A lot of the fear about the rise of the far-right has been about those individuals and their parties gaining power. But that's not the full pictureby Steve Bloomfield / December 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
The far-right activist “Tommy Robinson” stood outside the homes of British Muslims and called them “enemy combatants.” He described the refugee crisis of 2015 as “an invasion of Europe by military age Muslim men.” He said Muslim men were “raping their way” through the country. Referring to immigration, he said “we’re importing barbarians.” He claimed that London mayor Sadiq Khan is “part of an invasion into our country.” In one video apparently from a 2011 rally, he addressed “every single Muslim” and told them they had “got away with killing and maiming British citizens” during the 7/7 attacks.
And now, ahead of Thursday’s general election, he’s backing the Conservatives. “Everyone should vote for Boris Johnson,” Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said, from outside court last month. “Go Boris!”
In the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, Donald Trump won the backing of the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. The endorsement—and Trump’s initial refusal to disavow it—was headline news for days. Every time Trump was interviewed, journalists asked him about it.
British journalists like to compare themselves favourably to their American counterparts, particularly on politics. But so far neither Johnson, nor any of the cabinet ministers or spokespeople put up by the Conservative party, have been asked once about Robinson’s apparent support.
It is not hard to imagine why a racist would support a prime minister who has caricatured Commonwealth citizens as “flag-waving picaninnies” and some British Muslim women as “letterboxes.” But more than these statements themselves, it is Johnson’s response when questioned about them which would probably make a far-right activist happy. He has occasionally offered a non-apology apology—sorry if any offence was caused, etc—but more recently he has alighted on a more dangerous line. It’s a freedom of speech issue, he claims, saying “I defend my right to speak out.” In other words, it’s okay to use derogatory language about blacks, Muslims and gays (“bum boys,” as Johnson once described them.)
And if it’s okay for him, it’s okay for the rest of us, including Tommy Robinson. For years, the far-right—from Nick Griffin through to Robinson—have claimed that “political correctness” prevents them from saying what they really believe. Now they have a prime minister who has sung from an almost identical hymn sheet.
A lot of the fear about the rise of the far-right has been…