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Washout in Birmingham

A few days have now passed since the much-anticipated re-launch of Pegida UK in a sodden wet car park on the outskirts of Birmingham. Now that everyone’s clothes have finally dried out it has become clear just how much trouble Stephen Lennon’s (aka ‘Tommy Robinson’) fledgling enterprise is already in.

The chief problem was the disappointingly (for them!) low turnout on the day. Fewer than 200 people made the journey to the Midlands with the demonstrators being outnumbered by police and the phalanx of journalists frantically drying their lenses with drenched chamois cloths. Of course if the press had not made the effort the whole event would have passed without anyone noticing. The march started in the car park of the Birmingham International train station and crawled along empty roads before finishing at a derelict industrial estate.

Lennon and his leadership team Paul Weston and Anne Marie Waters all claimed that the demonstration was both the launch of something totally new and that it was inevitable that Pegida UK will grow exponentially in the coming months.

Pegida’s Anne Marie Waters and Paul Weston in Birmingham 6 February 2016

One of these claims is simply wrong and the second is highly unlikely.

As our video shows there is nothing new about Pegida UK, it really is just a re-launch of the English Defence League (EDL). The organisers are the same, most of the speakers are the same, the security team is the same and many of the demonstrators are the same. The Birmingham demonstration clearly showed that besides the tactic of marching in silence, Pegida UK was little more than a rebranding exercise.

However, it was Paul Weston’s claim that Pegida UK would have 100,000 people on the streets by the end of this year that rang most hollow. It is one thing for people in Dresden to wander into their central square every Monday evening, quite another to think that Pegida UK supporters will travel every month, as Lennon is planning, to a deserted industrial estate. It is just quite absurd.

Pegida UK is not violent enough to attract the old EDL splinter groups; neither is it moderate enough to attract those who simply have concerns about radical Islam.

Lennon’s adoption of the silent march tactic, that has garnered some results in Dresden, simply lacks the excitement of the old EDL events, which was part of what motivated some activists. Also his tolerance of multiracialism, as shown by the waving of a Pakistani flag from the stage, has been greeted with hostility by former EDL splinter groups such as the North West Infidels (NWI). In the days following the Pegida UK event the NWI condemned the flying of a Pakistani and Israeli flag, stating: &lsqou;We burn them, not fly them!’

Conversely the aim of Pegida UK is to attract more moderate and respectable people, hence the rebranding exercise. However, in this Lennon has also failed. By bringing in anti-Muslim bloggers like Paul Weston and making ex-BNP supporter Jack Buckby their press officer, as well as reusing his old racist EDL security team, his rhetoric about a new moderate movement rings completely hollow. As you will see from our video the crowd was also littered will old EDL supporters and activists.

It is clear that Pegida UK really is just the EDL mark II.