Searchlight investigates the man behind the English Defence League.
Somewhere in North London a diminutive and slightly nervous man is scribbling on pieces of paper. He is involved in all sorts of organisations – political, street armies and religious – though conveniently keeps them quite separate.
Meet Alan Lake, at least that is the name he is using now. Lake claims to be a multimillionaire who made his money in computers. More importantly, he is the man behind the English Defence League.
Lake’s association with the EDL has been known ever since he addressed a conference in Malmö on Islamisation organised by the far-right Sweden Democrats in September 2009. What is less well known is the central role Lake has played in getting the EDL off the ground.
Searchlight has learned that it was Lake who came up with the name “English Defence League”. He had heard about Stephen Lennon after the demonstration in Luton in May 2009, when Lennon and his hooligan friends went under the banner United People of Luton. The protest had been organised in conjunction with March for England, a group that Lake actively supports.
Through an intermediary Lake invited Lennon and a couple of others to London where discussions began about forming a national organisation.
For Lake this was the chance to put into practice a plan he had been working on for at least a year. In the United People of Luton he found an uncompromis-ing group willing to take to the streets.
“Cut the politically correct tape tying everyone’s hands and do something about this Terrorist group who hate everything our great county stands for,” read the main statement on the United People of Luton website.
“There is no point sitting in your armchair and shouting at the TV. The only way to get the message across is to take it to the streets. This is a chance to show the Police and the council the power of public opinion. The entire country is behind us!”
Lake liked this approach and made much of it in his hour-long Swedish lecture. “Another strategy we’re trying to do in the UK is reach out to more physical groups like football fans, get them involved,” he told his audience. “Well actually they’re contacting us, because they’re concerned, and these are people who are happy to go out on the street. I mean your average intellectual is happy typing on his PC, but we’ve reached the end of that road. You’re not going to get a fat lot more mileage out of that.
“You can blog and write letters to your MP as much as you like. Your MP doesn’t care, he doesn’t care what you say. The only thing that is going to make people start caring again, that is our nobility, our elite leaders, is if we have more numbers, and if we sometimes get out on the street. Then they’ll care but they don’t care about our words. They don’t care whether we’re right or wrong and they don’t read the blogs.
“So if you can engage with the physical groups, people who are quite happy to go on the street, the thing about the football fans is they go see a match, and then after the match, they’re already there on the street, so if you can then bring them off for a demo that works really well. You get the numbers. And they’re not scared as well. Everybody else is scared of being beaten up and attacked. They’re not scared of that.”
He expressed similar thoughts to Matthew Taylor of The Guardian in March 2010. “The EDL has a lot of support and is growing quickly and crucially. What it has done is deliver an activist movement on the streets,” said Lake. Pressed on the levels of violence at the demonstrations, he replied: “These people are not middle-class female teachers … if they continue to be suppressed it will turn nasty in one way or another … We have put bodies on the street, writing letters to The Times does not work … if we are going to have a mess that is so much grist to the mill.”
Taylor noted: “Lake says he is opposed to violence or confrontation but regularly returns to the importance of the EDL’s physical presence”.
Lake certainly supported the EDL and soon began to put money into the organisation, giving it access to an international network of anti-Muslim organisations and, perhaps more importantly, political and strategic advice.
It was Lake who suggested that Lennon use a false name to head the group. It was Lake who insisted that the EDL immediately and publicly dissociate itself from the British National Party and any other openly fascist organisation. This was despite the clear evidence that the political origin of the United People of Luton lay in Bedfordshire BNP.
Even today Lake travels regularly to Luton to confer with Lennon and Lennon’s cousin, Kevin Carroll, number two in the organisation.
One of Lake’s key roles is to furnish international links and speakers for the EDL. This gives the group an increased profile abroad and credibility at home. It was Lake who arranged for Rabbi Nachum Shifren and the Austrian Islamophobic lecturer Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff to address the EDL demonstration in Luton on 5 February. It was Lake who previously made contact with the hardline anti-Muslim preacher Pastor Terry Jones and it was Lake who built a relationship between the EDL and Pam Geller, the director of the Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization of America.
Last September Lake and a number of EDL members attended Geller’s protest against a planned Islamic Centre near Ground Zero on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Carroll was among those in New York with Lake, though Lennon was turned away at US immigration.
Geller has subsequently publicly aligned herself with the EDL and it is clear that she and a number of other right-wing Islamophobes like the combative approach of the British street gang.
“The middle-class intellectuals are coming forward and also American speakers – some of them quite famous, although I can’t give you names yet … they love the fact that we can have people that can go on the streets,” Lake boasted to The Guardian last year.
There are even stories circulating of videos of EDL demonstrations and statements being played at right-wing meetings in the US. Lake is also actively using the EDL profile to fundraise across the Atlantic.
Not much is known about Lake’s political background but his antipathy to Islam could well have been formed, or at least developed, when he attended the Kensington Temple in Notting Hill Gate, west London. The Temple belongs to the Elim Pentecostal Church, a Protestant evangelical church, elements of which have attracted controversy for their hardline views on Christianity, homosexuality and Islam.
