Tommy Robinson’s “conversion”

Last week EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) abandoned the organization, stating that it had been taken over by extremist elements while he was incarcerated earlier this year.

Øyvind Strømmen

Lennon said that he left the organization after “acknowledging the dangers of far-right extremism”, and told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nicky Campbell: “When some moron lifts up his top and he’s got the picture of a mosque saying ‘boom’ and it’s all over the national newspapers – it’s me. It’s when I pick up my kids from school the parents are looking at me, judging me on that. And that’s not what I’ve stood for and my decision to do this is to be true to what I stand for. And whilst I want to lead the revolution against Islamist ideology, I don’t want to lead the revolution against Muslims.”

On the EDL’s Facebook page many posters reacted to the news by calling Robinson a “traitor”. Some claimed that he now works together with Islamist extremists – due to the news of his ‘conversion’ being released by the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, which was formed by former members of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Unsurprisingly, some also put forth conspiracy theories. Some claim the government paid Lennon to quit while others insist he was in fact working for the government – specifically MI5 – all along.

In other parts of the British far right, the news was celebrated as a blow to the English Defence League, which has been a strong competitor in recruiting activists. In a press release, the British National Party – which is represented in the European parliament – reacted by saying that the so-called counterjihad movement is now at a crossroads. The press release paints Lennon as a hand-puppet for sinister “Zionist” forces:

With the Zionist guidance and backing exposed in our study ‘What Lies Behind the English Defence League?’, Robinson had dominated the movement for several years.

Recently, however, growing resistance to his pro-Israel and pro-immigration agenda have seen groups such as the Scottish Defence League, Casuals United and various very active Infidel organizations take a steadily higher profile while the EDL has been losing ground.

The Quilliam Foundation is run by ‘ex’ Hizb ut Tahrir extremists who are now taking a gradualist, Fabian approach to Islamizing Britain. They are therefore financed both by Wahhabi Gulf states AND by the British government.

They are also closely linked with the same neo-con Zionist elements that we previously exposed as backing Robinson.

So he hasn’t changed masters, though they are now calling a different tune.

A similar tune was struck on the extremist web site British Resistance, formerly known as The Green Arrow:

From day one, this site saw through the Zionist lickspittle and race traitor known as Tommy Robinson and warned you about him. Some of you listened, some of you did not, but now this site is vindicated as he is finally exposed.

Hopefully the EDL can now become a more politically aware street army and speak the truth about the carcinogen of the Islamic cancer in the UK that is Zionism.

Now Robinson has run off to work for the moslems who are colonizing our country and to pick up his Judas reward from Maajid Nawaz, an expert of Taqiyya, who is the leader of the Quilliam Foundation.

In the British media, reactions to Lennon’s defection have been mixed. In The Guardian’s Open Comment-section Alex Andreou warns readers against being fooled by “Tommy Robinson’s political sleight of hand”, while Michael Segalov writes in The Independent’s Voices section that abandoning the EDL is merely a change of tactics: “There’s little to suggest he will be denouncing Islamophobic views anytime soon.” Jamie Bartlett of the think tank Demos states that we should give Lennon a chance:

Believe it or not, he has always been a ‘moderate’ within the movement, and has struggled to contain more radical fringe elements, such as the National Front and Combat 18. I’ve interviewed him a few times, and have always felt he was frustrated that the EDL was known only for beer-fuelled chants, violent demos and racist Facebook posts. (A reputation, to be fair, it often deserved.)

In an article originally published in the Sunday Times, Rosie Kitchen notes:

Last week Robinson made the shock announcement that he was leaving the EDL, citing, with no obvious trace of irony, “the dangers of far-right extremism”. It is a curious turnaround: just five months ago, after the murder of drummer Lee Rigby, he was calling for an “English spring”.


There has been a great deal of scepticism about how genuine this miraculous transformation can be. When we resume our interview a short while later at the Quilliam head office, it rapidly transpires that the answer is: not very. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley Lennon (he borrowed the moniker Tommy Robinson from a renowned football hooligan who followed his team, Luton Town), is 30 but he has the attention span of a toddler: he leaps from subject to subject, fiddles with his phone and has an irritating habit of breaking off mid-sentence.

When I ask about his defection, he complains about “the Nazis” who have infiltrated the group and he mutters about “democracy” but what quickly becomes apparent is that his primary reason for leaving the EDL is practical rather than ideological, and it comes down to the lifestyle — predominantly, the booze.

In the anti-racist organization Hope Not Hate (HNH), the news of Lennon’s departure from the EDL was initially met with a cautious welcome. However, the organization’s co-ordinator Nick Lowles soon posted a highly sceptical blog post:

All we got was the blame being put on alleged Nazis within the group and an admission that street protests were futile. Pressed by the media, Kevin Carroll, Lennon’s cousin and number two, said: “We are still singing off the same […] sheet.” Later that evening, Lennon refused to answer Paxman’s question as to whether his views had changed. On Channel Four News, he initially denied having ever made anti-Muslim remarks.

The infamous anti-Muslim blogger Pamela Geller, who was in contact with Lennon on a semifrequent basis, and who initially supported his decision to leave the EDL, was – however – also quick to change her mind when Lennon in her view started “parroting politically correct nonsense about ‘extremists on both sides'”:

It has become painfully obvious that the enemies of freedom have broken Tommy Robinson. The British authorities’ harassment, the systematic persecution, the jailings, the solitary confinement, the threatening of his life, the threats to his family, his having to move several times, his children having to change schools, the constant false charges – he finally cracked. They broke him. He made a deal with the devil. He didn’t want to go back to jail, and this looks like his bid to stay out.

The comments on her blog bring us back to where this summary started. One of them simply states: “Another lost soul. Or traitor.” Another commenter soon replied: “Or mole?”

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About Øyvind Strømmen

Øyvind Strømmen is a Norwegian freelance journalist, author and managing editor of Hate Speech International. He has written extensively on the extreme right and other forms of extremism since 2007, and has published the Norwegian-language books Det mørke nettet (2011) and Den sorte tråden (2013), the first of which is also translated into Swedish, Finnish and French.
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