Ukip leader Gerard Batten has denied that Tommy Robinson’s supporters are “racist” after Julia Hartley-Brewer likened them to a "white supremacist movement".
English Defence League founder Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was freed on bail yesterday after having a contempt of court conviction overturned at an appeal hearing.
Batten had previously told the BBC that Robinson was “small fry” compared to anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
“Nelson Mandela, for example, was a terrorist and plotted to kill people and know he’s an international hero,” he said on World at One.
“Well, Tommy Robinson was never in that league, his crimes are very minor compared to that.
“I don’t think either of them are saints. I think that Tommy Robinson is small fry compared to terrorism and murdering people.”
Katie Hopkins - who regularly posts about ‘Sharia law’ and denounces migration on her Twitter account - also shared her support for Robinson, calling the court that sentenced him a “kangaroo court”.
'Mainstream media narrative'
Former BNP leader Nick Griffin has publicly supported Robinson, as has Raheem Kassam, former editor of Breitbart and former chief adviser to Nigel Farage. “We fought the law and... we won. Tommy has been freed. They said we couldn't do it. The media lied about his case, repeatedly. Journalists over the past few days laughed on the phone to me about it,” he wrote on Twitter.
“It’s got the feel of a white supremacist movement now,” said Hartley-Brewer, of the swell of support for Robinson, which has also seen foreign figures associated with right-wing politics voice support, like Dutch nationalist politician Geert Wilders, and former Breitbart executive chairman and ex-strategist for Trump, Steve Bannon.
“If you actually turned out to one of the rallies, there’s people from all different backgrounds there, white people, Asian people,” countered Batten.
“It’s nothing to do with white supremacy - it’s another mainstream media narrative that will be trotted out.”
“Gerard, I’m not mainstream media narrative at all,” Hartley-Brewer hit back.
“But I see the tweets from people who support Tommy Robinson, and I’m sure they’re good people who are concerned about the changes happening to this country - and I’m concerned as well - but there are also some people who are outright blatant racists.”
'Minority' given coverage for saying 'outrageous things'
Batten compared the “minority” to the current anti-Semitism scandal in the Labour Party.
“There always have been [a minority], and you’ve got people in the Labour party now who are flagrant anti-Semitics,” he said.
“The Labour Party is being soft on this, and they come out of the woodwork again. There’ll always be a minority, but that doesn’t mean a majority are wrong because of what the minority might say, they’re always the ones given the airtime because they say something outrageous.”
Hartley-Brewer asked what Robinson’s goal was.
“I can’t speak for Tommy but I think it might be similar to what I’m trying to do in a less flamboyant way, but that we actually confront the dangers of extremist fundamentalist Islamic ideology,” said Batten.
“We’ve imported into our country a dark-age, Arabian ideology which is causing us severe problems and will cause Europe severe problems going forward.
“The political establishment in Europe needs to think about how they’re going to tackle that, but the last thing they want to do is admit it exists.”
Robinson had his conviction overturned after the court of appeal found it had been “rushed”.