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The resignation of English Defence League’s leader Tommy Robinson is hardly a watershed moment for him or the EDL. Robinson himself claims that he is his own person and he alone will now be representing his views. This implies that he believes that the EDL did not represent his own ideology, however recent statements from him indicate that his current views are hardly different from his former group at all. He now intends to set up a new organisation, how different this group is from the EDL will remain to be seen.
First of all, it is worth looking at the reasons for his departure from the EDL. Robinson witnessed a debate in 2012 held by the anti-extremist think-tank Quilliam between their director Maajid Nawaz and Mohammed Ansar, a politician and social commentator. Having watched this debate he then apparently realised that Quilliam had brought about change, which was something Robinson was keen to do. He then claimed he wanted to tackle Islamist extremism and Neo-Nazi Extremism, notions he described as “two sides of the same coin”. Along with Kevin Carrol, then Deputy Leader of the EDL, Tommy announced his departure at a press conference held by Quilliam. He admitted his unhappiness with the dangers of far-right extremism and that he had been considering leaving for a while. On the surface this appears a rather noble thing to do, admitting his party had gone too far in its views and wishing to disassociate himself from it. However most interesting of all is a comment he made on why now was the right time to leave. He claimed that he had lost control of, his creation, and that it had become corrupted by right-wing extremists. The implication that he is not one of these extremists is almost unbelievable, given that he himself admits his views have not changed from when he previously branded Islam a ‘disease’. He has not yet set out what makes his views so different to that of any other EDL member, leading this resignation to be seen by many in the media as a mere publicity stunt. Robinson and Quilliam have promoted this apparent conversion incessantly, keen to keep both him and their think-tank in the spotlight.
There has been no rejection of the EDL’s policies, not nearly enough condemnation of the actions of many of their foot soldiers who have caused huge damage to communities and finally, perhaps crucially, no rejection of extreme Islamophobia. This was evident in Robinson’s interview with Jeremy Paxman in early October when he stated that he wanted people to listen to his views and that his resignation should be seen as a step forward, but dodged the question on whether he had completely changed his beliefs now. Robinson has gone on record to apologise for some of his comments in regards to Islam, in particular when he described Islam as “fascist and violent”. The fact he apologised for this is important since it does suggest that he accepts that some of his comments and views are far too extremist, however this still doesn’t change the fact many of his central beliefs are also held by the EDL.
The new foundation Tommy intends to set up is to be separate from the EDL and Quilliam to enable him, in his own words, to be a more credible voice. Its intention is to ‘defend the British Freedom and the vision of human rights that Judeo-Christian civilization has given to the world’. Only time will tell whether or not this new foundation can show that he has indeed moderated his views, however in no way can his resignation be seen as a ‘watershed’ moment in any way, shape or form just yet. He clearly still holds on to many of the EDL’s extreme views and I believe that this is nothing more than a publicity stunt, a way for him to disassociate himself from the controversial EDL and start again with a shiny new foundation with which he can spread his message of hate.