EDL Leader Tommy Robinson Given 'Easy' Interview On BBC's Today Programme

11/06/2013 10:06 | Updated 11 June 2013
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The BBC's flagship Today Programme has been criticised for running a "gentle" interview with the leader of the far-right English Defence League.

Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Lennon, used the pre-recorded interview to claim "the non-Muslim working class don't have a voice" and warn that "it's not going to end pretty".

He denied any EDL involvement with recent attacks on mosques, even suggesting the attacks had been carried out by Muslims.

And he claimed he opposed all violence, despite conviction for violent behaviour.

Online, many people questioned the lack of a counter-voice, and asked why some of his inaccurate claims were not challenged.

Presenter Sarah Montague took to Twitter to question what more "heat" would have achieved.

Robinson admitted his group has "completely questionable" tactics, but denied his group was behind a blaze at an Islamic centre, which was daubed with the letters EDL, in London's Muswell Hill last week.

"If I'm honest, I'm completely sceptical that it is even non-Muslims that have done that," he said.

Asked if he would condemn attacks by his members on Muslims, he replied: "Utterly condemn it, disgraceful.

"Every single speech I gave since Woolwich, in fact in the last four years, condemn any acts of violence. So the only way to solve this is through democratic process, through peacefully protesting."

He then brought up his own arrest for assault, saying he had attacked someone doing a Nazi salute at an EDL event.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "Today’s programme looked at the recent rise in Islamaphobic attacks, such as the recent arson attack on a London mosque.

"The BBC has a responsibility to both report on the story and to try to offer insight into why it is happening. The EDL are a key part of the story and we believe it is important to reflect the fact that opinions such as those of Tommy Robinson exist.

"His views were challenged and we spoke to guests with alternative opinions elsewhere in the programme.”

Not everyone was critical of the BBC's tactics. Some suggested it would have been counterproductive to be seen to patronise Robinson by interrupting him, while Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk ‏tweeted: "Don't understand why people are complaining about EDL being interviewed on @BBCRadio4 - it's called democracy!"

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