The opportunity to repent at leisure came rather more quickly than anyone imagined: after former EDL head man Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, posted a video of himself with what looked like young soldiers, who chanted his name and thereby suggested a degree of partisanship, one of those soldiers is getting the boot.
As has now been reported, “The army is in the process of discharging a soldier who appeared in a video with ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson. The soldier is said to have had a long record of disciplinary problems. According to a source, this ‘was the straw that broke the camel’s back’”. And there was more bad news for Lennon.
“Major General Rupert Jones, who will shortly take up the appointment of Standing Joint Force Commander, added: ‘The British Army is absolutely clear that we do not tolerate extremist views and we don’t tolerate extremist behaviour … ‘I am very confident that is a widely held position across the Army. Much of the reaction to that incident from our people tells you that.’” So much for those claiming “the Army supports Tommy”.
So is Stephen Lennon downhearted? More to the point, is he prepared to take responsibility for what happened to the soldier who is now being discharged? As if you need to ask. “I’ve had people who have served in our armed forces contacting me, ringing me non-stop” he claims in another self-serving video.
Worse, he has countered the claim that the soldier had a long list of disciplinary problems by claiming he has a high-up contact in the Army who says otherwise. “The Sky News reporter says ‘a source tells us’. That then controls the narrative, that he hasn’t just been dismissed for a photo, but because he’s been problematic, which is a lie. He has been dismissed because he shares a photo with me”. And then comes a significant claim.
“I have a recording, that’s been given to be, of a top military personnel [sic] talking about who is directing this … this is Government, obviously”. So One, he dismisses Sky News as “Fake News” and condemns them for “controlling the narrative”. Then, Two, comes the “Government is behind it all” paranoia - like the Government would get involved in an internal Army disciplinarily matter. No. Just no.
And Three, he claims to have information that disproves the Sky News claim, which he no doubt hopes will, er, “control the narrative”. Then come the excuses. Lots of excuses.
Only he knows what the public feel. The public is angry and on his side. He is a mere journalist (no, Stephen, you’re not a journalist, and never will be). “People talk about ‘yes but I founded the EDL’. When I left the [EDL] this boy was 12. When I started the [EDL] he was eight years old”. The young man would not know Lennon’s past. He would see him as a journalist (still peddling that claim). SO IT WASN’T HIS FAULT.
Not for the first time, Stephen Lennon has lost someone their job through his selfish appetite for publicity - self-publicity. This, together with his inability to take responsibility for his own actions, has to be called out. So kudos to Government counter-extremism Tsar Sara Kahn who put it directly: “This is typical of the far right. They manipulate and exploit their way into the mainstream, often targeting the military and co-opting its symbols”.
There was more. ”But Tommy Robinson’s attention-seeking is cover for divisive anti-Muslim hatred that is causing real harm to individuals, communities and society in general. We have to call it out. Muslims are proudly and selflessly serving in the armed forces, and the army’s decisive response is to be praised”. And don’t forget that Great War statistic.
Around 400,000 Muslim soldiers fought for this country in The Great War. Tens of thousands of them made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more died in World War 2 fighting not only for the British, but also the Russian Army which rolled back the Nazis from the east.
Stephen Yaxley Lennon has tried to co-opt the Army in his misguided crusade against Muslims - and his apparently insatiable appetite for self-publicity. Now that his latest publicity stunt has backfired on him, he hasn’t got the bottle to take responsibility for it. So he lashes out at the Muslim Council of Britain, the Army “top brass”, Sky News, and anyone else who has passed adverse comment on his little Wild West Show.
He likes to talk about people facing up to their critics “like a man”. Fine. Now he can face up to what his actions did to a young soldier’s career. Like a man.
The myth of Tommy Robinson was for a time, but not for all time.
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