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PATRICK O’FLYNN’S decision to leave Ukip because of leader Gerard Batten's “growing fixation” with fascist mouthpiece “Tommy Robinson” emphasises how little upset it has caused his fellow Ukip MEPs.
Both O’Flynn and Ukip founder Nigel Farage have demanded a ban on former members of far-right bodies the BNP and EDL joining the party.
In Robinson’s case — real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon before adopting the name of a violent Luton Town football hooligan — he was a BNP member and helped set up the EDL, so Batten’s appointment of him as an adviser on prison reform and rape grooming gangs was not an off-the-cuff decision.
The Ukip leader has clearly opted for a far-right formula already successful in the US and several European countries — having a twin-track approach that combines supposedly respectable parliamentary politicians backed up by street-fighters.
Farage’s claim that, under his leadership, Ukip had said “we will talk about immigration, we will talk about the extreme forms of Islam, but we will do it as a non-racist, non-sectarian party” already stretched credulity somewhat.
There can, however, be no disagreement with his assessment that Batten’s embrace of “a man who’s done four prison sentences, lives under a pseudonym and wherever he goes there’s violence” puts paid to any such pretence.
The current Ukip leader portrays Yaxley-Lennon as an authentic working-class voice, but his carefully polished image of “free speech” martyr allegedly uncovering scandals buried by politically correct politicians has brought him rewards that his supporters will never receive.
He has been able to move into a £950,000 home in a gated community in an upmarket Bedfordshire village and has been lauded by former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who has been instrumental in offering help and finance to alt-right outfits.
“Tommy is not just a guy but a movement in and of himself now. He represents the working class and channels a lot of the frustration of everyday, blue-collar Britons,” Bannon told the Sunday Times in August.
Batten is intent on milking Yaxley-Lennon’s status as a figurehead for his BNP/EDL followers to rebuild Ukip, since the party’s fortunes fell from a high of winning 24 MEPs in 2014, with 27.5 per cent of the vote, to failing to make a parliamentary breakthrough and losing members hand over fist.
The Batten-Robinson cabal is building a major mobilisation on December 9, proclaiming Brexit Betrayal, to proclaim itself as the leadership of the 17.4 million voters who backed Leave in the June 2016 referendum.
Campaigning bodies Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) have urged a counter-demonstration on the day, concentrating on opposition to the Ukip/BNP/EDL programme of racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia.
The anti-fascist, anti-racist organisations have wisely concentrated on this key issue rather than being inveigled into a battlefield of the far-right’s choosing.
Fascists would welcome a situation where demands for a second EU referendum became the rallying cry of socialists and the labour movement, allowing the far-right to assume ownership of the Leave cause and its 17.4 million voters.
It beggars belief that a group of so-called “People’s Vote” adherents, Another Europe Is Possible ,has adopted this divisive position — publicised, of course, in The Guardian — planning to parade their liberal sectarianism, doubtless replete with EU flags and berets, alongside the anti-fascist demonstration.
They should leave their EU paraphernalia at home for a more appropriate occasion and unite with anti-fascists and anti-racists to isolate the purveyors of hatred.
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