first candidate for public office, it has announced. Joint leader Kevin Carroll will stand for election as the Police Commissioner for Bedfordshire, one of the anti-Muslim organisation’s strongholds.
Speaking to The Independent, Mr Carroll confirmed the news, saying that the group intended to put up more candidates in future elections to Police Commissioner and councillor positions as part of its alliance with the nationalist British Freedom Party.
The move marks a shift in tactics by the EDL, which until now has been clear that it is not a political group but a street movement. Dr Matthew Goodwin, an expert on the far-right at Nottingham University, said it reflects the movement’s growing interest and activity in areas outside its usual rallies and demonstrations.
He said: “This move is signalling an interest in capturing elected positions, it is significant in that it is in Bedfordshire, where the EDL emerged and has some local support.” He added that elections to positions such as Mayor or Police Commissioner because the polling is normally characterised by low turnouts, which benefit smaller parties.
“Whether or not it turns into a greater commitment to electioneering in local elections next year and in European elections the following year remains to be seen. The position is not of major strategic importance nationally, but success would buoy their interest in standing candidates elsewhere.
An email sent to EDL members, seen by the Independent, told them that Mr Carroll will demand an end to police resources being used to combat “trivial offences”, such as hate speech. He will also denounce what was called “two-tier policing”. The email read: “There should be no special favours for minority groups, criminals should feel equal force of the law – British law, not Sharia Law or any other kind of alien law.”
Mr Carroll said he will stand in his guise as joint-leader of the group, rather than as vice-chairman of the BFP because the role requires an apolitical approach. He said he has raise “between £1,500 and £1,600 of the £5,000 deposit” required of each candidate.
He added that he would donate half of the salary payable to a children’s charity, the other half to “armed forces charities” in a bid to remove financial incentive from the campaign. “I am not saying we are going to win because we are going to give it a try,” he said yesterday.
Matthew Collins, of the ant-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate, said: “Despite what some people say, the reality in this country is that the electoral threat from the far-right has diminished. What is a concern, however, is how the electorate themselves respond to these elections. The turnout will probably be small, tiny, which traditionally helps the far-right.”
“We are evaluating what kind of campaign we will run in these elections. It was always obvious that the far-right would try and field candidates. There is the danger of low level political literacy: will people actually understand what they are voting for or will we get the sort of response we sometimes get in Mayorals; a touch of bloody mindedness?
“Carroll is mildly intelligent, but he did not rise to the top of the EDL by being slightly more coherent than his daft cousin (EDL founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson). He will obviously try and build his candidature out of Islamophobia, scaremongering, horror stories etc.
“The EDL is faltering and there is good reason to suggest that, as a national organisation, it is in demise. But they have always been a symptom of something more troubling in England.
“So, we will keep campaigning and working in areas where the BNP and the EDL have been active and we will make sure that people know that someone like Kevin Carroll being a Police Commissioner would be like the people of Chicago electing Al Capone to run the police force there. We will always campaign against then, because despite their idiocy, we must never underestimate or ignore their very real dangers.”Reuse content