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Tommy Robinson: Just What Is He Good For?

21/06/2017 08:31 BST | Updated 21/06/2017 08:31 BST
Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Fresh from his appearance on Good Morning Britain yesterday, perhaps Stephen Lennon - or as he likes to style himself, 'Tommy Robinson' - the convicted mortgage fraudster and serial far-right activist, should take a long hard look in the mirror.

Lennon takes great pleasure in angry confrontations, and seems to thrive on the publicity which is only too happily fed to him.

With his angry pieces to camera (for far-right alternative news outfit, Rebel Media) at Westminster Bridge and outside a mosque in Didsbury after the Manchester attacks, Lennon never seems far away from controversy, mouthing off on social media platform after social media platform about Islam and Muslims.

Since he ran the thuggish street movement, the English Defence League, costing police (and us, the taxpayers) in excess of £10million, bringing misery to town centres across the UK, and then more recently descending with 2,000 yobs onto a grieving Manchester, is there anything he has done which has actually helped our country?

Lennon likes to present himself as the authentic voice of the working man, and others (a vast array of mainstream opinion) as deluded liberals. Having seen the hope that came with the massive Great Get Together weekend with thousands of events across the UK celebrating the legacy of murdered MP Jo Cox, which we supported and promoted among our thousands of supporters, and the recent wave of public support for Grenfell Tower residents and firefighters, one wonders where is the hope that comes from 'Tommy'?

It wasn't Stephen Lennon that caused the attack in Finsbury Park. That blame lies with the attacker. But it was those like Lennon, alongside other far-right and some right-wing commentators who actively spread falsehoods, day in and out, about Muslims, blaming a religion and entire group of people for the actions of terrorists. And that raises, not calms, the temperature.

As founder of the EDL, as leader of the anti-Muslim Pegida UK, as a 'correspondent' (we use that term loosely) for the far-right alternative media outlet Rebel Media (reporting for which he has turned up to rant about Muslims at Westminster Bridge, Didsbury and doorstepped political opponents and journalists) it is 'Tommy' who day in and out promotes a clash of civilisation narrative that places him firmly within the 'counter-jihadist' fringe, holding that Muslims are taking over and that their religion inherently makes them violent, incompatible with life here in the West.

This Muslim 'block' is usually characterised by its most extreme and unsavoury elements: "Islam is fascist and it's violent and we've had enough!" according to Lennon.

In addition to extrapolating out the actions of a minority, he also demands collective responsibility for those actions.

In east London in 2011 he seemed to suggest he and the English Defence League would retaliate indiscriminately should there be another terrorist attack:

"Every single Muslim watching this... on 7/7 you got away with killing and maiming British citizens... you had better understand that we have built a network from one end of the country to the other end... and the Islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our British citizens killed, maimed, or hurt on British soil ever again."

He attacks the liberal, progressive societal consensus and those on a supposedly homogenous "left" who advance it. He articulates conspiracy theories about the mainstream media, vaults bastardised images of historical figures and roots his politics in a mythical history; his sleeve of patriotic tattoos includes a crusader knight, a poppy, the Magna Carta and a quote from Winston Churchill.

"I'd personally send every adult male Muslim that has come into the EU over the past 12 months back tomorrow if I could. Fake refugees," he tweeted in early 2016.

Unlike Lennon, we have opposed both Islamist extremism AND far-right fanatics, producing exposés into both.

At one point, it seemed as if Lennon was a reformed man. In October 2013, he quit the EDL at a highly-publicised press conference alongside Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation.

At the time Nawaz declared that: "As well as being a very positive change for the United Kingdom, this is a very proud moment for Quilliam".

It has since emerged that Yaxley-Lennon was paid by Quilliam in what HuffPost called "a deal the anti-extremism think-tank coordinated so they could take 'credit' for his resignation."

After a brief period of contrived penance and moderation and a failed bid to launch a UK version of the German anti-Muslim street movement Pegida, Lennon is back to his very worst, engaging in controversial anti-Muslim activity not seen from him since his days leading the EDL.

As Lennon said in a recent Facebook Live video: "In the next five years it's all going to come to a head."

He shows no signs of trying to prevent that happening.