It’s not often when you find a constituent has knocked on your office door in the European Parliament, that you’re relieved you were out at a meeting – but I was when the caller was the so-called leader of the Far Right English Defence League (EDL), who sickeningly try to call Luton in my constituency their “home.”
The fact he called came in a bizarre twitter message saying “Outside Richard Howitt’s office! Knock Knock,” after I had exposed a clandestine meeting Tommy Robinson was taking part in with neo-fascist MEPs.
This morning I found a copy of the book the meeting was discussing – a publication which calls all mosques “houses of war” - left in my personal mailbox, together with a handwritten note: “You spineless coward, Love Tommy!”
Fairly puerile stuff, but a further sign of the true character of the EDL as a party which is willing to make common cause with self-avowed racist, neo-Nazi organisations. And of why we have to organise internationally to ever prevent them succeeding.
The meeting itself was hosted behind the cover name of a launch of a front organisation, incredibly called the “International Civil Liberties Alliance.” It was advertised on Parliament’s screens simply as “Meeting,” and it was only an internal tip-off that alerted me that it was happening.
I asked my parliamentary researcher to listen in to the discussion, and he heard one speaker describe how “the pansy left are auditioning to be the Muslim’s prison b*tch.” The mainstream media was said to represent “a threat to life and liberty.” The anti-Islam rhetoric included the claim: “A society which becomes more Muslim becomes less everything else.”
Anyone tempted to believe the EDL’s absurd claim not to be racist, should ask why they joined together withBelgium’s Vlaams Belang who want to stop all immigration, with the Dutch Freedom Party that has openly incited race riots and called for mosques to be “pulled down,” and a Dane who has a criminal record for hate speech?
The truth is that this is a destined to be yet another failed attempt by the EDL to develop pan- European links, which has previously seen supposedly mass demonstrations they have announced of European “defence leagues” in Netherlands and Denmark turn out to be total washouts.
Yesterday Robinson presented himself as President of the “British Freedom Party” intent on fighting future elections, but it is increasingly obvious he is a leader with few if any behind him.
But their presence in the European Parliament is a telling reminder that at the next European Elections those of us inBritainhave to play our part in preventing the Far Right from getting a foothold in electoral politics, in solidarity with anti-fascists across the continent. Our plans to defeat the two British National Party MEPs must ensure they are not replaced by Robinson or any of his like.
And that started yesterday when I made a formal complaint to the President of the European Parliament that the meeting openly promoted race hate in Parliament’s premises, and that it was used for fundraising in conflict with parliament rules.
The EDL might have got a foot in the door once, but we have to make sure they don’t come back.
Richard Howitt is a Labour MEP for East of England