Our friend Brian of London writing for Israellycool
Without winning a TV talent contest or scoring a winning goal in the World Cup, it would be hard to be as famous as Tommy Robinson in the UK. And yet he started out wearing a balaclava and leading a rag tag bag of football hooligan friends protesting against a group of Muslims shouting insults and obscenities at British soldiers. He became the figure head of the English Defence League: the EDL.
Tommy Robinson has now written a book telling his astonishing story. It is more entertaining, funny, bitterly depressing and exciting than most of the fiction I’ve read lately. It had me laughing out loud then thumping soft furnishing in frustration over the injustice of it all. It’s not about the EDL but his involvement with the EDL is clearly the main driver for most of what’s happened to him:
It’s not a short book (the electronic version I had was 330 pages) but I devoured it. The style perfectly captures Tommy’s voice and background but it flows well. Some of the phraseology will upset English grammar teachers: it’s always “me and my football pals” but that’s authentic Tommy speak.
Tommy’s book sets the scene for the formation of the EDL by explaining something of the life he led in Luton (just to the north of London) growing up. He was hanging about with other kids in a solid working class neighbourhood. From the start it’s clear race was not something he, or most of the mixed race crowd he hung with, ever paid attention to. But as time passed the separation (on religious not race grounds) between Muslims and everyone else grew clearer, the fights grew more serious and the impact on society more palpable.
Those earlier convictions were pivotal. They established Tommy as a violent football hooligan and gave the media a pigeon hole for him and the organisation. The strongest theme in the book (and the reason for the title) is the persecution of Tommy Robinson individually. When presented as a linear account it is a horrifying picture of the entire apparatus of State power being directed at shutting down political speech and basic rights like free assembly and peaceful protest.
Tommy recounts his sudden and unprepared rise into media stardom. Very early on Tommy was shocked by what happened when he talked to the media. . . He has some choice things to say about other parts of the media he met along the way, the TV documentaries that flat out lied to him and the manipulations that were made in almost all reporting of the EDL.
On a side note, at the time I was often reading the personal accounts of people who attended their demonstrations on their web forums alongside the national media reporting. I could tell for myself there were massive discrepancies between what numerous independent EDL members were saying on the web and what was being written by the press.
I was also reading, and remember this is back in 2010, about people whose daughters were going missing for days on end. People being assaulted, bullied and driven out of neighbourhoods by Muslim gangs. The EDL forums and the marches were a non-racist place in which people talked about these issues. It was years later that the massive scale of paeodophile Muslim gangs operating across the UK eventually came to light. But it was obvious there were huge problems to rank and file EDL members.
Can we be sure of the veracity of every story in the book? On some of the details that I have personal connection to, everything written is as I remember it. My memories of contemporary accounts of events match those described in the book. I’ve reached out, behind the scenes, to others I knew from those days and again can’t find anyone who thinks Tommy has just made this stuff up. And when you read the whole book, you can’t help but think nobody could make all of this up.
If the treatment of the EDL by the media is one sub-theme, it fits completely within the overriding tale of persecution.
What is startling is the sheer scale of what the British state had to do leading up to his imprisonment more than twice on long sentences. Even more: none of his later convictions involved violence: one was for using someone else’s passport to travel to the US for a 9-11 commemoration (stupid and he admits it) and a retrospective conviction for a tiny part in a fraud (which cost nobody any money) that stemmed from lending his brother in law £20,000 ($30,000).
Along the way it is almost impossible to count the number of arrests, nights in cells and general harassment. And that’s just from the state; being attacked by Muslim gangs, or neo-Nazis was another occupational hazard. Up to his involvement in the EDL he’d managed to successfully run a number of small businesses. His entire financial history was subject to astonishing scrutiny, many thousands of hours of police time were spent trying to find irregularities. All those cases failed until, eventually, he plead guilty to the mortgage fraud case to stop them going after his wife.
Devote limited resources to chasing a growing numbers of Islamic extremists plotting to behead soldiers or perpetrate mass casualty attacks on UK citizens with guns and bomb or perform forensic accounting investigations on Tommy Robinson’s tanning salon in Luton. Such are the complex decisions UK Police Chief Inspectors are tasked with making.
And all along the way Tommy Robinson was being threatened. These weren’t run of the mill death threats on twitter, he gets hundreds of those, these were serious enough for the police to issue official “Osman” warning letters to Tommy. These indicate the police believe a serious threat to his life. But sometimes these were used as an excuse to prevent a demonstration going ahead with the police claiming they wouldn’t be able to protect him.
In 2012 five terrorists were accidentally caught (because they were driving a car without insurance) on the way to an EDL demonstration: …Hilariously, or not, Tommy was later dumped into the same prison wing in Woodhill where these guys were serving 19 years!
I lost count of the number of times this repeats. With nearly fatal results for Tommy a few times. The story is entertainingly told but the implications are horribly dark. It’s easy to see how Tommy started to believe the authorities really did want him to die, out of sight, in a prison fight.
Tommy ended up spending far more time in solitary confinement than anybody is supposed to, especially when convicted of non violent offences like mortgage fraud. But do you think any “human rights lawyers” would take up his cause?
From about eight weeks in, with no end to the isolation in sight, they started getting in touch with human rights lawyers. They’d explain this prisoner’s circumstances, the lawyer would express outrage, and then they’d explain that it was the leader of the English Defence League – and the spineless arseholes would drop it like a red hot brick. Not one of them would touch my case.
One said that most of their clients were Muslims and representing me would be bad for business. My family even went to the lawyer who represented Jon Venables, the lad who murdered the Liverpool toddler, Jamie Bulger. He could argue the case of someone who battered a two-year- old to death, but he wouldn’t touch me with a barge pole. It seems that human rights only apply to a select group of people.
As he came toward the end of his time in prison he was set to be “released on license”. In essence he was released early but subject to a set of conditions that made it absolutely clear mortgage fraud was not why he’d been imprisoned. All of the restrictions were on association with EDL members and speaking about what he’d been through. Nothing financial. And even a minor breach of these conditions could be used to put him straight back in prison.
In the book he covers, in some depth, what appear to be determined attempts to recruit him as a spy and send him back into the EDL. Again a pattern emerges: trumped up accusations, a spell in prison and a visit from shadowy characters who promise they can make all his problems go away. He recounts how he vigorously turned all these approaches down.
After Tommy was invited to give a (now famous) speech at the Oxford Union debating club at Oxford University, his probation officer, Sue Beaumont, came to his house to try to stop him. They’d already forced the cancellation of his first appearance when he was arrested on trumped up, hilariously comical and subsequently dropped charges.
The book doesn’t labour any points about Islam. That’s not the purpose of this but all throughout are reminders of the effects Tommy has seen, throughout his life, of Islam on the working class people of the UK who are increasingly feeling friction when living alongside growing populations of radicalised Muslims.
The book ends with a frank discussion of the problems facing the UK and the world. He’s pretty bleak, his proposed solutions of stopping Muslim immigration for five years and banning all building of new mosques will upset lots of people. Tommy was always clear, all throughout the EDL days, that the EDL was not anti-immigration per se: many of its members were immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants. Integration was always the issue.
’’m only trying to say things, to ask questions, that our political leaders seem terrified of even raising. Could the mass migration we’re seeing right now from the middle east be an invasion by any other name?
I’m only asking. Not many other people seem to be.
I wonder if Tommy realizes how much he is loved in the UK.
The word is hijrah or hijra. That is what the Muslims do when they can’t beat you in a war.