The English Democrats
Ongar CM5 0QP
|Youth wing||Young English Democrats|
|Political position||Right-Wing to Far-right|
|National affiliation||Alliance for Democracy|
|Colours||Red and white|
The party proposes a devolved English Parliament, and has suggested that that England should become an independent country. It presents itself as an English equivalent to the Scottish National Party. The English Democrats have welcomed defectors from the far-right British National Party into leadership roles and former members of the party have also criticised informal links with other far right organisations, though party leader Robin Tilbrook has stated that party members are expected to pledge their opposition to racism.
The party has had limited electoral success. At the English local elections in June 2009, the party’s candidate Peter Davies won the mayoral election for the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster. However, he announced his resignation from the party on 5 February 2013.
In December 2015 Winston McKenzie announced that he had joined the English Democrats, along with confirmation that he had been selected as a London Mayoral Candidate for the 2016 London Elections. His nomination was deemed invalid and he did not contest the mayoral election.
In 1998, in response to calls for the devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, Robin Tilbrook aimed at reforming the defunct English National Party, which had ceased operating in 1981. This project included members of the Campaign for an English Parliament, a pressure group that lobbies for a devolved English Parliament. The party was relaunched as the “English Democrats” in September 2002, after merging with several other smaller political parties. In October 2004 the party merged with the Reform UK Party, which was a small splinter group from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). The New England Party merged with the English Democrats in February 2007.
The English Democrats were co-founders of the English Constitutional Convention, now defunct.
The party’s most significant electoral success came when Peter Davies (a former UKIP and Reform UK member), its candidate for Mayor of Doncaster, was elected. Having received 16,961 votes in the first round, 189 votes behind theindependent Michael Maye, Davies was returned in the second count on transfers of second preference votes, with 25,344 votes to 24,990. However, Davies announced his resignation from the party on 5 February 2013 citing “a big influx of new members joining from the British National Party“. One of its Councillors, Mick Glynn, resigned the following day after the party’s chairman Robin Tilbrook launched a personal attack on Peter Davies, thus reducing its number of elected representatives to two. The English Democrats lost their remaining councillors in the 2015 local elections. On 18 September 2015, Veritas merged into the English Democrats.
The party claimed a total membership of 1,011 at the end of 2004, and 1,202 at the end of 2005.
- Shown by default in chronological order of leadership
|Year||Name||Period||Time in office||Deputy leader/s|
|2002||Robin Tilbrook||2002 – present||incumbent|
The first person to stand as a candidate for the English Democrats was Gary Cowd, who stood in Rushmoor—West Heath Ward in North Hampshire in a council by-election in May 2003. Cowd was an active member of the English Democrats and a National Council member. He left the party in 2006.
House of Commons
|Election year||# of total votes||% of overall vote||# of seats won||Rank|
The party’s slogan for the 2005 general election was “The English Democrats – Putting England First!” In total, the English Democrats fielded 25 candidates for the May 2005 general election, including Staffordshire South where the election was delayed until June due to the death of a candidate. The party withdrew its candidate in North Norfolk and endorsed the Conservative Party candidate, Iain Dale, as he had “taken the issues of English discrimination seriously”.
Garry Bushell, the former Sun journalist and current Daily Star Sunday TV critic, became the most high-profile candidate for the English Democrats, standing in the Greenwich and Woolwich constituency in London. Bushell’s 1,216 votes (3.4%) beat the UKIP candidate, Stan Gain, who secured 709 votes (2.0%); this was the party’s best result for the election though still a fifth-place performance.
In June 2005 Bushell also stood in Staffordshire South, where he received 643 votes (2.5%) coming fifth out of eight candidates. In 2011, Bushell announced that he would, in future, be supporting UKIP.
The English Democrats fielded Joanne Robinson as their candidate in the by-election forced by the resignation of former shadow home secretary David Davis from the House of Commons. Because of the issues raised by David Davis in the by-election, many parties other than the Conservatives, such as Labour, Liberal Democrats, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and British National Party (BNP) chose not to stand. Joanne Robinson came third, with 1,714 votes (7.2%), 44 votes fewer than the Green candidate received in second place. Of the 26 candidates she was one of only three to win back her deposit. This result is both the highest place gained and the highest percentage of the votes won by any English Democrat candidate in a parliamentary election or parliamentary by-election.
The English Democrats stood 107 candidates in the 2010 general election. 106 is the minimum number required to qualify for a Party Election Broadcast. The English Democrats received 64,826 votes, or 0.3% of the vote in England, and 0.2% of the vote in the United Kingdom. No candidates were elected but the party saved one deposit in the Doncaster North constituency, where candidate Wayne Crawshaw picked up 5.2% of the vote.
