Leadership & Structure

Leadership

The key figure in the group is “Tommy Robinson”, whose real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a former British National Party (BNP) member. Lennon has recently been charged with assaulting a police officer.

Number two in the EDL is Kevin Carroll, Yaxley-Lennon’s cousin. He signed the nomination papers for Robert Sherratt, a BNP candidate in Luton in 2007 who was also an activist in the tiny nazi group, the November 9th Society.

The organisation is supported by Alan Lake from North London who has links to Christian evangelical groups in Britain and the USA and sees the EDL as both a “street army” and a bridgehead towards the creation of a larger anti-Islamic movement.

English Defence League's Alan Lake English Defence League's Alan Lake English Defence League's Kevin Carroll

(Left to right) Alan Lake, Tommy Robinson, Kevin Carroll

When Lake addressed an anti-Islam conference organised by the Sweden Democrats last year he spoke of a battle on many fronts, the EDL being just one. He identified a need for “people that are ready to go out in the street” and boasted that he and his friends had already begun to build alliances with “football supporters”. “We are catching a baby at the start of a gestation,” Lake later told The Guardian. “We have a problem with numbers. We have an army of bloggers [on the far right] but that’s not going to get things done.

“Football fans are a potential source of support. They are a hoi polloi that gets off their backsides and travels to a city and they are available before and after matches.” Lake operates a series of anti-Islamic websites, of which the EDL forms just a part. He is in touch with Christian evangelical groups, both here and in the US, has had discussions with middle-ranking officers in the UK Independence Party and is now suggesting that Britain needs a Tea Party-type organisation.

Structure

The EDL is run by 15 key people across the country who co-ordinate activists via email and social networking sites, such as Facebook. It uses social media in a way that no other far-right organisation does in the UK. It is because its method of organising is different from traditional models that the police and other statutory bodies have been slow in understanding its threat and potential.

It claims to have dozens of “divisions” around the country. Over the past few months the EDL has begun to organise meetings and events on a regional basis. National mobilisations are coordinated centrally.