is low turnout in Exeter for EDL a sign of decline? PIC: Reuters
is low turnout in Exeter for EDL a sign of decline? PIC: Reuters

The demise of the English Defence League (EDL) was being predicted after a march by the far-right group in Exeter drew only 200 people.

A counter-demonstration against the EDL being in the city was attended by four times as many people.

The low turnout was heralded as a sign that a terminal decline of the anti-Islam group is underway.

Ahead of the march, new chairman Tim Ablitt told IBTimes UK the event in Exeter would show how well the EDL was adapting to life following the resignation of founder and leader Tommy Robinson (real name Steven Yaxley Lennon).

But that was not the message from last weekend.

The small attendance was taken by EDL watchers to signal the end of a bounce in popularity experienced by the street protest group in the wake of Army drummer Lee Rigby's murder, in July.

Devon and Cornwall police arrested four people at the event. Officers held two men on suspicion of being drunk and two other suspects were found to be carrying offensive weapons.

Matthew Collins of anti-fascism group Hope not Hate, said the EDL had run out of things to say.

No EDL spokesman has emerged who is capable of reaching a mainstream audience like Robinson did, with appearances on BBC TV show Newsnight, for instance.

Collins told IBTimes UK: "They had a short lived peak following the killing and now they are back to the sort of turn-out they were getting before that. The organisation is in terminal decline and the cause of it is boredom."

"People are seeing after four or five years of standing around in car parks, getting drunk and screaming abuse, that nobody is listening to them. That is because they have nothing coherent to say."

IBTimes UK was told by an EDL source that Exeter was chosen as the location because it was within easy driving distance of Ablitt's home.

Exeter Together organised the well-attended counter-demonstration. Spokeswoman Hannah Packham said: "Exeter has united in saying that we love the rich diversity of the city, which helps to make it the great place it is.

"Our message is clear: the EDL with their racist, divisive politics are not welcome in Exeter."

EDL supporters wore t-shirts with the slogan "Free Marine A" following the conviction of a soldier for murdering an insurgent in Afghanistan.

Attempts made to contact Tim Ablitt for comment were unsuccessful.