Yesterday evening, despite being refused permission to use the land for his gathering, and despite the opposition of local Councillors, the local MP, and Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith leaders, Stephen Yaxley Lennon, who styles himself Tommy Robinson, held a rally in the South Manchester area of Wythenshawe. This was such a success that no more than 300 people turned up to hear The Great Man speak.
According to the Manchester Evening News, “he was introduced on stage by Anne Marie Waters of For Britain [too skint to stand her own candidates, then] … Explaining why he chose to hold the event in Wythenshawe, Robinson claimed people in the area 'have been forgotten and betrayed at every level’. He claimed the Labour Party 'no longer represent who we are' and called on those who formerly voted for the party to support him instead”.
So it was the usual tired schtick. The Guardian added that “On a campaign website, Robinson says he plans to speak out against ‘the Islamification of Britain’ if he is elected as MEP for the north-west of England”. Just like his doorstepping exploits, his campaign is based on a false premise. It’s all about him. No-one else matters.
Something else that didn’t seem to matter was complying with electoral law, as the Guardian pointed out: “his fledgling political career got off to an inauspicious start when he was told by police that his BBQ was potentially in breach of electoral laws on bribery by offering free food to voters”. The key word here is Treating.
This is the Wikipedia definition. “Treating is an electoral fraud criminal offence in the United Kingdom. Treating occurs when an election candidate or their agents offer material incentives for people to vote for them or to abstain from voting. It is a triable either way offence with the sentence being up to either an unlimited fine, one year imprisonment or both”. A UKIP candidate giving out free sausage rolls provoked a complaint in 2015.
And while Lennon is in the clear calling himself by an assumed name on the ballot - if it is a name someone is routinely known by, that is allowable - there is another fly in his electoral campaign ointment. Dr Mariana Steal Tweeted out a Facebook excerpt from pro-Lennon Politicalite, noting “Yaxley-Lennon's BBQ is being hosted by Australian News Network aka Avi Yemini”. There it was - “Hosted by Australian News Network”.
The Tweeter known as Aunty Fah was not impressed. “According to Robinson it is local people who have offered to host a barbecue, since when was Wythenshawe in Australia? If true, not only is this another Robinson lie, but sponsorship of election candidates & parties by foreign individuals & organisations is a breach of the rules”. Indeed it is.
Did Lennon and his pals hand out free food yesterday evening? If so, his campaign could be in big trouble already, and even bigger trouble if the gathering was indeed “hosted by Australian News Network”. He’s going to find out that election campaigns are one part of British life where you have to play by the rules.
I’m sure he’ll have a good explanation ready for the Electoral Commission.
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