While mainstream political parties have their attention diverted by the run-up to next month’s local elections, the remaining members of the motley convocation of saloon bar propper-uppers otherwise known as UKIP has been enlisting the support of part of the Football Lads Alliance - a group born out of hooligan firms - to spread its message. And developments on that front should worry all observers of the far-right in the UK.
Gerard Batten - nailed-on bigot
The so-called Democratic Football Lads Alliance, or DFLA, has put out this Facebook post: “UKIP have pledged to help fund equipment and training for grooming patrols in Rochdale after the May 3rd Local Elections … PAG UK do a vital job in Rochdale supporting survivors of grooming gangs, providing support with PTSD, drugs and alcohol issues. They also go out on nightly patrols keeping an eye out for suspicious activity and provide a vital link between the community and police services”. Do go on.
“PAG UK patrols need body cams with video recording and protective clothing … They are a voluntary organisation run by local parents and survivors of grooming gangs … They have listened to the evidence we have uncovered about Labour council and police collusion and cover up, have also pledged their political support to our fight against this evil cancer that has spread the nation … You will hear UKIP leader Gerard Batten talk about this at our Rochdale demonstration on Thursday 12th April”. There was more.
“Can any lads and lasses from Rochdale / MCR area that would be willing to support UKIP in the town by helping to organise leaflet drops in targeted areas during the month of April please let us know. Gerard Batten UKIP's current leader will be speaking on the day and we are working very closely with UKIP to help bring much needed change to our country”.
Well, having looked at PAG UK’s own Facebook page, there does not appear to be any recent sign of “grooming patrols”. But there is a post from former Lib Dem councillor Liz Thirsk who has stated “I have now read the post from DFLA with regards to a mass demo in Rochdale on 12th April … It saddens me to have to post this but I feel I have no alternative but to disassociate myself from from all future action of PAGuk while it condones this kind of mass action from groups from outside the borough … I don’t know these people and I have not been involved in the organisation of this demonstration”.
PAG UK does have legitimate concerns, and appears to have sound motives underpinning them. But the DFLA coming into Rochdale en masse with the apparent approval of Gerard Batten, the Islamophobic bigot currently leading UKIP, is clearly causing disquiet. That should be no surprise. Because this smacks of one thing - vigilantism.
A community group operating with the knowledge of the community and the local Police force is one thing. Having a load of DFLA supporters with no knowledge of the sensitivities within that community just arriving on spec is something else entirely. Also, UKIP’s leadership should know this, and if so, it is behaving highly irresponsibly.
There will be some who will excuse Batten’s behaviour by saying he’s new on the job and doesn’t know what he’s getting into. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.