Published on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 21:33 Written by Sonia Gable
A less appropriate person to set policing priorities and appoint the chief constable than the joint chief of a bunch of violent street thugs, many of whom have criminal convictions, is hard to imagine, but it’s a free election and people of all political views can stand. The media have been quick to point out that Kevin Carroll, who lives in Luton, has a conviction himself: a public order offence for shouting abuse at Muslims who were protesting at a soldiers’ homecoming parade in Luton in 2009, for which he received a nine-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £175 costs. However the offence is not imprisonable and therefore does not bar him from standing.
Carroll is also a vice chairman of the British Freedom Party, which was formed in autumn 2010 by former British National Party activists who backed Eddy Butler’s bid to oust Nick Griffin as the BNP leader two years ago (but not Butler himself who later joined the English Democrats). The BFP, now led by Paul Weston, a former UKIP candidate, formed an alliance with the EDL earlier this year, appointing Carroll and his cousin and co-leader of the EDL, Stephen Lennon, as joint vice chairmen. The BFP is also backing Carroll’s bid for the police commissioner role.
Some police officers and others have warned that public apathy about these elections, which will not take place in London, risks letting extremists into power by the back door. Ironically, the fact that Carroll is standing – and other far-right candidates can be expected to follow – may increase interest from the majority who want to keep fascists and racists out of any position of influence. That’s not to say we welcome any far-right candidates: their presence can only be a diversion from the real issues. The chances of Carroll being elected are negligible: in the May council elections the BFP’s six candidates polled an average of 51 votes each (1.9%).
In fact Carroll told The Independent on 1 August that he would stand in his guise as joint-leader of the EDL, rather than as vice-chairman of the BFP, because the role requires an apolitical approach. That may be his view, but the usual rules apply to these elections, one of which is that candidates can only stand as independents or as representatives of a registered political party, which the EDL is not.
The EDL has a higher public profile than the BFP but not one that is likely to gain it much support. The leader of an outfit intimately associated with violence is hardly an ideal candidate for running the police by any stretch of the imagination.
The identical announcements on the EDL and BFP websites state that Carroll will stand on a platform of ending cuts in the police service, “substantial improvements” in police pay and conditions, an end to “political correctness” (hardly a surprise) and what they describe as “two-tier policing” (by which they mean supposed special favours for minority groups), emphasis on tackling serious crime, antisocial behaviour and dealing hard drugs, and “no more police time wasted on manning speed traps”, a plea that suggests Carroll might have been caught out too often for comfort.
The announcement unsurprisingly brought out the usual “experts”, and they don’t come any more ubiquitous than Dr Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham University. Showing that he had thought long and hard about the issues, he told The Independent: “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: “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.” Well, yes.
Call for donations
Candidates for election must pay a deposit of £5,000 which is returned if they receive at least 5% of the vote. They must also obtain 100 nominations from registered voters in their police area. Carroll might manage the nominations but can expect to lose his deposit, so the EDL and BFP are imploring their supporters to raise the money for him. By midnight on 1 August they claimed to have raised £1,096.66, nearly 22% of the total and up from £1,067.66 earlier in the day, though Carroll told The Independent the same day that he already received “between £1,500 and £1,600”.
I can confidently predict that the EDL will have raised the money before 12 noon on 19 October, the deadline for registering candidates. Whatever comes in as a result of this appeal, the EDL has plenty of other sources of funding, enabling its supporters to travel around the country to demonstrations most weekends this summer.
One money-maker for the EDL is online merchandising. The antifascist EDL News website last month revealed the names of four limited companies associated with the EDL, which it said had been formed to get round the stop on the EDL’s PayPal account in response to the EDL breaching PayPal’s user agreement by promoting anti-Muslim, xenophobic and racist views.
Two of these companies, The English Defence League Angels (EDL) Ltd, company number 07699357 formed on 11 July 2011, and The English & Jewish Defence League (EDL) Ltd, company number 07678022, formed on 22 June 2011, are listed as dormant, which means no transactions go through them. Both have Helen Gower, personal assistant to Lennon and Carroll, as director and share a registered address in Dover.
Possibly more active is EDL English Defence League Ltd, directed by Roberta Moore, former head of the EDL’s ‘Jewish division’, though not herself Jewish, and a supporter of the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. The company, number 07477566, formed on 23 December 2010, describes its business helpfully as “other service activities not elsewhere classified”.
