EDL accused of council 'blackmail' in Christmas letter

A council leader says the English Defence League (EDL) are "blackmailing" councils over the removal of the word Christmas from public celebrations.

In a letter, the EDL says it will visit towns and cities that choose titles like Winter Festival when referring to Christmas lights being switched on.

Dennis Harvey, the leader of one of the recipient councils, Nuneaton and Bedworth, said he was "appalled".

The group is staging a demonstration in Nuneaton on Saturday.

A spokesman said they were going to the town because they "want to visit every city in the country and Nuneaton has the country's first ever Sharia court".

Previous gatherings there were counter demonstrations against the Islamic community who were protesting against soldiers' homecoming marches, the EDL said.

The group said it expected 1,500 people in Nuneaton and the same number at a gathering in Preston on the same day.

The council, which has no party in overall control, said the town will operate as normal while the EDL gathering takes place.

The EDL has written to some councils to urge them "not lose the meaning of Christmas by changing it to Winter Festival".

EDL leader Tommy Robinson said in the letter: "Please keep Christmas as Christmas and not let our culture and traditions be eroded and preserve English values.

"Any council that does not keep the word Christmas in the annual celebrations and opts for Winter Festival, out of the politically correct appeasement of others to the detriment of our traditions, will have their town/city visited by the English Defence League throughout the following year."

The council said the Christmas lights switch on takes place in Bedworth on Saturday. It said the event is, and always has been, known by that title.

Mr Harvey, Labour, said: "(It's) a bit of a blackmail letter really.

"We've always celebrated Christmas traditionally here.

"We've never had a problem with that but to receive a letter threatening us that we would be targeted or any town for that matter is appalling.

"For people to say they are supporters of a traditional way of life, I do not think blackmail plays any part of a traditional English way of life."

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