FreeTommy – the making of a far-right English 'martyr' - 2018-07-29
As the rain fell on 6 February 2016, Tommy Robinson led a small crowd through an industrial estate on the edge of Birmingham. It was the launch event of Pegida UK, the anti-Islam outfit founded by Robinson. Fewer than 200 supporters turned up. Undeterred, he outlined the group's pan-European ambitions. No other marches would follow.
Robinson had hit rock bottom. His other venture, the virulently Islamophobic English Defence League, had fractured and declined two years earlier. So low was his stock that anti-fascist organisations had stopped taking him seriously.
Fast forward 30 months and that stock has seen an extraordinary, and unsettling, rise. Robinson – real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – is now positioned as a superstar of the international radical right, a global "martyr" for free speech and a lightning rod through which the far right intends to wage its struggle to protect "traditional" western freedoms from the perceived foes of Islam and liberal democracy.