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By Jason Michael

Schadenfreude is a beautiful emotion. Watching Tommy Robinson on video begging his hero Donald Trump for political asylum in the United States almost made the hell that is Brexit worthwhile. Tommy – and he can call himself ‘Tommy Robinson’ if he likes – comes from the same rancid political gene pool as some of the worst racists in the global far-right today, from the same stream that brought us Thomas Mair – the man who murdered Jo Cox. Robinson has helped to make modern England the horror show it has become with his campaign against the so-called Islamification of Britain and his insistence that refugees fleeing war and persecution in Africa and the Middle East stay in their own countries. Watching him on the verge of tears – petrified that a custodial sentence will put in him into the hands of Muslims in prison – fills me with a much-needed sense of glee. The vindictive part of my nature is delighted to see him reduced to this, and I am obviously not alone.

Robinson deserves to be where he is today. He has not been sent down ‘for journalism’ or ‘free speech.’ He is not a martyr. He is a criminal. Robinson was put away before for contempt of court and he has done the same again. The law he has broken exists to ensure that people get a fair trial, and Tommy should know this – he has been up before the courts a few times. He’s a convicted criminal and he has plenty of experience of prison life. Looking back over his career, it is fair to say that the ‘big house’ is Tommy Robinson’s natural habitat. I am glad he is where he belongs.

But we have to be careful. Tommy Robinson is the not the ordinary criminal he was in 2005 when he served 12 months for assault. As a former member of the extreme far-right British National Party, the founder of the racist English Defence League, and now as a self-styled alt-right journalist, Robinson is a dangerous prisoner. During his last incarceration for contempt his significant following mobilised on the streets of London – rioting and clashing with the police. This hasn’t gone away. When he was sentenced yesterday, his supporters – while attacking a BBC news crew – were calling for the judges who convicted him at the Old Bailey to be hanged. This behaviour could be laughed off just five years ago, but not now. England has changed. It doesn’t matter what we think of this man, his followers and supporters – including members and leaders of international far-right political parties – now see Tommy Robinson as a political prisoner, a hero of the rise of the right.

Officially or unofficially, it is likely Robinson will be treated as a special category prisoner. Britain’s political establishment is many things, but it is not entirely stupid. It understands what will happen on the streets if Robinson is harmed or killed while in custody. It is to be assumed Tommy Robinson realises this, making his futile appeal for political asylum in the US more of a publicity stunt than anything else, and it has worked. Today he is Britain’s most famous – or most relevant – prisoner, and Tommy Robinson is relevant to a growing number of people and to the wider British far-right in the highly volatile context of Brexit.

This is where we must be careful with him. Prison time, especially when it is seen as time served ‘for the cause,’ has seldom done people on the extremes of politics any harm. Jail has made a hero of Tommy Robinson, a fact on the ground that will give him more kudos on the right and make him more powerful on his release. What we must not forget is that Robinson is an intelligent guy. He is nobody’s fool. At 36, he has a fantastic grasp of far-right politics, he is charismatic, and has a proven ability – both on the street and in the clink – to marshal his troops. He has friends across Europe and a surplus of mentors and powerful supporters.

On 31 October Brexit is going to create the ideal conditions for Robinson’s brand of street politics. An ‘apocalypse scenario’ crash out of the European Union will devastate the British economy and fundamentally weaken the state. We are hurtling towards a period of political uncertainty Britain has not experienced since the 1930s, and people like Tommy Robinson are aware of this, biding their time for the ideal moment to seize a slice of the pie. Robinson is one of the easily overlooked elements of the Brexit equation, but we would do well to keep a very close eye on him. If Britain does, as we suspect, head into the abyss, then this man’s story may only just be beginning. At once, our saving grace and our worst nightmare is the knowledge that someone like Robinson will not take the democratic route to power.

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Nach Urteil für Tommy Robinson


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