He’s intelligent, quick, articulate, well-informed, good-mannered — and surprisingly meek in his politics for a man so often branded a fascist. Many of his home friends are black, some are Muslims; he’s not obviously racist or anti-Semitic.
He only got into activism and street demos because he happened to be a white working-class English lad in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. It was Luton, unfortunately, that Islamist proselytiser Anjem Choudary chose as the base for his various proscribed organisations.
As a result the character of the town changed forever; and so did Robinson’s life. The trigger was a local Islamist recruitment drive for the Taleban and a subsequent protest against a parade by Royal Anglian Regiment troops returning from a tour in Afghanistan.
As he once told another interviewer: ‘I was like, they can’t do that! In working-class communities we all know somebody in the Armed Forces. I’ve got a mate who lost his legs. And these lot were sending people to kill our boys.’ So Robinson founded the protest organisation that would make him infamous — the English Defence League (he subsequently quit it in 2013).
You know how hateful the EDL is: every-one does. What’s curious, though, is how much worse it is by reputation than in deed. It’s almost as though the chattering classes needed some kind of bogeyman whose name they could brandish in outrage from time to time in order to demonstrate that, while of course they condemn fundamentalist Islam, they feel just as appalled, if not more so, by the ugly spectre of far-right nationalism.
It’s the same with Tommy Robinson. If you looked at social media in the immediate aftermath of the recent terrorist murders on Westminster Bridge, you might have been surprised by the extent to which the righteous rage of the bien-pensant Twitterati was directed not at the killer, Khalid Masood, and the culture that radicalised him, but rather at that culture’s most vocal critic, Tommy Robinson. According to Robinson, this is no accident.
It’s a reflection of the Establishment’s intense reluctance to admit the scale of the problem with fundamentalist Islam in Britain. Robinson’s recent experiences have made him deeply suspicious of the authorities. Forcing him to share a prison wing with Islamists suggests, to him, that his personal welfare is not exactly their top priority.
While he was in prison, he refused to eat any regular food (he believed it would be poisoned or otherwise contaminated, so he stuck to tinned tuna), and made sure to cause sufficient trouble so he wound up in solitary where no one could stab him. His front teeth are all fake, the real ones having been knocked out when he got trapped in a room with eight Islamists. The only reason he didn’t die, he says, is because they didn’t have any ‘shivs’ (bladed weapons).
He’s a strong advocate of separate prisons for Muslims and non-Muslims: the scale of bullying (no one dare be caught cooking bacon, for example) and the extent of radicalisation, he argues, makes it culturally suicidal to continue as we are.
hat-tip Stephen Neil