Thursday, 15 June 2017

I may owe Tommy Robinson an apology

As a right-wing conservative, I resent parties of the so-called Far Right, because, since the 1930s, they've been used by the Left to give people like me a bad name. This, the Guardian columnist or the Labour MP proclaim, pointing to, for instance, the BNP or the National Front or whoever, is what right-wing conservatives really believe (much as people like me are only too ready to accuse soft-left Labourites of being Trotskyist agitators at heart - a harder charge for them to dismiss, given their increasing participation in a Corbyn-led Labour Party). I resent being called far right or fascist, because I don't agree with most of their policies, I am philo-Semitic, and I don't see deliberate street violence as a legitimate form of protest in a democratic country. Far Right parties have far more in common with the totalitarian Left that with right-wing conservatives: if I were an extremist (which I'm not), I'd more likely be a freedom-loving, gun-toting libertarian, happy for people to go to hell in their own handcart as long as I didn't have to pick up the tab for their recklessness, weakness, selfishness and stupidity...

...But, as a conservative, I like order and stability. And, as a Christian, I believe we owe a responsibility to others - within severe limits.

I've bored you with a statement of my beliefs because I want to explain why, for years,  I've shied away from taking an interest in, or from wasting my sympathy on, the pseudonymous Lutonian, former football hooligan, EDL founder, and convicted criminal, Tommy Robinson. Everything I read about him suggested he was a rabble-rousing, street-fighting, racist, Islamophobic, fascist thug with drink and drug problems. Quite definitely beyond the pale. A better-looking version of Nick Griffin, only dressed in street clothes and handy with his fists.

I started to have doubts when Jane Kelly interviewed Robinson a couple of years ago for The Salisbury Review. He didn't sound much like the monster the mainstream press and the broadcasters had made him out to be. He owned up to his distinctly rackety past - but he didn't sound particularly racist or extreme in any way. His home town ("it's a shithole, but it's our shithole") had been taken over by Pakistani drug gangs and Islamist extremists, the indigenous locals no longer felt at home there, and the authorities were turning a blind eye. Might have a point, I thought. And he had given up his role as the leader of the English Defence League. And there was all that business with the anti-Islamist extremism think tank, Quilliam.  Still, I reasoned, perhaps he'd just had some media training and was spinning a line. I thought it was probably safer to stick to my original opinion and to avoid reading about him in future.

That's all changed recently, because I kept seeing retweets of Robinson's postings and videos on Twitter, and they didn't seem particularly extreme. The furore over his Manchester "March Against Hate" struck me as a trifle overblown. Then I listened to James Delingpole's lengthy podcast interview with the man, and I was genuinely impressed. Most of what he said sounded heartfelt and convincing - in particular his contention that Luton was an example of successful multiracialism before the drug gangs and the Islamists took over - and for a racist, he seems to have a whole heap of black, Indian and Pakistani-origin mates.  Is that all made up? Doesn't sound like it. Brave little sod, too, by the sound of it - he has refused to leave Luton, moves his family regularly because of regular death threats, and had to be kept in solitary confinement during his last stay in prison because he'd have been killed otherwise. It could all be fantasy, of course - but, again, it didn't sound like it.

The Delingpole interview (which the interviewer took very seriously, wisely eschewing his normal larkiness) led me onto Robinson's 2015 appearance at the Oxford Union - the talk itself (it wasn't a debate) and the Q&A afterwards. Both are riveting. Finally, I chanced upon a post on The Blog of the Re-Enlightenment by - well, some bloke, really - entitled Middle England must listen to Tommy Robinson. I don't know about "must" - but I'd certainly go with "might usefully".

We had a visit from someone we know recently (I'm being deliberately vague). She lives in a town on the East coast which has seen better days. Most of those close to her are left-wing - Corbynites, in fact. She has always struck me as politically neutral, possibly a bit of leftie. She's looking to move, because her town has been swamped by members of London's chaotic, semi-criminal, anti-social underclass, who have made life there (at least in her bit of it) unbearable for the indigenous population. The incomers' antics sound ghastly and depressing - they really have turned the place into a shithole. The reason for the invasion by undesirables - none of whom has a job, obviously - is that London councils are getting rid of their dregs by paying the local council to house them. Of course, nobody asked the locals if they were happy with this arrangement, just as I doubt if anyone bothered to ask the people of Luton if they'd really rather prefer not to have their town turned into a haven for Islamic extremists.

Given what's being done to people in towns all over Britain - without their permission - perhaps it really is time to listen to Tommy Robinson. You never know - he may have a point.

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