The EDL have featured several times on this website. Once in December 2009, again in October 2010 and most recently in September 2011.

This will be the fourth article about the EDL’s activities. Some may ask why?

The author faced a significant amount of criticism when she mentioned the possibility of covering the EDL’s latest visit to Leicester. Some said that the far-right group should get no exposure at all as it would only attract new members, while others said that filming the protest would be unsafe. Only a few people said that it was the right thing to do as the EDL should be exposed for the complete idiots that they are.

Engaging with any of these suggestions are not the reasons for the coverage given to the group on this website. The EDL is indeed a dangerous threat to social cohesion – but it is only serving in the EDL’s interests if they are given potatoes (see Douglas Adams!). It is better to try and understand the group than to hide and brush the problem under the carpet, or to be scared of the group to the point of hiding, or to even display such brazenness as to ridicule them.

Referring to an interesting attempt to understand the EDL, the political think-tank Demos published a study in November 2011 which made recommendations to not ban the group, to engage with genuine supporters, and to establish a multi-faceted response and to downsize demonstration estimates.

Up to 15,000 people claim to have attended EDL demonstrations with the total number of supporters, sub-groups of activists and sympathisers being at least double this figure.

30% of EDL supporters are educated to university or college level, while the national average is around 45%. It should be noted that this is influenced by the fact that 60% of people who identify with the EDL are under 25 years old and 20% of supporters are currently students, so their highest education level may yet be increased.

As 28% of EDL supporters who are over 25 years old are unemployed (compared with a national average of 6%), supporters are also disproportionately likely to be out of work and 42% of supporters (compared with a national average of 6%) cite immigration as a greater issue than Islamic extremism.

Individual photos from the set above can be found here

The group is reported to be extremely pessimistic about the future, so banning the group would further feed their sense of rejection and drive supporters towards the more extreme right-wing members already established within the EDL. Issues of immigration, joblessness, pessimism, a decline in social capital and trust in political organisations need to be addressed in order to limit the group’s support.

It is highly unlikely that setting up tents near financial centres would be their next move. Although Bartlett & Littler – the authors of the Demos study make a significant attempt to distance the EDL from the Olso terrorist Anders Breivik, they do express concern “about the rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment across Europe – much of which is online – and how certain individuals might be inspired to act on it.”

Based on the data that Demos has collected, it may be possible to conclude that as education levels are not significantly different to the general population, EDL supporters may choose to blame their unemployment on immigration. This may then lead onto supporters being concerned about Islamic extremism (and other forms of racism) – and this is where the social cohesion problems begin.

Could the EDL be dissolved by ‘simply’ reducing unemployment, through financial regulation or a change of government as the United Against Fascism group suggests?

The EDL does indeed have a hardcore element that seems to be bent on violence. Fortunately the majority of members are so young and there are so many latent members primed to take to the streets – many of which can be communicated with online.

Shouldn’t the aims be to make sure that all the good apples are taken out of the basket so the truly rotten ones can be found?

EDL (19/30) 04.02.12