It was one of the stranger media announcements of the year: Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, was announced as a “Goodwill Ambasador” for the MMBF Trust. This organisation, as Hope Not Hate pointed out, gives the impression of being a charity, and has been promoted as such. It “also trades as the Matthew Martino Benevolent Fund”. There was to be an MMBF Tommy Robinson award.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Tommy Robinson
Whether this was for losing a young solicitors’ employee his job, repeatedly violating the privacy of a blogger for expressing his opinion, committing acts of contempt of court, illegally identifying a Border Force official, pushing misleading figures for book sales, throwing a mardy strop at Twitter for enforcing its terms and conditions, or any other of Lennon’s highly creative enterprises, is not yet known.
But what is known is that Matthew Martino is another who, like Lennon, likes to use a false name as a means of self-identification, if not self-promotion: he is in reality Mathetes Chihwai, a 25-year-old Zimbabwean who claims to be an entrepreneur. The problem with his so-called charity is that not only is there no record of it with the Charities Commission, its alleged £100,000 “arts fund” is matched by last filed net assets of just £16,443.
So far, so unusual, but what has happened since the announcement of Lennon’s appointment as a “Goodwill Ambassador” and HnH’s investigation has been positively bizarre. The Short Film Festival dumped MMBF as a result of Lennon’s appointment. The UnDependence Film Festival followed suit. The Mail Online report of Lennon’s appointment noted that the Charity Commission had said “The Commission has contacted the organisation [MMBF Trust] to establish on what grounds it describes itself as a charity, and why it has not submitted an application to register”.
Mathetes Chihwai aka Matthew Martino
It got worse: the involvement of Martino (or Chihwai if you prefer) with Essex TV, of which he had been a director, was terminated abruptly. CEO Tim Tiernan told “The EssexTV and EssexMagazine board has terminated Matthew Martino (Mathetes Chihwai’s) directorship of both companies and he yesterday agreed a severance deal and sold all his shareholding back to myself and Mr Alin Stacescu (our Creative Director) … We are absolutely horrified and shocked beyond belief by the decision by Mr Martino’s trust to have any degree of association with Tommy Robinson. We are now conducting an internal review into how much ‘in kind’ favours Mr Martino offered to Mr Robinson and if any of our staff were involved”. Could it get more bizarre? It certainly could.
Tiernan’s Twitter feed was taken private soon afterwards. That of Martino/Chihwai fared worse: it’s been deleted. The great entrepreneur and philanthropist has gone to ground. The web page at Essex TV for the “Matthew Martino Innovators’ Fund” has vanished. The MMBF website has been put behind a login barrier.But there has been not a peep from Lennon about these developments. He gives the impression of having taken the free publicity and run. Not, of course, that anyone should conclude that this is a mere PR stunt with no real end product. Perish the thought!