In the European parliament, there is an increase in the number of MEPs who are openly hostile to migrants, Muslims and multiculturalism, according to Claude Moraes, a Labour MEP representing London and Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.
In an article for Gulf News online, Moraes writes: “We do not want British politics to be infected by the same developments”. He made special mention of Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League, which recently drew 15,000 supporters to the streets of London on.
“Some were aggressive, attacked the police and physically threatened anti-racists who were peacefully protesting against them,” he wrote.
“Robinson has a long record of far-right activity, criminality and violence. His real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon and he adopted his pseudonym when he founded the EDL in 2009, partly to hide his past as a former member of the fascist British National Party.
“He makes no distinction between Muslims as a whole and those of that faith who may have acted violently.”
According to Moraes, Robinson’s supporters are drawing strength from the growth of an international movement of racists in Europe and the contemptible attitudes of United States President Donald Trump.
“This was clear on Saturday, when not only did the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders speak, but also there were messages of support from Louis Aliot, vice-president of France’s National Rally (previously named National Front); Filip Dewinter, a leading member of the Vlaams Belang party in Belgium and a well-known apologist for Nazi collaborators during the Second World War; and Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Trump.”
Moraes warns there is an attempt to build an “alt-right”, pro-Trump movement in Britain. Last week’s demo included chants of “Make Britain Great Again”. The event was organised by Raheem Kassam, former editor-in-chief of Breitbart, and ex-EDL deputy leader Kevin Carroll, and backed by Bannon with forces to the right of the Conservative party in Britain from UK Independence Party (Ukip), ex-BNP and National Front supporters and football firms around the Football Lads Alliance (FLA).
“Such links make it obvious that Robinson is not a free speech champion. He was jailed after pleading guilty to committing contempt of court. Far from extending freedom, the rally will encourage more outrages such as the Leeds Mosque and Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) arson attacks. It could inspire a repeat of assaults such as the one in June in Bolton that left a woman in a critical condition.”
In a separate report, the Agence France-Presse (AFP) noted that a UK government report found that four attacks have been carried out in Britain over the past five years “by lone actors motivated to varying degrees by extreme right-wing ideologies”.
The report’s “online hate” section cited prominent British figures among those with the biggest reach on social media.
They included Robinson, as well as Paul Joseph Watson, whose videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and commentator Katie Hopkins, who in 2015 compared migrants to “cockroaches”.
According to AFP, the government has pledged to act upstream, identifying young people sensitive to propaganda and developing alternative speeches to those of extremists – whether they come from radical Islam or the extreme right.