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RAHEEM KASSAM has become one of the spokesmen for the “Free Tommy” movement and that’s a bad sign.
That’s not because Kassam is a super-effective player on the right — most of his projects have crashed and burnt or sputtered along — but because Kassam is a wannabe and an opportunist.
And if the latest hard-right project is attracting careerists as well as ideologues, that’s a sign something is happening.
In Europe there are big, dangerous hard-right and fascist parties that have made the jump from being street movements to electoral success.
They’ve started with marches and physical intimidation, using them to build big broad, semi “respectable” parties with MPs like the Front National in France or Golden Dawn in Greece.
However, in Britain we have had “street movements” like the English Defence League led by “Tommy Robinson” (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) or the BNP. We’ve had a right-wing party with some electoral success in Ukip.
But there has been no coalescing of the two and no stable breakthrough like we see on the continent.
Now it seems US right-wing activists like Steve Bannon want to throw a bit of money into a project involving “Tommy Robinson” as a possible front man for a new attempt at pulling together a hard-right organisation.
Kassam looks set to be involved.
Bannon’s expertise as some kind of right-wing genius is over-exaggerated. But the US right has got a lot of money, which will add polish to the latest attempt at bringing together a racist-nationalist party in Britian.
Much of the British media, which really believes the “elite liberal/bigoted masses” model is accurate, is keen to promote the idea, especially if it has some US glitziness.
In the past, British right-wing movements have been dominated by ideologues. Kassam looks much more like an opportunist.
He’s tried every flavour on the right and usually failed. He was on the board of Conservative Future, the Tory youth wing, just as the Tories lost all their appeal to young people.
He then launched Breitbart London, the British branch of Bannon’s right-wing website.
Breitbart London hasn’t really broken through like Breitbart in the US, partly because it relied on people like Kassam or James Delingpole (a kind of Poundshop Toby Young) as the main men.
Kassam then made an embarrassing and abortive attempt to become leader of Ukip.
He looks like a man who wants a career beyond his talents and so is opportunistically trying to find one on the fringes.
Kassam now wants to ride on the coat-tails of “Tommy Robinson” because he thinks Yaxley-Lennon has the charisma he lacks.
So he is not the best operator, but the fact an opportunist wants to jump on the latest right-wing boat is a sign that it has some chance of getting afloat.
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