In Depth

UKIP appoints Tommy Robinson as ‘grooming gangs’ expert

Party leader Gerard Batten fuels claims of shift towards far-right in giving role to anti-Islam activist

Former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson has been appointed to be a personal specialist adviser to UKIP leader Gerard Batten.

Announcing the move, Batten said that Robinson would instruct him “on two subjects [of] which he has great knowledge” - child grooming and prison reform.

 However, anti-Islam activist Robinson - whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - cannot actually join UKIP, as a result of party rules barring membership to anyone affiliated with the EDL. 

Batten is calling for these rules to be amended, but insisted: “It is not necessary for him to be a party member in order to assist me in this role. I am looking forward to working with him.”

His support for Robinson has “sparked the fury of Nigel Farage and warnings party veterans will quit in fury if he is let in”, according to the Daily Mail.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Farage said he was “appalled” by Batten’s decision to hire the far-right figurehead.

The former UKIP leader warned that would try to force out Batten from the top job through a no-confidence vote.

“If it continues in this direction electorally it is finished,” Farage said. “I will be writing to the national executive committee [NEC] of the party today and urging that we have a vote of no confidence in Gerard Batten as leader, that we get rid of him.” 

He continued: “I will be meeting the UKIP MEPs, those that haven’t already resigned, in Brussels on Wednesday next week.

“We’re going to have one last go at getting rid of somebody who is leader, is dragging us in a shameful direction.” 

Earlier this month, the party’s NEC deferred a decision on allowing members to vote on Robinson being permitted to join. The decision was postponed until after 29 March 2019 - when the UK is due to leave the European Union officially - “with the NEC arguing the party should be focused on Brexit”, says the BBC.

A party source, who said they could never be a member alongside Robinson, told the broadcaster that the potential ballot was a “referendum on Gerard Batten”.

Robinson’s appointment appears to be part of Batten’s plan to make the party more “radical” and “populist”. In September, Batten praised Robinson’s “bravery” and suggested he could help the party appeal to northern voters.

But a UKIP insider told the Mail that Batten’s obsession is “like Henry Bolton all over again. They’re both in love with someone inappropriate” - referencing the party’s former leader, who had to step down owing to his relationship with model Jo Marney, after it emerged she had sent racist texts.

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