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Tommy Robinson joining UKIP could see a huge increase in party membership!

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Ever since Gerard Batten MEP was appointed as UKIP interim leader, there has been a discussion about the party shifting further to the right. Tommy Robinson has been a constant topic for Batten in media interviews, and he is fed up with it. Multiple tweets from the current UKIP leader show that he wants to discuss Brexit, but also the wider issue of Islam, and not just Tommy Robinson. It would certainly be very interesting to see how Robinson would end up actually joining UKIP, and this is part of the debate. Nonetheless, If Tommy joined UKIP there is no question that the party membership would increase, but would this have a negative impact on their polling numbers and vote share in the future?

Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Christopher Yaxley) has been a well-known political figure for the last decade. He is mainly known for his time as leader of the English Defence League from 2009-2013. However, over the last year Tommy has caught multiple headlines, as well was arrested and imprisoned a couple of months ago. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail for “contempt of court” after videoing events outside a court during the trial, of which he had already been punished for a year earlier, meaning he broke his probation. Tommy’s imprisonment led to endorsements and supportive-rallies across the world, and the mainstream media were forced to cover these events due to their size.

General Election 2017
Current UKIP leader Gerard Batten MEP is in support of Tommy Robinson joining the party.

After Robinson was released from prison, he has captured the opinions and beliefs of people from all walks of life from many different country. In August, he was interviewed on the major US TV show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight”, and found that he was popular with many right-wing Republicans. In September of this year, Tommy expressed his desire to join UKIP and gained the support and following of the leader Gerard Batten. Batten spoke a many of the “save Tommy” rallies during the former EDL leader’s time in jail.

However, a significant problem for Tommy Robinson and being able to join UKIP, as that in the party’s constitution it says it will refuse anyone attempting to join who has been a previous member of a far-right extremist party. Batten is in the process of trying to allow a “special case” for Robinson in UKIP, but this may take a long time. Moreover, in the last few months there has been a significant amount of resignations from senior UKIP members; because they are worried the party has shifted too far to the right, and disagree with the anti-Islamic extremism ideology. The most recent resignation has come from former leadership candidate Bill Ethridge MEP and former deputy chairman William Dartmouth MEP.

Tommy Robinson 3
After Tommy was arrested in May, he was sentenced to jail just 4 hours later.

Nevertheless, one thing that would be a near certainty is a rise in membership for UKIP, as Tommy Robinson has a huge following behind him. One example of this is the DFLA, which is the Democratic Football Lads Alliance. The group has held many demonstrations across the country, including London, in support of Tommy as well as protesting against grooming gangs and various aspects of Islam. Moreover, in a recent BBC Interview, Batten said that this year’s party conference, which was attended by nearly 1,400 people, showed that the “members still show full support and backing” with their leader. Robinson joining UKIP would certainly be a controversial move, as we have seen many resignations from prominent party figures, but ultimately it is the membership’s voice which is the most important to listen to when it comes to party policy and tough decisions.

farage
Former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage MEP, has said it would be a “catastrophic mistake” to let Tommy Robinson into UKIP.

A big concern for the more moderate “faragist” members of the party, is that Tommy’s membership could lead to a total irrelevance for the party when it comes to elections. Tommy appeals to the Labour working-class heartlands, when UKIP’s core vote is from former Conservatives, for example two Conservative MP’s defected to UKIP prior to the 2015 General Election. However, party members would argue that Tommy joining would see huge increases in vote share in Labour seats and a possible return to the party’s glory days in 2014. There is no accurate way of predicting what Tommy Robinson’s entrance to UKIP would mean, but the priority for the party should be about Brexit and Theresa May’s terrible Chequers Plan!

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