An interesting read on Tommy Robinson in the Telegraph…..
This week I was in Copenhagen and then Dresden, the effective HQ of Pegida, with the UK branch leaders Paul Weston and Anne Marie Waters. In Copenhagen, Pegida supporters marched through the town centre – and were screamed at throughout by counter-demonstrators who followed their every move. One walked almost alongside us shouting “Tommy, are you wearing your bulletproof vest!?” Another broke through the police cordon and tried to punch him.
Although Tommy was winding them up, the aggression did all come from the anti-fascist protesters (that wasn’t always the case with the EDL of course. Tommy even admitted that had this been the EDL, they would have probably charged the anti-fascist group). One demonstrator attacked our taxi; later that night, the hotel we were staying in had a police guard outside because some of them tried to follow him after the demonstration. A lot of people won’t lose any sleep over this I expect, but they should.
How far people feel free – legally and socially – to voice controversial opinions is important even for those who detest Robinson’s politics. A society where people with views outside the mainstream have to go through all this is not a healthy one in the long term. In a strange sort of way, how we treat people we disagree with is an indication of how free society really is. I think we still have some work to do.
What’s it like to be Britain’s most hated man? Ask Tommy Robinson
The former leader of the English Defence League is now a national pariah. Perhaps he deserves it – or perhaps it should worry us all
A few weeks back, Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, sent me his self-published memoirs, called Enemy of the State. The book has been largely ignored by most of the established media, although has caused a bit of a stir among counter-Jihadist groups across Europe. I’d recommend people read it, although perhaps not for the reasons Tommy would like you to.
First up, I should say something about how it’s written. It’s chronological, starting from his childhood, and runs right up to the end of 2015. Tommy Robinson, whatever you think of him, has had a busy and interesting few years: football hooliganism, starting, running and quitting the biggest street movement of a generation, repeated prison spells, joining a think-tank, all before organising a UK branch of the German anti-Islam group, Pegida.
Enemy won’t win any awards for writing, and it’s not full of carefully marshalled academic evidence. The language is rough, which is how Tommy talks. He repeatedly calls the police dickheads and wankers; his MP Gavin Shuker is an “idiot”; Quilliam’s head of communications is a “squealing moron”. It’s refreshing at first but after a while can get a bit difficult to read.
Tommy sees this book as the chance to get his side of the story out, and is disarmingly honest, offering up a series of (often) surprisingly funny stories of what went on during his time as head of the EDL that will interest greatly anyone who’s followed the group. The public picture of Tommy Robinson– a nasty angry man full of hatred – is at odds with the reality. He’s charismatic (which is one reason he managed to hold a group like EDL together for so long; and why it collapsed in his absence), a prankster, and surprisingly plucky.
In one story, Tommy caught prospective Tory MP Afzal Amin on camera trying to persuade him to stage manage an EDL demonstration so he (Afzal) could then “persuade” them to not go through with it – and take the credit. (Afzal resigned from the party as a result.) Then there’s the comic account of how Tommy ended up on the roof of the Fifa headquarters building in 2011 on a whim to protest about England fans not being allowed to wear poppies on their armbands.