Far-right activist Tommy Robinson appointed UKIP’s ‘grooming gangs adviser’
- Party leader Gerard Batten said prison and gangs of men ‘grooming’ girls for sex were ‘two subjects which he has great knowledge’
- Batten has compared Robinson to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela
UKIP leader Gerard Batten has appointed anti-lslam activist Tommy Robinson as an official adviser, further cementing the party’s move towards the far right.
Batten said the founder of the far-right activist group the English Defence League, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, would advise him on grooming gangs and prisons.
The UKIP leader said Robinson, who faces a possible retrial after successfully appealing against a jail term for contempt of court after live-streaming videos to Facebook from outside a grooming gang case, had “great knowledge” about the subjects.
This week UKIP announced that Batten had formally sought to begin the process to allow Robinson to become a member. He is currently not allowed as EDL members are banned under existing UKIP rules to keep out people from the far right. The move was resisted by the party’s national executive, which said any decision on the issue should be postponed until after Brexit day in March.
Batten, who took over as leader following t he departure of Henry Bolton this year, is open about his anti-Islamic views, calling the religion a “death cult”, and has suggested that UK Muslims should be asked to sign a declaration renouncing elements of the Koran.
He has tried to move UKIP towards a more populist stance. A new set of policies unveiled in the autumn included a mooted halt on immigration from Islamic countries and the possibility of separate jails for Muslim prisoners.
Batten said: “I have appointed Tommy Robinson to be a personal special adviser on two subjects which he has great knowledge. It is not necessary for him to be a party member in order to assist me in this role. I am looking forward to working with him.”
Robinson has convictions for assault, drugs and public order offences, and has been jailed for mortgage fraud and using someone else’s passport to travel to the US. He is waiting for a decision on his contempt of court retrial, which was referred last month to the attorney general.
He has tried to reinvent himself as a “campaigner” against Muslim gangs who groom girls for sex, which has attracted him a large and fervent audience. Batten has previously spoken at his rallies and compared Robinson to Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
Critics of Robinson’s actions describe him as an opportunist who has used the grooming issue to promote a more general far-right, anti-Islam agenda and push his personal brand.
Batten, who initially said he would serve only as interim leader, has seen a series of his fellow UKIP MEPs quit over his push towards the far right.
Some senior party figures have urged him to focus instead on campaigning against Theresa May’s Brexit plans, opposition to which has helped push UKIP support up to 8 per cent in some polls.