Last Sunday, in Kings Norton, Birmingham, Gerard Batten leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) attended the national AGM of the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) signalling the new extreme far-right orientation of Britain’s most right-wing mainstream political party. Basking in the popular support of some of the country’s most violent, right-wing, football hooligans, Batten’s UKIP is now clearly filling the political space previously occupied by the British National Party (BNP).
The BNP was the fascist party that found success in the 2000’s by rebranding itself as a right-wing ‘nationalist’ party, dropping some of its most racially polarising rhetoric and standing in elections, local and national. They succeeded in a number of their members being elected to local councils and also had some success in gaining MEPs. In other words, we’ve been here before.
The BNP was never able to so deeply penetrate the working class, because it wasn’t up to the battle on the streets with working class anti-fascists. They abandoned the ‘march & grow’ strategy for electoralism because in the 1990s they’d been beaten physically by organisations like Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) a more streetwise & tactically adept organisation than their fascist counterparts. UKIP is different to the BNP in one significant way and it’s not a political difference, rather it is one of the support base that they are establishing in some of the most isolated and economically deprived working class communities, such as former mining and other industrial areas abandoned economically and socially by successive governments. It didn’t take much, after years of neglect, to reorientate some of the people of these communities from fighting against the system that exploits them to turning on those that are perceived to be weaker and/or who have been flagged up by the far-right as representing a dangerous ‘enemy within’. It is a strategy not to unite people but to divide them. The bootboys of the DFLA are only too happy to supply the muscle that UKIP needs to sustain itself on the streets, if it is to engage in the robust kind of debate that takes place in some of our areas. The football hooligans also provide the element of fear and intimidation, it’s deliberate macho posturing aimed at silencing their critics and opponents. This is Batten’s UKIP, the New BNP.
Batten is treading a dangerous path for himself and his party, because the ideological ground on which they now stand is being landscaped to accommodate every prejudice and every paranoid conspiracy theory peddled by racists, fascists and the mentally challenged. Batten himself was long convinced of an ‘Islamic Conspiracy’ before he fell in love with the charlatan known as ‘Tommy Robinson’. That he can find £55,000 to finance Robinson’s gangsterism under the guise of ‘adviser’ to the UKIP leader says everything about the choices that Batty Batten is making. What he doesn’t realise is that the sharks that swim around him will bite eventually and he will lose control of UKIP. The thugs are already preparing the ground, encouraging football firms to get their ‘lads’ signed up for party membership. Yaxley-Lennon, who is constitutionally banned from joining UKIP because of his previous membership of the fascist BNP, is their leader-in-waiting. The DFLA have hitched on to the ‘Tommy’ bandwagon and will be the backbone of his bid for power when he is finally admitted into UKIP membership. Lennon’s megalomania and over confidence in his own political abilities has seen him declare that he wants to be a UKIP MP or an MEP, perish the thought. However, the hooligan spiv character he created is hard to shake off, especially when there’s a shilling or two to be made out of it. Not content with fleecing his wealthy sponsors, the cult of personality and brand making continues, pushing everything from 3rd grade casual wear via his investment in a former Luton player’s clothing business, to whining about threats to his family that are never substantiated but which always end in appeals to his cult following for more cash.
What’s this got to do with the DFLA you might ask? Well, despite their own inflated view of themselves, the DFLA are really the weak link in all of this. They’re led by Neanderthals and violent criminals with a recidivist mindset. The average age of a DFLA member looks to be mid-to-late 40s, possibly even older. These are fathers, some of them grandfathers, who still think they’re teenagers going to their first row at football, still playing boy’s games in their dotage. It’s pathetic, but so be it. If they’re the muscle that intends to define the space for the far-right to develop, then FLAF will be there to oppose them all the way. They’ve hitched themselves to a political party that laces every policy with anti-immigrant sentiment in order to appeal to the most backward sections of the working class, as well as the middle-class former Tories that have populated UKIP until recently. The DFLA leaders are not very bright, they’ve proved that in only a few exchanges with us. Their attempts to analyse FLAF politically and turn history on its head have been laughable. Batten is there to use them in whatever way he can to secure the streets and bully his way into being politically relevant. He is not a dynamic or charismatic leader, nor is he particularly adept tactically, his success has come from riding on the backs of others. And so it is with the DFLA. The only consolation for anti-fascists is that we can get out the popcorn and watch the shit show that will occur when Lennon and the DFLA are calling the shots in UKIP and demanding that Batten give way for a new leader.
More important are the politics of the DFLA and UKIP. The DFLA says it has a ‘blueprint’ for the next year, a range of activities are planned. These include:
In other words, they plan to take to the streets more often. The DFLA is locked into a ‘march & grow’ strategy like that of the NF and the BNP (until they wised up as a result of the beatings they were taking) before them. They might be calling it, ‘counter protests’, ‘flash mobs’ and ‘static protests’ but the strategy amounts to the same thing; control the streets, control the people. It’s a deliberate attempt to circumvent democracy and to intimidate political opponents. There is no rhyme nor reason to many of the issues that they coalesce around, it’s like the shopping list of the maddest person in the asylum. Linking up with UKIP and some of the conspiracy theorists that are now donning yellow vests will only push them further into the mire. One of the curious events they’re planning is an ‘anti-racism day’. This should be interesting, because in spite of their public utterances and the occasional token person of colour at their demos, we can see no black or brown faces in the photo from the DFLA’s AGM in Birmingham. In fact, from a cursory reading of posts to their pages on Facebook and the opinions of the UKIP party that they’ve just hooked up with, it is white people that they believe to be most discriminated against and marginalised by the politics of diversity, equality and equal opportunity. A DFLA ‘anti-racism day’ might well turn out to be the comedy event of the year. Definitely one not to be missed. We’ll see you there.