The rightwing UK Independence Party has appointed the anti-Islam activist Tommy Robinson as an adviser, in a move that signals a further shift to the right.
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, will advise UKIP leader Gerard Batten on rape gangs and prison reform, the party announced.
Under current UKIP rules, Robinson is ineligible for membership because of a party rule prohibiting anyone who has been a member of the EDL from joining. A decision over his application to join the party has been postponed until after March 29 – the day the UK leaves the European Union.
The decision was criticized by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. “It goes against all the things I did as leader to say we will talk about immigration, we will talk about the extreme forms of Islam. But, we will do it as a non-racist, non-sectarian party,” he told the BBC. “This blows a hole in all of that.”
Robinson, 35, has become a figurehead for the far right in Britain, attracting thousands of followers both online and at protests.
In May, Robinson was was jailed for 13 months for contempt of court for live-streaming videos to Facebook from outside the trial of a grooming gang.
His conviction was later quashed over procedural matters with the case being referred to the attorney general.
He has previously been convicted of assault, drug and public order offenses, mortgage fraud and using someone else’s passport to travel to the US.
Though Robinson has been prevented from joining UKIP because of his former affiliation with the EDL, it has not stooped him gaining political support.
He has been widely lauded by UKIP leader Batten, who has been outspoken in his criticism of Islam, describing it as a “death cult.”
Earlier this year, Batten said British Muslims should be asked to sign a text formally renouncing elements of the Quran and introduced a set of new policies to impose stricter immigration controls for people from Muslim-majority countries and separate prisons for Muslim prisoners.
Farage said he would write to the party’s national executive committee to call for a vote of no-confidence in Batten’s leadership. “We can have one last go at getting rid of somebody who, as leader, is dragging us in a shameful direction,” he added.