19 Sep 2013

Was Selfridges right to wine and dine EDL leader?

Contradictory accounts of what happened between a Selfridges shop assistant and EDL co-founder “Tommy Robinson” raise questions about the department store’s decision to suspend its employee.

EDL Tommy Robinson Selfridges Mark Hix Food Usdaw

On Monday 16 September a shopworker in the Selfridges men’s department refused to serve a friend of Mr Robinson who was with him in the store, as a result of which the shopworker was sent home.

Mr Robinson, who is leader of the English Defence League, a far-right political organisation, received a complimentary meal following the incident.

Describing what happened, Mr Robinson told Channel 4 News the shopworker had asked his friend: “Are you with him?”, indicating Mr Robinson, who was nearby. When the friend confirmed that he was, Mr Robinson says the assistant told him to “F*** off and jog on!”

Tommy Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – says he was similarly abused when he remonstrated with the assistant for refusing to serve his friend. He recorded the latter part of the incident and posted it on YouTube.

During the video, Mr Robinson suggests that the shop worker has refused to serve his friend “because he’s friends with me and I’m in the EDL”.

The assistant replies: “Listen, you can put me on the camera all you like, but I’m not serving you.”

Complimentary meal

Tommy Robinson says that after the incident, he was taken downstairs by Selfridge’s security personnel.

“The manager came in to see what was going on, at which point I said this was what happened,” he told Channel 4 News. “He said the assistant was going to be suspended, sent home for the day.

You can put me on the camera all you like, but I’m not serving you. Selfridges employee to Tommy Robinson

“Then, when we were walking out, he offered us a complimentary meal. We had the meal on Monday.”

The decision to feed Mr Robinson and his friend at the up-market Hix restaurant, champagne and caviar bar attached to the department store, prompted criticism on social media that Selfridges was over-compensating the EDL founder.

Mark Hix Food tweeted that it had had no idea who was being served and that Selfridges had picked up the bill.

No further action

Mr Robinson’s account of what began the incident is disputed by Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, which is providing representation for the Selfridges employee.

An Usdaw spokesperson said: “Our member strongly maintains that he only refused to serve because of the abuse being directed at him by the customer and he did not swear in the exchange.”

The Usdaw statement was subsequently modified to read: “Our member strongly maintains that he did not swear in the exchange.”

Selfridges, which suspended the employee for violating company policy, says it intends to take no further action against him. Usdaw has said it welcomes the department store’s decision to lift the suspension.

The store was unavailable for comment when contacted by Channel 4 News on Thursday.