In subsequent by-elections, the party contested Oldham East and Saddleworth(where Stephen Morris polled 144 (0.4%)), Barnsley Central (Kevin Riddiough polled 544 (2.2%) votes), Feltham and Heston (Roger Cooper polled 322 (1.4%)), Corby (David Wickham polled 432 (1.2%) votes) and Rotherham (David Wildgoose polled 703 (3.3%) votes).
At the 2015 general election, the party contested 32 seats, securing a total of 6,531 votes (0.02%).
European Parliament elections
The English Democrats stood candidates for the 2004 European Parliament election in five of the nine regions of England. The party’s 2004 election canvassing leaflet featured the slogan, “Not left, not right, just English”. Its candidates received 130,056 votes in total.
In June 2009, the English Democrats contested elections to the European Parliament. The party fielded a full slate of candidates across the nine English European parliament constituencies. On 18 May 2009, the English Democrats broadcast their first national Party Election Broadcast. They came seventh in the election in England (ninth in the UK as a whole) with 279,801 votes or 1.8%, a rise from the 0.7% they received at the previous elections in 2004. The English Democrats do not stand in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, and their vote across England in 2009 was 2.1%, an increase of 1.3% yet still did not keep their deposits except in Yorkshire and the Humber where they gained 2.6% of the vote. None of the English Democrats candidates were elected; the English Democrats were the highest-polling party across the UK not to have an MEP elected.
The English Democrats began their 2014 EU election campaign in September 2013 with an extensive social media campaign. On 30 April 2014, they held a rally at Fobbing in Essex, the site of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, and declared, “let the English revolt begin.” The party fielded a full slate of candidates across the nine English European parliament constituencies on 22 May 2014. On 13 February 2014, party chairman Robin Tilbrook appeared on the BBC Daily Politicswith Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy leader of the Scottish National Party. The English Democrats performed poorly at the election, taking just 0.8% of the votes, down more than 1% on 2009. They again failed to win any seats.
In 2008, the party fielded candidates in 12 district council elections. None was elected. The party’s best results were when it came second to the Conservatives: in the Finningley ward of Doncaster and in three wards in Rochford.
In the 2009 English local elections, the party fielded 84 county council and local authority candidates, with a particular focus in Bristol, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire and Lancashire. The party had an unexpected success when Peter Davies, its candidate for Mayor of Doncaster, was elected. Having received 16,961 votes in the first round, 189 votes behind the independent Michael Maye, Davies was returned in the second count on transfers of second preference votes, with 25,344 votes to 24,990.
In 2010, the party also stood in the local elections on 6 May, but did not publish a list of candidates. The two sitting English Democrat councillors on Calderdale and Blackburn with Darwen councils retired, and the party did not nominate any candidates to contest the seats.
In 2011, the EDP stood about 130 candidates in district level elections; two were elected. The Boston Borough Councilelections on 5 May 2011, saw the election of the first two EDP councillors. David Owens and Elliott Fountain were elected in the Fenside Ward for a four-year term, thus becoming the only EDP members of a district council to be elected by public vote. A sitting EDP councillor on Peterborough council lost his seat.
The party fielded a candidate in the 3 March 2011 local by-election for the Walkden North ward of Salford City Council. Its candidate, Laurence Depares, polled 125 votes (7%) and came third, ahead of the BNP and Liberal Democrats; in a by-election in the same city’s Swinton South ward on 7 January 2014 the party was fifth with 54 votes (3.7%).
In 2012, the party fielded 101 candidates in the local elections in England, including district council elections, mayoral contests and elections to the Greater London Assembly. None was elected, and the party suffered the loss of the two seats it was defending, one that it had gained from a former BNP member who had defected to the party and another from an ex-Tory. The English Democrats has come under fire from the anti-fascist groups Unite Against Fascism and Hope not Hate and from the trades unions NASUWT and Unite the Union over the number of former BNP members standing for election for the party. 43% of English Democrats candidates in the 2012 local elections were former BNP members.
The EDP contested the mayoral elections in Liverpool and Salford. In Liverpool, its candidate received 1.42% of the vote, finishing in ninth place, and in Salford 3.6% finishing in eighth place. The party chairman, Robin Tilbrook, declared that he was standing for Mayor of London and even asked for donations through one of the party’s websites but his name did not appear on the ballot paper.
In 2007, in line with the English Democrats stance on the status of Monmouthshire, 13 English Democrat candidates contested the Welsh Assembly elections in the South East Wales region, and the constituencies of Monmouth (fifth with 2.7%), Newport East (sixth, 2.2%) and Newport West (fifth, 2.7%). The party also received 0.9% of the vote on the regional list.
In the 2011 Welsh Assembly election, the party fielded the Kent-based Steve Uncles as its candidate in Monmouth, in line with its view that Monmouthshire should be returned to English governance (Monmouthshire has been considered Welsh since at least 1974, after its status as part of England or Wales had been ambiguous after 1542). He polled 744 (2.47%) of the votes cast. The incumbent Conservative assembly member was returned.
