The toxic mix of social disaffection, racism, growing unemployment and September 11 leads to this, a rising phenomenon across the Western world. We ignore such trends at our peril; such people can’t simply be dismissed as crazy and their views must be fought and challenged:
In the back room of a sparsely decorated pub in Bolton a man with a shaved head and a tattoo poking out above his shirt collar hands out what look like wraps of cocaine to his friends. It is just after 11am but behind him the pub is already packed with young, mainly white, men. Suddenly it erupts.
“We want our country back. We want our country back … Muslim bombers off our streets.” The chants ring out as tables are thumped and plastic pint glasses are thrust into the air.
“It is going to be a good ‘un today,” says the shaven-headed man, leaning across the table towards me to make himself heard. “We’re going to get to twat some Pakis – I can feel it.”
The pub, a few hundred yards from Bolton railway station, is the latest gathering point for the most significant rightwing street movement the UK has seen since the heyday of the National Front in the 1970s.
For the past four months the Guardian has joined English Defence League demonstrations, witnessing its growing popularity, from protests attracting just a few hundred hardcore activists at the end of last year to rallies and marches which are bringing thousands of people on to the street – and into direct conflict with the police and local Muslim communities.
The EDL plans to step up its campaign in coming weeks, culminating in marches through some of the UK’s most high-profile Muslim communities, raising the spectre of widespread unrest.