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Tommy Robinson hints he could run as Ukip MP in speech at Brexit 'betrayal' march

‘One day I’ll be sitting in there among MPs,’ Robinson tells protesters after urging them to join Ukip

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 09 December 2018 18:29 GMT
Tommy Robinson and Ukip lead Brexit 'betrayal' London protest amid huge police operation

Tommy Robinson has hinted that he will attempt to enter mainstream politics as a Ukip parliamentary candidate following a wave of high profile resignations over his deepening relationship with the party.

Speaking at a Brexit “betrayal” rally in London on Sunday, the English Defence League (EDL) founder admitted he had never voted but said his supporters “need a political voice”.

“Let this be the start of a political mass movement in this country,” he added.

“When I went to the House of Lords with Lord Pearson [for lunch after a court hearing] and I saw the reaction, I saw MPs under parliamentary privilege saying disgraceful lies about me, I sat for the first time and thought one day I’ll be sitting in there amongst you.”

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was referring to outrage from MPs in October when the Ukip peer invited him to dine at the House of Lords after a hearing over alleged contempt of court.

An Old Bailey judge referred the matter to the attorney general, who is yet to decide whether to continue the case that saw Robinson jailed in May.

The Commons speaker, John Bercow, condemned Robinson as “a loathsome, obnoxious, repellent individual” after an MP asked how the “violent, racist thug and fraudster” was allowed on the parliamentary estate.

Robinson’s ties to Ukip have since increased, seeing him appointed as an adviser to leader Gerard Batten, while the party’s national executive committee will consider whether to waive laws barring former British National Party and EDL members to let him in.

The anti-Islam activist’s welcome has sparked a wave of resignations by MEPs and high-profile Ukip members, including Nigel Farage, who have condemned the direction taken by Mr Batten.

The London MEP, who has repeatedly called Islam a “death cult”, looked on as Robinson urged thousands of protesters to join the party on Sunday.

Speaking from a stage at Whitehall, he told people to sign up on Ukip’s website while appearing to go through the process on his mobile phone.

“The only way for there to be a political option is for the public to support it, back it and join it,” Robinson said.

“To all the people in Ukip who are worried – don’t worry because the cavalry have arrived.”

Ukip has won millions of votes in parliamentary elections but failed to convert the support into significant seats.

Former leader Nigel Farage failed seven attempts to enter the House of Commons and Ukip’s two short-lived MPs were former Conservative members.

Defectors have told The Independent that long-standing Ukip members have left the party or let their accounts expire over Robinson’s rise, but party officials say more than 8,000 new members have joined since Mr Batten’s leadership started in February.

“The membership has changed dramatically in its character and style, as has the direction of the party,” said Bill Etheridge, an MEP who quit Ukip in October.

He voiced fears that Mr Batten was preparing Robinson for a leadership position.

Tommy Robinson tells protesters to join Ukip via their mobile phones on stage next to leader Gerard Batten (right) at the Brexit ‘betrayal’ march on 9 December 2018 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The fact Robinson has been taken on as an adviser without even being a member would suggest he is going to have a senior role,” Mr Etheridge said.

“He will be involved in the clique around Gerard and certainly I would have thought in time he would have ambitions to taking on the leadership … I think Mr Batten might be keeping the seat warm.”

Mr Batten has not confirmed any plans for Robinson’s future in Ukip, but claimed last week that the anti-Islam activist had voiced political ambitions.

“Prior to [the October court hearing] Tommy told me he really only wanted to be involved in the media, he was promoting his own career as a kind of journalist,” he said in a Ukip video.

“And then when he came out and we chatted he said what he realised is the only way to change anything is actually through the ballot box, through democratic politics and that means being aligned with a party.”

But protesters massed at the end of the Brexit “betrayal” march seemed uninterested in the Ukip policy positions outlined by MEPs who took the stage, saving their biggest cheers for Robinson and mentions of “treason”.

One man was carrying a noose and told a reporter it was “what the traitor May deserves”, while other signs called the prime minister “Treason May” and one demonstrator said the government should be “thrown in the Thames with weights on them”.

While many directed their ire at the government and EU, other signs linked to “new world order” conspiracy theories and one man had a board claiming a white supremacist’s murder of Labour MP Jo Cox was a “false flag”.

Stand Up To Racism protest against Brexit 'betrayal' march in central London

Marchers also held signs calling the media “fake news” and “Lügenpresse”, and several were wearing bright yellow vests in an apparent reference to the “gilets jaunes” movement in France.

Among the several thousand protesters on the march were members of the Generation Identity white nationalist group, anti-Islam For Britain, British National Party and Make Britain Great Again group.

Police mounted a major operation to keep the Brexit “betrayal” demonstration apart from a separate march held by counter-demonstrators.

Organisers of the Oppose Tommy Robinson event claimed it far outnumbered his march and was attended by 15,000 people, but police did not provide official crowd estimates.

Weyman Bennett, of Stand Up to Racism, said Robinson had been “outnumbered and humiliated”.

“Robinson and Batten are attempting to normalise and legitimise fascism and we cannot let it happen,” he added. “We face dangerous times.”

By the time both rallies officially ended, three people had been arrested – one for assaulting a police officer, one for possession of an offensive weapon and one for public order offences

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said the suspects were all “from a counter-protest group”.

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