London Mayoral elections
In July 2007, Garry Bushell was nominated as the English Democrats’ Mayoral candidate for the 2008 London mayoral and Assembly elections with the campaign slogan “Serious About London”. In January 2008, he stepped down as candidate because of work commitments and Matt O’Connor, the founder of Fathers 4 Justice, was selected by the English Democrats in his place with his campaign expected to start on 14 February. His campaign web site was launched on 31 January 2008. A Party political broadcast for O’Connor’s campaign was broadcast on 11 April.
One week before the election, on 25 April, O’Connor told Vanessa Feltz and the BBC that he was dropping out of the Mayoral race, giving as his reasons the lack of support within the English Democrats on St George’s Day and a lack of press coverage as well as the party’s co-operation with the far-right group England First. The English Democrats released a press statement on their website in response to his resignation voicing disappointment at his decision to quit the contest. O’Connor received 10,695 first preference votes (representing 0.44% of the votes cast) in the mayoral contest, ranking ninth out of ten candidates; he received 73,538 second preference votes (3.67%), ranking eighth.
English Democrats contested five of the 41 Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012. Results were:
|Police force||Candidate||1st round votes||%||Posn/no. cands|
|Cambridgeshire Constabulary||Stephen Goldspink||7,219||8.1%||6 out of 7|
|Essex Police||Robin Tilbrook||11,550||6.87%||6 out of 6|
|Kent Police||Steven Uncles||10,789||5.3%||5 out of 6|
|Merseyside Police||Paul Rimmer||7,142||5.7%||6 out of 6|
|South Yorkshire Police||David Allen||22,608||15.6%||2 out of 5|
David Allen also contested the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner by-election in October 2014.
|Police force||Candidate||1st round votes||%||Posn/no. cands|
|South Yorkshire Police||David Allen||8,583||5.8%||4 out of 4|
English Democrats holding local government seats
In November 2005, Paul Adams became the first elected English Democrats councillor at parish level for CrowboroughTown Council in East Sussex; he was re-elected unopposed in 2007. In 2011, he was elected as an independent, so the English Democrats lost the seat. Later that year, Markyate Parish councillor Simon Deacon defected from the British National Party, to the English Democrats, having been elected unopposed. However, he resigned in October 2012. The English Democrats gained another parish council seat when Mick Glynn was elected for the Dunsville ward of Hatfield Town Council, Doncaster. Following the resignation of Peter Davies, Glynn resigned his seat and membership of the party in February 2013.
The party had two district councillors elected (the first above parish level) in the 2011 local elections and obtained a further county council seat through the defection of a BNP, later “Independent Nationalist”, councillor in Hertfordshire. However, the county councillor did not defend the seat in the May 2013 election, nor did the EDP put forward another candidate, losing them the seat. The EDP lost one of their district councillors, Elliott Fountain, on 25 July 2013 after he failed to attend any meetings in six months. Following the 2015 local elections, the English Democrats have no representation on any local authorities.
The party contends that the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales provide a voice to those two constituent nations of the United Kingdom that England lacks. The party proposes to convene the first exclusively English Parliament since the initial Laws in Wales Act 1535 through one of three methods:
- By converting the current House of Commons of the United Kingdom into a devolved English parliament within the asymmetrical devolution framework currently existing in the United Kingdom,
- By creating a new legislature with equal status to the Scottish Parliament and a more powerful Welsh Parliamentwithin a re-constituted federal or confederal United Kingdom,
- As an independent, sovereign legislature for the re-founded state of England, upon dissolution of the Union, most likely to be created by independence for Scotland and Wales.
The party has rejected suggestions that non-English MPs in the House of Commons should be barred from voting on England-specific matters, on the basis that this would lead to there being, in effect, two parliaments in the same building and that this would be problematic.
The party favours deciding England’s future relationship with the European Union by a nationwide multiple-choice referendum, which would include the option to withdraw from it entirely. The English Democrats are committed to campaign on the “withdrawal” side of any referendum. The English Democrats’ policy is to maintain free-trade arrangements by rejoining the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
On 17 November 2011, the chairman of the English Democrats, Robin Tilbrook, met with Sergey Yerzunov, a member of the executive committee of the Russian right-wing group Russky Obraz. Shortly afterwards, Obraz announced that they were in alliance with the English Democrats. Other members of this alliance include Serbian Obraz, 1389 Movement,Golden Dawn, Dane’s Party, Slovenska Pospolitost, Czech Labour Party and Noua Dreaptă.
Since 2010, a number of former members of the BNP have joined the project, with the party chairman quoted as saying, “They will help us become an electorally credible party.” In an April 2013 interview, Tilbrook said that about 200-300 out of the party’s membership of 3,000 were former BNP members. He said it was “perfectly fair” that such people would “change their minds” and join a “moderate, sensible English nationalist party”.