REECE COOMBES: It’s Time To Stop Looking Backwards And Let Tommy Robinson Join UKIP
I used to hate Tommy Robinson. I think many did. As a former leader of the English Defence League, Tommy’s reputation is not one renowned for its broad reach or popularity – not even in a notoriously anti-multiculturalism party such as UKIP.
Of course, there is nobody in UKIP who could argue that the EDL is a group with which we should align ourselves in any way. Further, it is a group which we have with great success distanced ourselves from with party membership bans on any former EDL members and with our very clear policy differences in terms of equality and tolerance of other races and religions.
However, in our party’s new phase of success beyond the EU referendum, is it not time to start being pragmatic about the threats posed by Islam, Muslim grooming gangs, the Islamist radicalisation of our youth and Sharia Law? For besides Britain, virtually every European nation bears an anti-Islamisation party which – in most cases – is growing faster than UKIP ever has.
Perhaps most crucially, each of these parties reaches a far broader demographic than UKIP, which can only ever seem to get high levels of support among the over 65s. Each different generation brings a different set of qualities along with it, but today’s youth are particularly extraordinary with the energy, technical know-how and the fresh thinking which so is so dearly needed within UKIP. Increasingly across Europe, we are seeing the younger generations look to the radical, anti-Islamisation parties as the pathway to change in their nations and there is theoretically no reason why UKIP in Britain should be any different.
Clearly, UKIP must not blindly follow the radical parties of Europe. Many are weak on the EU, many are firm socialists and many are so anti-Islam that they have become anti-Muslim, a territory that we must steer very clear of. But there is a key formula that we are failing to grasp, and that formula has a few different components.
Firstly, each of these parties is extremely effective in using social media to spread their message and each put a significant amount of money into Facebook advertising and the like. They have dedicated teams (yes, teams, not one poor chap running the show by himself with no funding or training) who have professional training and expertise in social media marketing. Their websites are modern and sleek and their efficiency online spreads from the national identity right down to individual branches. This is something very key that UKIP must learn from.
Secondly, they are unafraid to call themselves populists and act as such. Calling out Islam for what it is, they invariably tackle the tough issues like grooming gangs, backwards Islamic cultures, terrorism and oppression of free speech. While it is fair to say that Gerard Batten has been very strong in this respect, much of the rest of the party is lagging behind. We must stop worrying about upsetting the mainstream media and start focussing on the truth – for the mainstream media will never be on our side, but the truth always will.
Thirdly, and perhaps most lacking in UKIP, is their aggressive and battle-ready tone when it comes to the issues I mentioned previously. When calling out the evil manifestations of Islam we must be loud, we must be outgoing and we must make ourselves heard. Yes, we will cause upsets. Yes, we will offend people. And yes, we will be putting ourselves in the line of fire. But is that not how UKIP has operated since day one? This is how the radical right across Europe gets itself in the papers and onto people’s TV screens and once upon a time, it was how Nigel Farage’s UKIP got themselves a referendum and won it. It’s about time we got our spirit back and reclaimed the battle for freedom – from not only the EU but also from the great evils of Mohammedist Islam.
There is no big figure within UKIP at present who encapsulates these three key elements of the radical right’s populist formula. But there is one man in Britain who does, and that man’s name is Stephen Yaxley, commonly known as Tommy Robinson. Tommy has over 100,000 more likes than UKIP on Facebook and over double our following on Twitter. His levels of engagement (how many people actually interact with him) are quite literally hundreds of times better than ours.
This is not because Tommy is a God of Facebook, nor because of some Russian bot army promoting his cause. This is because Tommy meets the simple criteria which I set out above. He has a passionate, experienced social media team surrounding him who document his work and reach millions of people every week with extremely professional content. He speaks out about the things that politicians don’t want us to hear and he addresses the tough issues head first, saying it as it is; like UKIP once did. Yes, he offends people. Yes, he causes a stir wherever he goes. But isn’t that the fun of politics?
Yes, there will be logistical difficulties. I shan’t dwell upon the specifics but it will require changes to a number of UKIP’s rules & regulations and will mean a change in our vetting process. Put simply, it will be a big challenge.
However, it a challenge which we must face. UKIP has always been hostile to anybody who has ever been a member of the EDL, even if that was just for a single day. There are many cases of people like Tommy who left the EDL many years ago and publicly disgraced the organisation’s new direction of anti-Muslim ideas and violence. These people are not evil, and they are certainly not incompatible with UKIP membership. They are among the most patriotic, passionate and proud people in this country and with their support, we can truly kick up a people’s revolt the likes of which we have never seen before. As far as I am concerned, they are exactly the sort of people that UKIP should be welcoming with open arms.
It is time to stop looking back to the days where we would do all we could to appease the mainstream media and to look forward to a bright future of the people’s army, with Tommy Robinson in the front line of the battlefield.