Image: 'Tommy Robinson' leaving the Old Bailey on 23/10/18. Rights: David Mirzoeff/PA images
Stephen Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, has been invited to speak at a major conference in Washington DC. If he’s allowed to attend, it will give him a big platform to push his anti-Muslim agenda. It will give him the respectability of appearing alongside members of Congress. And it could net him in the range of £1million via fundraising. The question is whether – given his long criminal record – he’ll be allowed to attend.
Here’s the situation: the Middle East Forum has, in conjunction with the David Horowitz Freedom Center, invited Lennon to the United States in mid-November. In addition, Rep. Paul Gosar and six other members of Congress have invited Lennon to speak to the Conservative Opportunity Society in a closed-door event.
Our analysis suggests that Lennon will raise in the range of £1m as a result of the exposure and links he can foster on this trip if he is allowed into the US. We expect him to use his media profile and funding to tour the country organising demonstrations about grooming scandals. Previous demonstrations organised by, or for, Lennon have descended into violence and left a trail of division.
On Tuesday 23rd October, outside the Old Bailey in London, Lennon announced his intentions:
"I want to spend the next six months travelling to towns and cities blighted by these problems. By next summer the entire world is going to the true extent of the rape of Britain. Again, I am going to have more in videos coming up".
Some people have asked how he’d be allowed to travel to the US given his record. In 2013 Lennon was jailed for 10 months for using someone else's passport to travel to the USA. Lennon used a passport in the name of Andrew McMaster to board a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to New York. He entered the US illegally then used his own passport to return to the UK. It is believed that Lennon received a ten-year ban on re-entering the US following his 2013 conviction.
But the Trump administration can override these bans if they want to, giving Lennon the possibility of getting in for his lucrative speaking engagement. It seems that the people behind the invite to Lennon have made a request to the US administration to lift his ban. The Middle East Forum and the David Horowitz Freedom Center both have very good political links to the Trump administration.
The people behind this event are pushing at a half-open door. The Trump administration has strong links to the self-defined “counter-jihad” movement. There were early appointees like Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn and Sebastian Gorka. More recent appointments include National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has close links to Pamela Geller, an American activist notorious for her anti-Islamic writings, and the new chief of staff of the National Security Council, Fred Fleitz, part of a group who promote anti-Islamic conspiracy theories. Trump himself received briefings from Frank Gaffney, a key figure behind the ‘Obama is a Muslim’ conspiracy theory, and Bridget Gabriel, head of the largest anti-Muslim campaign group in the US, ACT for America. ACT recently boasted of having monthly meetings with the White House. This is an administration infected with anti-Muslim prejudice.
The Trump administration has shown its own support for Lennon, especially following his imprisonment for contempt. The British ambassador to the US was lobbied in June by Trump’s ambassador for religious freedoms, Sam Brownback, who demanded the UK government be more sympathetic towards the former EDL leader. At the same time, Donald Trump Jnr, Trump’s son, personally tweeted out his support for Lennon.
If Stephen Lennon is allowed into the United States, it will have a marked, and negative, impact on community relations in the UK. If the Trump administration makes a special case of Lennon and lets him in, it will be a slap in the face for the British government, and encourage elements of the far right in the US itself.
The US government should decline to overturn the banning order that Lennon is believed to be subject to. The UK government should make clear to the US government that it is not in the public interest for Lennon to be allowed to attend the events he’s been invited to.