The far-right English Defence League will be turned into a political party in a bid to stand candidates in the European Parliament elections in less than two years, its founder has claimed. Tommy Robinson revealed the plan as he announced he was to leave the British Freedom Party after only five months.
Mr Robinson told The Independent he saw the EDL transforming from its current guise as a street movement in future. He said: "I looked into the future and thought that if I wanted to stand [for election], it wouldn't be for the BFP; it would be for the EDL. I would stand for office as an EDL candidate and it will happen, it's just a matter of when.
"I am looking at how to change the EDL into a genuine political party but we can't put a time on it at the moment. We are looking at the 2014 elections in Europe.
"It [the BFP] just isn't for me, I want to stick to the EDL. I wanted to make this decision before I committed myself to campaigning for the BFP. I have not been involved in an election campaign for them yet, so it is the right time."
Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, joined the British Freedom Party in May along with his cousin and EDL co-founder Kevin Carroll in a bid to politicise the movement.
However, that plan has not come to fruition and Mr Robinson left earlier this afternoon.
Mr Carroll, 43, is standing for election to the Police and Crime Commissioner post at the Bedfordshire Constabulary. He said he is remaining in the party because he wants to push his political ambitions immediately, rather than wait for the transformation of the EDL, which currently has no formalised membership and little structure.
He said: "It was something we discussed and I am staying. I am still 100 per cent EDL but you have the age difference between Tommy and I. At 48 years-old, I am very politically minded now. We still support each other 100 per cent but he is talking further down the road and I want to push forward with this now."
Mr Robinson is seeking to follow the example of BNP leader Nick Griffin, who was himself elected to the European Parliament in 2009. He is known to favour legitimising the movement with the mainstream and is thought to be in negotiations to merge with another far-right group.
But a recent report from the Extremis Project, a collection of academics and commentators on various forms of extremism suggested that the EDL has "struggled to communicate its ideas to the wider public" since it was formed in 2009.
The group and YouGov surveyed more than 1,600 people for its report entitled 'Under the microscope: Public attitudes toward the English Defence League', which was published this week.
The group wrote: "[The EDL] is far from being a 'household name'. Those who 'have heard of the EDL but are unsure what they stand for' clearly outnumber those who 'have heard of the EDL and know exactly what they stand for'.
"In fact, more than two-fifths of respondents - or 42 per cent - said that while they had heard of the EDL they were unsure what the movement stands for. In contrast, only one-third had heard of the movement and were aware of its platform, while one-quarter of the respondents had 'never heard' of the English Defence League."
And Matthew Collins of anti-EDL campaigners Hope Not Hate said he does not believe the EDL has the organisational capacity to effectively transform itself into a political party. He said: "[Mr Robinson] is not going to do it. The immediate problem is that he has a number of court cases coming up.
"It is quite clear that the BFP link has not worked out, the party cannot deliver politically and he cannot organise the EDL into a political party."
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