Tommy Robinson, founder of the EDL and an influential figure among the rapidly organising British Far-right, was recently released on bail from his sentence for contempt of court, with his conviction quashed by leading judges to be retried in the near future. Perhaps it is fitting, or perhaps ironic, that Robinson, who was jailed for contempt due to his attempts to influence the result of a court trial on paedophilia, has himself been released due to the apparent mistrial of an influenced judiciary proceeding.
Following his release, Robinson has already addressed the media, thanking the support of right-wing and anti-Islam figures such as Gerard Batten of UKIP, and has spoken of the apparent “mental torture” he endured during his sentence. Within hours, Robinson has already politicised the issue and seemed to martyr his ‘torture’. Without doubt, this is not a miscarriage of justice; it is, without doubt, a key moment in British politics that should not be overlooked or underestimated.
The decision to release Robinson on bail pending retrial is not itself an issue, but instead evident of the merits of our judicial system. One of the cornerstones of our judiciary system is the protection of all, regardless of ethnicity, religion or political belief. It is the correct decision, given the inevitable bias and mass coverage of the incarceration of such a politically active figure, to re-evaluate his incarceration and maintain the legitimacy of our judiciary system. Like many people, my personal opinions of Robinson’s beliefs and actions are exceptionally negative; this does not mean I would support the denial of his fair trial based on political beliefs.
The key issue that will rise from the release of Robinson is not judicial, however, but political. Robinson, who pleaded guilty in his original trial, almost certainly knew that his actions would lead to imprisonment. Though his release has perhaps arrived sooner than anticipated, the rhetoric that will arise from it remains the same; rhetoric of victimhood, political incarceration and an assault on the freedom of speech of his beloved ‘common [white] man’. Robinson now has, alongside the near fanatical following and calculated political ability, a false story of his heroic imprisonment; jailed for his valiant defence of the good English people, victimised by the oppressive state and the evils of the Islamophilic Elite.
His incarceration has the potential to act as a flag behind which the insidiously growing far-right of this country can rally behind, as evidence of their imaginary assault against their freedom of speech and the necessity of their growing violence against those who oppose them.
Perhaps the near fantastical picture painted above needs some degree of justification. Such justification is not, by any stretch, difficult to come across. The violence of individuals and groups affiliated with such organisations as the FLA is already widely documented, including the assault on Steve Hedley following his speech at a counter-demonstration against the FLA. Recently, Far right activists, 3 of whom were UKIP members, attacked a socialist bookshop in London. The ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ petitions on such sights as change.org received tens of thousands of signatures. Darren Osbourne, who it must be stated is placed at the most extreme end of the political spectrum, was reportedly obsessive over the speeches and posts of the EDL before committing terrorism with the Finsbury park mosque attack. Even in peaceful political protest, the far-right attracts figures in the thousands at their marches and demonstrations; this is both a significant figure and evidence of a growth and mobilisation unseen for decades.
As argued by Owen Jones, in Robinson, the Far right now has their Oswald Mosely figure behind which they can further rally and organise. The far right now has its martyr, its leader, and its champion.
This is not something that anyone who respects our society, our democratic process, or generally human decency, should allow to happen unchallenged. The views and rhetoric of this movement, be it from the alienation and hatred of an ethnic denomination, to growing organised violence and unrest, is symptomatic of progression towards fascism and variants of fascist political support. Though it may be the right of all in our society to freedom of opinion, such views must be challenged, their validity wholly disproved and their growth prevented. It is the job of not only the left but all in society. Make no mistake – this is not an issue that can simply be swept out of sight. The far right now is an organised growing political group with a leader perceived as an apparent martyr; now, more than ever, is the time that they must be proven wrong and stopped.