UK

Tony Blair Embroiled In Twitter Spat With EDL's Tommy Robinson

06/06/2013 16:46 BST | Updated 06/06/2013 19:03 BST
Getty
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair attends dedication ceremonies for the new George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)

Tony Blair took to Twitter in an ugly war of words with Tommy Robinson after the English Defence League leader tweeted approvingly about a piece written by the former which criticised Islam.

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said that Blair's Mail on Sunday piece, which said there was a "problem within Islam", was correct and "confirms everything we say."

Blair's office told HuffPost UK that the former PM was made aware of the tweet, and personally approved the response on Twitter.

"Tony Blair is in China, but was made aware of the EDL tweet and totally disagrees with what they have said," a spokesman said.

"As we have said, they obviously haven't read the article properly - there is nothing in common with what they have to say.”

He also commented on the condemned the attack at the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill, which was razed to the ground on Wednesday. He told the Huffington Post UK:

"An attack like this has no place in a modern, diverse and open minded society like ours. It is an absolute right for anyone to worship in peace - and actions like this deserve utter condemnation from us all."

Tory MP Gavin Barwell, who represents a highly diverse community in Croydon North, was one of those who responded on Twitter to the spat, telling The Huffington Post UK that he thought several lines from Blair's piece were seriously misjudged.

"Let's be blunt, that phrase sounds like something the EDL would say," Barwell told HuffPostUK

"The phrase 'There is a problem within Islam' that Tommy Robinson picked up on is implying that the problem is one of Islam, even though not all Muslims are doing it. And I don't agree with that.

"I made that point in my tweet to him. It's not surprising they picked up on that phrase. I suspect if he [Blair] and I sat and chatted, we wouldn't actually disagree massively, but the use of that phrase was a serious misjudgment."

Barwell said he thought words needed to be chosen more carefully to avoid alienating regular Muslims. "When we were confronting terrorism in North Ireland, you could have said 'there is a problem with Irish Nationalism'.

"But it would have been unfair to Irish nationalists who did not believe in violence. And it would have been a tactically silly thing to do."

But Barwell said he did not blame Blair for engaging with Robinson. "I can understand from his perspective that once the EDL had claimed that Blair endorsed their views that he felt the need to rebut that, if I was in his position, I would have done the same. That's an attempt to undo the damage his article had done."

The tweet from the former Labour PM also caused a storm of responses from Robinson himself, who accused Blair of war crimes and fuelling divides within communities because of his foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.