The fourth company is NRNLS Ltd, a clothing business registered at an address in Poole and directed by Timothy Ablitt, an EDL activist and regional organiser for the BFP. It is this company, number 07983282, formed on 9 March 2012, that supplies the clothing that the EDL sells on its website.
But it does more than that. Anyone foolish enough to make an online donation to the EDL via its website arrives at a PayPal donation page displaying the message “PayPal securely processes donations for NRNLS Ltd”. This, on the EDL’s website, is evidence that NRNLS Ltd is acting as a front for the EDL to get round the PayPal ban. EDL News wrote on 7 July 2012 that it had contacted PayPal to draw this matter to its attention. So far PayPal appears to have done nothing about it.
EDL News also rightly questions how donors can be sure that their donations are actually going to the EDL rather than to the owners of NRNLS Ltd. That company is not required to file its first accounts until 9 December 2013, leaving donors in the dark for many months.
NRNLS Ltd is not, however, entrusted with collecting donations for Carroll’s election deposit: these are being processed through the BFP’s PayPal account, whichever website donors access to support his campaign.
Money from the start
However there is much bigger money behind the EDL. Late last year The Sunday Times revealed that Alan Lake, one of the founders of the EDL in 2009, was in reality Alan Ayling, a wealthy IT expert who until January 2011 was a director of Pacific Capital Investment Management Ltd. In an interview with the Norwegian TV2 channel Ayling admitted: “I have given some money to help some EDL things happen”.
Also exposed by The Sunday Times was Ann Bernadette Marchini, who uses the name “Gaia” the Earth goddess of Greek mythology. Marchini runs a buy-to-let property empire from her £1.6 million mock-Tudor home in Highgate. She is believed to be divorced from an Italian banker and also to use the alias “Dominique Devaux”. Her website lists 19 properties of up to five bedrooms, mostly in east London. They are let room by room, mostly to students.
In Searchlight’s December 2011 issue, I picked up on research by Tash Shifrin published on the Unite Against Fascism website, which revealed that Marchini coordinated the European wing of the well funded US Center for Vigilant Freedom (CVF), now part of the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA), which promotes Islamophobia and organises the EDL’s links with far-right and fascist groups across Europe and the USA. I also named three other directors of the CVF: Chris Knowles, who ran the EDL’s media operation, Christine Brim, chief operating officer of the multi-million dollar, right-wing and Islamophobic US think tank, the Center for Security Policy, and Edward May, who as “Baron Bodissey” runs the Islamophobic Gates of Vienna website. It is Gates of Vienna that provides Weston with a forum for his predictions of war between “native Europeans” and Muslims.
The ICLA sponsored an “International Conference for Free Speech and Human Rights” at the European Parliament in Brussels on 9 July, hosted by Philip Claeys of the Belgian extremist party Flemish Interest (VB). The meeting, which was not advertised, featured as a guest speaker Stephen Lennon, standing in for Weston who was “unable to attend” according to the BFP. What the assembled members of far-right organisations from Germany, Sweden and the UK made of Lennon’s theory that Luton was the centre of a plot by the Islamic world to bring Britain under their authority is not known.
While in Brussels, Lennon, who generally uses the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, left an anti-Islam leaflet on the office door of Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP for the East of England constituency, which includes Luton. He also left a note in Howitt’s mailbox saying “You spineless coward, Love Tommy”. He appears to be in trouble not for that but for contravening the European Parliament’s rule that visitors must be signed in and show a passport as identity.
More recently the ICLA has also come to the attention of Griffin. At a conference of the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM) on 24 July, Griffin, who in February had lifted the BNP’s proscription of the EDL, stated there was “nothing English about the EDL”.
Back in February Griffin welcomed cooperation with the EDL’s “members” (it doesn’t actually have any) but criticised the fact that the organisation was “financed not out of the pockets of its overwhelmingly working class grass-roots, but by a tight-knit group of wealthy businessmen”. It was a clear attempt by Griffin to win over some of the young people who had been politicised into Islamophobia by the EDL.
