A Fortnightly Review of
Enemy of the State
by Tommy Robinson
The Press News Ltd., 2016 | 344 pp | £15.00 $9.99
By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
PERHAPS NOBODY’S NAME evokes so much self-righteous shuddering among the bien pensants of Britain than Tommy Robinson’s — not even that of Nigel Farage. They’re both routinely labelled right wing, far right, racist and Islamophobic, and Robinson qualifies as football hooligan as well, something which he openly admits he has been.
He is something of a turbulent priest, or more precisely, turbulent oik, since much of the animus against him (as I argued in a previous piece here) is driven by old-fashioned class snobbery. Robinson and the EDL are uppity and dangerous working class types of the patriotic sort and the establishment, especially the left, hates that kind of thing.
His greatest sin so far has been to set up the EDL (English Defence League) in 2009 as a response to the demonstrations by Muslim groups in Luton against the return of the Royal Anglian Regiment from Afghanistan. The aim of the group, and Robinson as an individual, has always been to fight what he calls “the silent islamification of our island”. In 2013 he and his cousin, Kevin Carroll, the other co-founder, quit the group for a variety of reasons. They both worked for a time with the Quilliam Foundation on combating the radicalisation of young British Muslims.
Since then Robinson has tried to carry on campaigning, make a living and keep his family together, which can be very difficult when you’re constantly hounded by the police, hauled up in front of judges and magistrates for minor or trumped-up offences, and serving periods in jails where the authorities deliberately put you on wings populated with Muslims who want to kill you. Life outside can be just as dangerous. In February this year he ended up in hospital after an unknown assailant knocked him unconscious in the street leaving him with a gash in his head. No one has yet been arrested.
Enemy of the State is Robinson’s story in his own words, rough language and all : he’s as blunt and unsparing about himself (“What a wanker”) as he is about his detractors (“shit journalists”, “ignorant bastards on the Fleet Street newsdesks”, “UAF arseholes”, and of Tom Costello, who made a film about him, a “Pathetic little arsehole” and a “bullshitting little prick”). His language is occasionally vulgar but always has the ring of authenticity to it: if you’ve listened to him talking, you know this is the same voice.
AT JUST OVER 300 pages, this is a long book and yet it covers Robinson’s story with verve and vigour. If you want to know what it’s like having to coordinate a street movement, arrange demonstrations, deal with media types who want to stitch you up and would-be politicians trying to use you for their own ends, then you’ll find it here. As you will also find what it’s like to be a former football hooligan, serve time in prison, have your businesses destroyed, and end up being invited to speak at the Oxford Union.
What distinguishes Robinson from everyone else who talks about the problem of Islamification is that he speaks from personal experience. He has encountered Muslim violence and criminality on the streets of his town, he has seen people converted and turned into aggressive strangers, he’s seen young non-Muslim girls drawn into drug addiction by Muslims, converted and lost to their families. He’s known people beaten up and killed by Muslim gangs. And yet, contrary to the media portrayal of him, he emerges from his descriptions of these experiences as a level-headed and generous man who would rather live in peace with his neighbours than be in conflict with them. Perhaps if he were more Middle England he wouldn’t be treated so badly: “Lads like me march and we’re thugs. Middle class tweedies march and the nation is speaking.” It’s the class thing again.
There are some vitally important things you come away with from this book. The first is that the problem of the self-segregation of Muslim communities in Britain is real and dangerous. It has already led to widespread criminality (Muslim rape gangs in Rotherham and elsewhere, for instance), the development of parallel societies that do not recognise the common law of the land (as in de facto mini caliphates like Tower Hamlets), and the development of violent jihadism (even at the time of writing a young man from Luton has been charged with planning to go to Syria to engage in terrorism).
Another lesson, and one learned the painful way by Robinson, is that the media are often worse than useless in covering this topic. They are frequently part of the problem. They’re more likely to sympathise with Muslims and their “piss-and-moan stories” than with anyone else. Once he’d been stitched up by the Guardian Robinson was more wary. He began to see how media people “live in a dream world. They get shit-scared of their own shadows.”
There is an upside to the massive amount of negative publicity, however, especially on television and youtube: “letting the far left scream their hatred works as good as any message of ours. They show themselves up for what they are — they’re the extremist bigots, not us.” Being the subject of abuse, he says, is a price worth paying because “it takes ordinary people into a world they don’t know.”
FURTHER TO THAT is a more worrying lesson: not only are the police unwilling to deal with Muslim criminality (an officer told him privately that they’ve been ordered to police Muslim areas differently from others) but they’re happy to use the law to crush anyone like Robinson from drawing attention to what’s going on and trying to do something about it. That is why he is an enemy of the state. That’s not a self-aggrandising title: once you’ve read the charge sheet of false accusations, failures to prosecute his attackers, and the malevolence of police harassment, you realise the state definitely is at war with Robinson – and by implication with the rest of us.
The politicians are useless, too, being ignorant of the reality and unwilling to acknowledge it: the British establishment and “the people preaching PC rubbish about Islam and the Koran, don’t know the first thing about it.” It’s what he calls the “Shuker problem” after Gavin Shuker, his local MP, whom he describes as an “idiot”.
All of which makes it sound as if Enemy of the State is utterly grim reading. It isn’t. A lot of it is indeed disturbing and if you aren’t angry by the time you’ve finished reading it then you’re probably one of those idiots or cowards Robinson rails against. However, there’s a encouraging resilience and humour on display here — there’s the story of how one member of the EDL at a demonstration pops into the local supermarket, buys a load of packets of bacon and starts throwing slices at the gathered Muslim counter-demo. Perhaps a bit childish, but better than bricks or bombs.
Robinson comes across as a more complex personality than the cliched media image of him. He’s sharp and self-aware but rather humble: “I’m just an ordinary bloke who got sick and tired of being a second class citizen in his own town and country”. He’s a traditional family man, a football fan, a hard worker and a bloke who likes company. He’s honest, unlike the media and the political establishment, a straight talker, and he loves his country. His tale is one of great personal courage. Far from vilifying him the tweedies of Britain ought to be listening to him. Prophets in their own country and all that.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.