Tommy Robinson leaves EDL 'to form new party'

EDL leader warns of the 'dangers of extremism' as he exits the party he founded

LAST UPDATED AT 13:41 ON Tue 8 Oct 2013

TOMMY ROBINSON has confirmed to the BBC that he will be stepping down as leader of the far-right English Defence League (EDL). Robinson's PA Helen Gower also told the IB Times that "he will definitely form a new political group".

The original announcement was made by Quilliam, a "counter-extremism think tank", which issued a statement saying that it had "facilitated" the departure of Robinson and his co-leader Kevin Carroll.

Gower also told the BBC that 12 other senior members of the organisation are also expected to announce their departure.

In his statement, Robinson said he acknowledged the "dangers of far-right extremism". However, he still believes in the need to counter Islamist ideology – "not with violence but with better, democratic ideas".

Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said that he has been considering the move for some time. "I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive," he said.

Members of the EDL were unaware of their leader's departure. On the future of the organisation, Gower admitted, "I have no idea whether the group will go on, all the regional organisers will need to discuss stuff and decide on how to proceed."

Critics have taken to Twitter to question the sincerity of Robinson's statement. Owen Jones pointed out in a tweet that Robinson had been promoting far-right extremist views the previous day and that his ideals had not changed.

George Eaton, writing for the New Statesman, described Tommy Robinson's "conversion to democracy" as a "tactical retreat" and said that by publishing his statement "Quilliam has lent legitimacy to a dangerous demagogue who has concluded that the ballot box, rather than the boot, offers greater chances of success".

Here is how the reaction played out on Twitter: 

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