At the AENM conference held at a hotel in Wirral, which had been duped into hosting it by the simple expedient of a booking in the false name of the European Social Political and Economic Research Establishment, Griffin claimed that the ICLA and its allies had a “thinly veiled agenda” of taking over or destroying “genuine nationalist parties” such as the BNP and replacing them with “tame nationalists”. That may be a convenient explanation of the BNP’s decline over the past two years, mostly if not wholly the result of Griffin’s mismanagement and dictatorial nature. However it is true that the BFP, a party that claimed 449 “paid and non-paying members” at 31 December 2011, and income for the whole of 2011 of £2,418.38 – a figure that indicates most of the members were non-paying – has been promoted as the BNP’s successor by many commentators who should know better.
But it goes further than that according to Griffin. After outlining the roles of Brim, Knowles and Marchini, Griffin went on to point the finger at Frank Gaffney, Brim’s boss at the Center for Security Policy and one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).
The PNAC, which existed from 19997 to 2006, described itself as “a non-profit educational organization dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that American leadership is good both for America and for the world; and that such leadership requires military strength, diplomatic energy and commitment to moral principle”, a position statement rather more blatant than other organisations that promote US state interests such as the British-American Project.
Griffin told his audience that the PNAC had been one of the prime movers in favour of the war in Iraq, which Griffin opposed, and stated that Gaffney was using people such as Lennon to create “moronic hatred against Islam and clashes against Islam” with the aim of creating momentum for a war against Iran in the interests of US foreign policy.
According to Griffin, Gaffney’s outfit was also financing ultra-Zionist settlors in Israel to ensure there was no possibility of peace with the Palestinians. To applause – and Griffin’s long and involved speech, which probably went way over the heads of much of his audience, did not receive much – Griffin stated that the BNP did not take a position on the Middle East as it is “not our fight”. However he found it hard to position himself as opposed to Zionist interests but not antisemitic, and cited Weston’s visit to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem as part of the process of taming nationalism.
Like in February, Griffin was at pains not to criticise the EDL’s supporters, who, in his view, were “sincere” and “risk losing their jobs and families to express their deep concern with how we are losing our country”. But he criticised the EDL’s narrow focus on Islam, reminding his listeners of the “areas of our country colonised by Africans” and referring to the “hell hole” of Britain’s inner cities. The BNP had lost its councillors in Barking and Dagenham at the hands not of Muslims but of Christian blacks, he said.
Although Griffin has often predicted civil war in Britain, he claims he does not want it and condemned Gates of Vienna for its promotion of violence by publishing manuals for “leaderless white terrorist gangs” such as Breivik, instructions on the manufacture of explosives, and its advocacy of assassinating the leaders of Islam. He saw their agenda as targeting “innocent members of the Muslim community”, thereby provoking retaliation and boosting a cycle of violence, something he described as “sick and wicked beyond belief”, though perhaps of greater concern to him was that he personally would be blamed for the resulting civil war.
Griffin added that it was not only the interests of US foreign policy that would be served by the spread of war in the Middle East but big companies such as Halliburton, which provide much of the equipment for war and are then given the contract to rebuild the devastated countries. That argument is difficult to fault.
He ended on a theme that has also been developed by some of the thinkers of the New Right who have spoken at meetings of Troy Southgate’s New Right group and Jeremy Bedford-Turner’s Iona London Forum (see recent issues of Searchlight). Namely that after the Middle East had been dealt with, the US would turn against Russia, which Griffin praised as the only place left that was a “reservoir of our kind, culture and identity”. Championing President Vladimir Putin, who was elected in March 2012 in a poll that Griffin described as more democratic than British elections, Griffin accused the US of wanting to open Russia to privatisation, seemingly overlooking the fact that Russian business is largely in the hands of a small number of oligarchs who most certainly do not have the interests of the ordinary people and Russian society at heart. Russia also suffers from a high level of racist violence, as Searchlight has reported month after month (see page 31 for example), but presumably that is OK with Griffin.
Whether or not Gaffney is financing the EDL, whether or not there is any truth in Griffin’s clam that the EDL pays its regional organisers £2,000 if they can fill a coach to an EDL demonstration, the EDL has promised a series of protests over the summer. At a community meeting in Walthamstow, northeast London, on 31 July, speakers pointed out that the EDL is a threat to everyone, not only Muslims, and that it was essential for local people to show the EDL that they were not welcome, in the hope that eventually they would get the message and stay away. The Searchlight website will continue to publicise details of anti-EDL protests wherever the EDL turn up to pollute communities.