The Temple’s pastor is Colin Dye, who has links with a number of Christian right organisations, including the Christian Congress for Traditional Values (CCTV), which ran a high-profile billboard campaign in 2007 titled: “Gay aim: Abolish the Family”, and is linked to the Brentwood-based Peniel Pentecostal Church.
The Peniel Church was run by Michael Reid and attracted media attention after claims that his followers were attempting to take over the local Conservative Association.
Dye eventually broke with Reid in 2008 after a sexual scandal beset the self-proclaimed Brentwood Bishop.
During his time at the Kensington Temple Lake might have also come across the anti-Islam speaker Sam Solomon. A former Muslim who trained in Sharia for 15 years before converting to Christianity, Solomon is now a hardline opponent of Islam. He even boasts of testifying before the US Congress and being “a consultant to the British parliament for matters regarding Islam”.
In December 2006 the UK Independence Party MEP Gerard Batten presented a “Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding”, written by Solomon, to the European Parliament. The Charter called on ”Muftis, Ulemas, Imams, community leaders, heads of Islamic madrassas, Muezzins, Mazuns and all other Islamic relevant offices including those of free thinkers and leaders of NGOs as well as NPOs (Non-Profit Organisations), youth leaders, women leaders at all levels of all Islamic institutions” to abide by a revised version of the Qur’an and collaborate fully with police and intelligence services.
Today Lake boasts of his links with Batten and in an interview with the Daily Star in the immediate aftermath of the Luton demonstration, Lennon called for a rewriting of the Qur’an.
Lennon’s political development has clearly been influenced by Lake. When the United People of Luton was formed, and indeed in the early days of the EDL itself, Lennon was at pains to stress that he opposed only “radical Islam” and not Muslims or even Islam as a religion. Today that has changed and the whole tenor of EDL rhetoric has become clearly anti-Islamic.
Pressed on this by a Newsnight reporter a few days before the Luton protest, Lennon claimed he had changed his views after learning more about Islam as a religion. Lake’s continued influence and importance to Lennon was clear to see.
Lake claims no longer to attend the Kensington Temple but it is clear that he continues to hold many of its religious views close to him. In a strange positing on his 4Freedoms website in April 2010 he linked the theory of evolution with totalitarianism.
In a chart of the political landscape, Lake put Stalin, Mao and Hitler on the extreme left of the political spectrum, all with a “Socialist Darwinist” label. He described Hitler as “left wing killer of 7 million Christians and 6 million Jews”.
He noted that “all of these dictators believed in the so-called ‘Master Race’ which stems from Darwin’s so-called higher level of Evolution”.
In his eyes Liberals Democrats are not too far away from “extreme left wing” and “totalitarianism”, while at the other end of spectrum the US Constitution is close to “extreme right wing”.
The EDL is just one piece of Lake’s jigsaw and, notwithstanding the wishes of the Daily Star, he does not see it as a political project. It is simply part of his strategy of tension, of winding up tensions and forcing the issue of Islam into the media spotlight through provocative marches.
Last year Lake thought the political solution was in the UKIP, the mainly anti-EU party which however, under the leadership of Lord Pearson, was taking a more anti-Islamic stance. Pearson regularly spoke out against Islam and attempted to forge links with the Dutch Islamophobic politician Geert Wilders.
As already mentioned, Lake was close to Batten and also to Magnus Nielsen, a UKIP candidate in the general election who Lake claimed was prepared to speak at EDL rallies. Nielsen describes Muhammad as a “criminal psychopath”, “the first cult leader” and “psychiatrically deranged”. Lake told The Guardian that there “is ‘some synergy’ between the two groups”.
He boasts of connections with middle-ranking people in the UKIP though it seems that his plans came to nothing as the UKIP leadership publicly distanced itself from the EDL.
Lake has now turned his attention to the English Democrats (EDP). He has even claimed that he was recently offered a senior role in the party, which he declined, preferring to influence events in the background.
There is a clear crossover between the EDP and March for England, a group to which Lake was connected, and several EDP candidates in last year’s general election, particularly in north London, regularly attend EDL demonstrations.
Given the infighting that is currently engulfing the EDP, Lake might eventually have to look elsewhere but his project is clear. He recognises, as Searchlight’s Fear and Hope study clearly demonstrates, that there is a huge vacuum on the right of British politics, in the space between the Conservative Party and the BNP, for a new right-wing English nationalist party that has no links to the old far right and is cultural as well as political.
Lake looks enviously across the Atlantic at the growth of the Tea Party movement and has been heard advocating the need for a similar group over here. His Facebook site is linked to the Patriotic Caucus, a right-wing political action committee established in December by the Tea Party favourite and failed Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle.
Just to maintain his links with a wider movement, Lake is also involved in at least one British Army veterans organisation and promotes Armed Forces Day on his Facebook site.
While Lake waits for the party he desires to arrive he will continue to shuffle his papers and draw flow diagrams between the various organisations and campaigns with which he is involved.
Thanks to Nick Lowles at Searchlight