Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) with Alan Spence (Inset) Spence with BNP leader Nick Griffin
The English Defence League likes to parrot its worn out mantra, “We are not the BNP and we are not nazis”, over and over again. Simon Cressy takes a closer look and finds a different story.
Is the EDL racist? People have asked the question since the inception of the EDL back in summer 2009. The EDL itself says on its website: “Some organisations and media reports have branded the EDL as ‘racist’, ‘fascist’, ‘far-right’, or even ‘Zionist’. All of these accusations are flat out untrue. We take an actively anti-racist and anti-fascist stance.”
As always the EDL is being economical with the truth. There can be no argument over the EDL’s racism as the organisation is full to the brim with known BNP members together with a number of hardcore nazis, who are using the EDL as a vehicle to further their vehement xenophobia.
Despite being proscribed by Nick Griffin, the British National Party leader, BNP activists regularly attend EDL events.
The EDL leader parades around as Tommy Robinson and hid his identity behind a mask for over a year until Searchlight uncovered the fact that he is a former BNP member called Stephen Yaxley-Lennon who has served 12 months’ imprisonment for assaulting an off-duty police officer.
Robinson’s cousin Kevin Carroll is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the EDL. In July he lost his appeal against his conviction for shouting abuse at Islamic protesters at the Luton homecoming parade for the Royal Anglian Regiment. It was the events in Luton in March 2009 that prompted the EDL’s formation.
He insists he is not racist, yet he revealed in a BBC documentary, Young, British and Angry, that he had signed the nomination papers in the 2007 Luton council elections for Robert Sherratt, a BNP candidate and activist in the tiny nazi November 9th Society. Carroll apparently was very keen to stand as a BNP candidate himself but was prevented by his partner’s intervention.
Other founding members of the EDL are also known to have been BNP members and activists.
Davy Cooling from Daventry and Chris Renton of Weston-super-Mare were fully paid up members of the BNP, with Renton described as an “activist”.
One face seen at most EDL events is Alan Spence from Newcastle upon Tyne. Spence is pretty much now the EDL organiser in Newcastle, but in May 2010 he stood as the BNP parliamentary candidate in Newcastle East where he received 3.5% of the vote. He also contested Kenton ward on Newcastle City Council, where he finished in last place with 7.3%.
Spence, who is a BNP gold member and has only recently deleted swastikas and Combat 18 images from his Facebook page, has appeared in photographs with both his spiritual leaders, Griffin and Robinson.
Often accompanying Spence to EDL events is his son Steven who also sought election to Newcastle City Council in May as the BNP candidate in Fawdon ward.
Stuart Bates and Michael Fritz have attended various EDL demonstrations. Both are from Birmingham but that is not all they have in common, as they are both trusted members of the BNP West Midlands security team. In fact Bates is so highly regarded that he was drafted in to provide security for Griffin at the BBC Question Time fiasco and at his High Court appearance last month.
It seems the BNP security team has a penchant for the EDL as Jock Shearer, a convicted drug dealer and BNP bodyguard, appeared at last month’s 9/11 “flash” protest by the EDL in Oldham.
Dave Bradley, a BNP activist from Blackburn who turned up at the High Court to support Griffin, is also regular EDL participant. He is known to be close to the Blackburn EDL leader Shane Calvert.
Charlie Baillie and Max Dunbar, both seen with the EDL in Bradford on 28 August, were Scottish BNP candidates in the 2009 European election.
Also at Bradford was the former Wakefield BNP organiser John Aveyard, who was recently released from prison after being convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. On Aveyard’s coat tails was another BNP candidate from Wakefield, Grant Rowe.
Other BNP candidates who have taken part in EDL protests include Karen Otty from Liverpool, the Rotherham BNP organiser Marlene Guest and Sion Owens, the Swansea BNP organiser. Owens was photographed at the Swansea Welsh Defence League demonstration with a group of well known hardcore nazis including Wayne Baldwin, an EDL regular. Baldwin, a convicted criminal, is an unabashed nazi who has the obligatory swastika tattoo on his chest and has been photographed posing in front of a swastika flag.
Two other nazis who have attended EDL events are now languishing in jail. Trevor Hannington and Mike Heaton were both convicted in June. Members of the shadowy nazi Aryan Strike Force, they were jailed for posting violent and vicious racist messages on the internet.
Heaton, of Leigh, Greater Manchester, and Hannington, from Cardiff, described Jews as “scum” and called for them to be “destroyed”. Heaton was found guilty of stirring up racial hatred and jailed for 30 months. Hannington pleaded guilty to the same charge and other offences and was imprisoned for two years.
The EDL might like to think it is not racist, but the proof is in the pudding. As the BNP implodes many of its activists are finding a new home in the EDL.
The English Defence League’s head steward comes from a notorious UDA family in East Belfast.
Leon McCreery, who now lives in Stockport, is the nephew of the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballer David McCreery.
His father, Leonard McCreery, is a convicted UDA thug who served 11 years in prison for the attempted murder of Geordie Legge, a leading member of the paramilitary UDA and the Ulster Freedom Fighters, in 1997. Legge sus-tained knife wounds to the heart and twice died on the way to hospital but was revived by paramedics in the ambulance.
Leonard McCreery believed Legge was responsible for the murder of his brother Ned five years earlier. Ned McCreery was an East Belfast UDA brigadier who met a bloody end when he was murdered by the UFF after they labelled him a police agent.
Leon McCreery, now 28, fled Belfast in 1999 with his mother, brother and sister after he was attacked and slashed in the face by rival loyalists. He required 63 stitches and 17 staples for head and body wounds. In 2004 he was awarded £25,000 compensation.
Despite all this Leon McCreery still displays pro-UDA sentiments on his Facebook page.