Far-right leader Tommy Robinson has been released prison after he had his conviction for contempt of court quashed. The Court of Appeal has ordered a new trial.
This will be a major boost for Robinson’s supporters and his own profile. He now awaits a new hearing on the charge of contempt of court.
Always prepared to offend, Robinson compared his time in prison to being in Guantanamo Bay, claimed he was moved from Hull to Onley, a prison with a 30% Muslim population and put in a cell opposite the “Prison Mosque.” No such “mosque” exists.
As his complaint letter to the prison states, what Robinson was really suffering from was the lack of a TV, which, he claimed, was “mental torture.”
The most worrying thing about these latest developments is how they embolden not just his supporters in the UK but the growing populist far-right network across Europe and North America.
Following his release, Robinson spoke to Tucker Carlson from Fox News who unsurprisingly provided no challenge to any of his statements, wished him luck and warned US viewers that wrongful arrests, such as that of Robinson, could happen in the US, if they were not vigilant.
Robinson thanked Republican Congressman as well as the US ambassador to the UK for speaking out on his behalf. As well as having the support of figures like Steve Bannon and UKIP, Robinson can now count on the backing of an ultra-conservative think-tank the Middle East Forum which has ploughed money into the demonstrations in his support.
While he was in prison Robinson’s supporters — who for the time being count as most of the organised far right — had promised to organise a rally every month. It is not clear what they will do now, or if Robinson will himself appear at further demonstrations.
Whether Robinson is ultimately re-imprisoned or not the threat of his supporters and the growing influence of the far right both online and in the streets cannot be ignored.
Despite the turnout on the last pro-Robinson protest in Whitehall being smaller than previously they easily outnumbered the anti-fascists. Without the police presence the left and labour movement contingents would have been driven from the streets.
It is incumbent on the entire labour movement particularly the trade unions and Labour Party to do all they can to mobilise their members onto the street.
This means being disciplined about how we organise and having properly stewarded mobilisations that are able to protect and defend our demonstrations.
Anti-fascism also means educating our movement; we have to go beyond shouting “Nazi scum”. At the same time we have to counter the idea among some on the left that the working-class people who attend demonstrations in support of Robison, are just politically disenfranchised or only racist by mistake.
Unions and the Labour Party must politically educate their members on the significance of the rise of the far right and unite around political demands for jobs, homes, freedom of movement and an end to austerity. That is the only way to undercut the social malaise on which the far right build support.