A tabloid newspaper has apparently switched direction after furious criticism of a front-page story widely held to have been a message of support for the English Defence League.
Last week the Daily Star, owned by the Jewish media tycoon Richard Desmond, ran a front-page story headlined “EDL to become political party.” The story said: “In the Daily Star phone poll yesterday, 98 per cent of readers said they agreed with the EDL’s policies.”
The paper’s editorial was headed: “Don’t dare ignore the EDL” and said: “Whether you like them or not, Tommy [Robinson – the pseudonym of EDL leader Stephen Lennon] and his followers will have to be taken very seriously”. But after heavy criticism, the paper ran several negative stories about the EDL – including one about an ex-Marine angry that the group planned a protest “in his name” against Muslim Respect councillors in Birmingham who were unwilling to take part in a standing ovation for the Royal Marines Reserve. The Daily Star’s editor, Dawn Neesom, refused to say whether the stories were a deliberate shift in editorial stance. A spokesman said: “The Daily Star will clearly not be endorsing EDL in the future.”
Community and political leaders have warned of the dangers of giving the EDL publicity which can be misinterpreted. Danny Stone, director of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism said: “The EDL create tension and provoke anger wherever they go. Their tactics are violent. They deserve no sympathy, rather to be shunned by the British public and media. It ill behoves any newspaper to give the EDL the oxygen of publicity they so crave.”
A spokesman for the Board of Deputies said: “Whether or not the EDL have political aspirations, responsible media outlets should be exposing their insidious agenda of intolerance and intimidation, just as surely as all extremist groups and ideologies should be exposed. If the far right chooses to reinvent itself following the humiliation of last year’s elections, the media shouldn’t become an unwitting, and still less a willing accomplice.”
Much of the negative publicity for the Daily Star has focused on Mr Desmond, who has said he knew nothing of the paper’s views on the EDL “until it hit the breakfast table”.
Harsh criticism came from the veteran media commentator Roy Greenslade, but his post on the Guardian website was hastily amended after he wrote of Mr Desmond: “As a Jew, he may well have negative views of Muslims.”
The Guardian later removed the sentence on the grounds of “inappropriate language,” but it remained visible in the reader comments. Describing the underlying agenda of the EDL as being “antisemitic”, Mr Greenslade said: “[Desmond] ought to think very carefully about letting the Star use far right politics to build sales. He should remember what happened in Europe in the 1930s where Jewish minorities were demonised in the media for their religious beliefs.”
He told the JC he was pleased the sentence had been removed: “How stupid. I didn’t mean that and I don’t know what I was thinking. It’s contradictory, isn’t it? There I was going on about stereotypes and I immediately stepped into a stereotype. I sometimes wonder at myself.”
EDL launches US partnership
The head of the EDL’s Jewish division, Roberta Moore, has announced a partnership with far-right American group Jewish Task Force. JTF leader Victor Vancier said: “The Jewish establishment in the UK, the ’self hating Jews’ have condemned the EDL because they support the Muslim invasion of England. It’s pathetic, and I’m sad to hear it includes the so-called Orthodox. They have to be politically correct, even as we go to the gas chambers. This co-operation will turn into something big.”