ENGLAND. On an ordinary street in Woolwich, English, onlookers stood by in a state of shock and confusion as British soldier Lee Rigby was run over and beheaded by Islamist extremists back in May 2013. His murder subsequently angered thousands of British people, none more so than those in the far-right movement, fuelling Islamophobia and encouraging Muslim hate crimes through social media.
Historically speaking, the trend of the far-right often tends to begin with an amalgamation of smaller fascist groups into a larger, more forceful assembly. The National Front (NF), for instance, began in 1967 as a merge of the League of Empire Loyalists, the British National Party and the Greater Britain Movement. As the public’s discontent towards immigration increased, the groups saw an increase in membership. After out of control demonstrations, however, the NF suffered serious infighting, a worsened image and decreased numbers.
By the end of the 70s, most had left the NF. Some politicised and joined the short-lived British National Party, a more politically oriented far-right group. The defunct political wing of the English Defence League (EDL) known as the British Freedom Party emerged, and their primary aim was an anti-Islam agenda. However, it soon became an anti-foreigner movement. Concerned by the new English Defense League and it’s extremist elements, leader Tommy Robinson stepped down and not long after was imprisoned for fraud, leaving the group to suffocate under its own infighting.
The once inclusive EDL is now suddenly splintering into many smaller and localised groups, such as the North-East and North-West Infidels, the Casuals, Combined Ex-Forces and the East-Anglian Patriots. This segregation has only weakened the far-right movement altogether.
The East-Anglian Patriots, for instance, organised an anti-mosque demonstration in Lincoln. 300 members came to the city, significantly less than the thousands the EDL would have mobilised at its height. Less than a year later, a second demonstration welcomed a slight 150 members on January 18, 2014. The counter-protest from the Lincoln Against Racism and Fascism group almost outnumbered them, a sure sign of a weakened movement and decreased popularity.
Nick Parker, organiser for the counter-protest group in Lincoln, said: “Obviously the English Defence League is in disarray at the moment, and I think groups like the East Anglian Patriots are trying to exploit [the EDL’s] disarray to rebuild a far-right movement, which is against obviously Muslims, but also against immigrants and trade unions as well.”
Yet it seems like at times these groups manage to counter-act themselves. Take for instance largest far-right political party known as the United Kingdom Independence Party is currently undergoing PR disaster after disaster: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Councillor David Silvester blamed recent flooding on the legalisation of gay marriage. Then there is UKIP Member of the European Parliament Godfrey Bloom, who is literally the media’s go to man for UKIP controversy, and who has called women sluts and mocked a disabled student.
As a result, the party is currently under a massive vetting scheme. Its website’s discussion board was removed due to its racist content, and there are reports that the party has payed an ex-tabloid journalist to interrogate members. Whether or not this will save UKIP’s public image remains to be seen. Yet, the last beacon of hope for the far-right is looking dim.