Tommy Robinson is back – but what’s changed?
After two years below the radar and after serving a prison sentence for mortgage fraud, he is back.
Tommy Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and founder of the English Defence League (EDL) – is starting a new anti-radical Islamic movement in the UK.
“My view are righteous,” he tells me, “but the EDL wasn’t the right way. We have no time for homophobes now. We don’t want anyone who hates Jews. We want families. We want moderate Muslims.
“We don’t want the booze and the football hooligan element – that’s where EDL was wrong. We were young and angry. I’m a bit ashamed.”
I nurse my pint of bitter. Tommy coasts on a bottle of fizzy water at the London pub where he is speaking exclusively to Channel 4 News.
He says: “The government should get tough. Get tough.”
He has. He calls for a total ban on Muslim immigration to the UK for five years. A ban on building mosques in the UK for five years. And a ban on any foreign funding of UK mosques.
He insists this isn’t far-right pipe-dreaming – just what people here want after the Daesh or IS threat emerged, and indeed long before it did so.
Once again the time has come, he insists.
So he is managing the setting up of Pegida-UK – the British wing of the German anti-Islamic street movement which has taken hold across northern Europe and, it must be said, has managed to avoid the trappings of violence and neo-fascist bootboy thuggery.
At one of Pegida’s recent anti-refugee rallys in Dresden, Tommy Robinson addressed a 40,000-strong crowd.
“Your current chancellor, Angela Merkel, seems to be handing out the birthright of German citizens like she is handing out candy to children,” he said.
Pegida, which stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident’, has been holding weekly demonstrations against what it calls the ‘Islamisation’ of the west.
Angela Merkel says people at Pegida rallies often have “prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts.”
Robinson wants families at his UK rallies – the first is on February 6th. He does not want booze, masks, the shouting and chanting. Yes he really does want families to come – and what he calls “moderate Muslims”. Defining that concept proves a little more tricky.
But Tommy is the manager. The would-be star tells me his name is just “Tim”.
An odd start for a wannabe political leader not to have a second name.
On camera he suddenly admits to be Tom Scott. A former British soldier who fought in Afghanistan, he then tooled up as a fighter against IS alongside Kurdish militia.
But our interview turns into something of a car-crash. Plainly unaccustomed to any scrutiny as to what the threat of radical Islam might be, Scott says:
“Girls getting groomed. Er… Youth getting radicalised. So many things you know?”
“Well that’s two.” I point out, “what else?”
“Well all stuff. You know? Look at Iraq? Do we wait till it gets that bad here? No, it’s best to act now and prevent that happening,”
I endeavoured to point out that Iraq was run by a notorious blood-Baathist built on industrial torture and slaughter up to and including chemical warfare – but that cuts no ice with Tim.
He feels – and Robinson like him – that the UK could somehow become another Iraq because of radical Islam. And this is genuinely felt.
If the “moderate” Pegida doesn’t fill the gap, these guys argue that the “genuine far-right” agitators will do so.
So their first rally is on February 6th at an as-yet undecideds location but not in an area where tensions over immigration are high. Expect no booze or masks or the old EDL aggression.
But policies? Ideas? Not much in evidence at all and where they are, they seem mighty close to the same old/same old of the failed far right.