By Media Director Eric Kostadinov
The current debate surrounding Tommy Robinson exemplifies something wrong with politics in the U.K. Many people are letting their emotions dictate their opinions, instead of the facts. Last week, thousands of Britons took to the streets of London to protest Robinson’s recent arrest. Five police officers were injured, with many people arrested as scuffles broke out across the capital.
To be clear - there shouldn’t even be a debate to be had about whether Tommy Robinson should have been arrested or not.
Why Tommy Robinson was rightfully arrested
Tommy Robinson already had a suspended sentence for Contempt of court. Contempt of court is the crime of ignoring the court and its constitutional role in making sure that justice is done.
A suspended sentence meant that Tommy Robinson was not jailed for his initial crime, but he would be jailed if he committed another crime in the immediate period following his sentence. At Leeds Crown Court last month, he committed Contempt of court again. Thus, he was jailed.
Supporters of the former EDL leader argue that the courts are trying to suppress Robinson’s views illegally. This is categorically not true. It is a crime under U.K law to speak about ongoing trials in public, as it could influence the jury and lead to an unfair verdict. Robinson committed this crime not only once, but twice, and after the first crime, he was fully aware if he did it again he would be jailed.
Why are people still defending Tommy Robinson despite the facts?
The hashtag #FreeTommy has gone viral and thousands have marched in his name in recent weeks. This is despite the fact that he was jailed correctly, and Robinson himself pleaded guilty to his crimes. A combination of neglecting to find the facts, dismissing the facts, because they do not align with personal wishes, and inventing ‘alternative facts’ have lead to much undeserved sympathy for Tommy Robinson. Indeed, a picture of Liverpool’s Champions League celebrations in 2005 was retweeted over 25,000 times this week, portrayed as Londoners in 2018 protesting Robinson’s arrest. This is a clear example of fake news. In his book ‘Post-Truth’, Matthew D’ancona writes, ‘Rationality is threatened by emotion’, and ‘Post-truth is an emotional phenomenon. It concerns our attitude to truth, rather than truth itself.’ Many have a deep emotional desire to believe there is a conspiracy against Tommy Robinson. His supporters have let this belief cloud the reality of the situation.
This debate transcends party political affiliation and left-right politics. It is not an issue such as nationalisation, where the left and right can hold two different, but entirely legitimate viewpoints. If you support the rule of law, you should not be defending Tommy Robinson.
Sources and Further Reading
- “Ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson jailed at Leeds court”, BBC News (29th May 2018)
- “Tommy Robinson supporters arrested after London protest”, The Guardian (9th June 2018)
- Lizzie Dearden, “Tommy Robinson arrested for 'breaching the peace' outside court during grooming trial”, The Independent (25th May 2018)
Image: coldcoffeeandcookies @flickr