As the Brexit crisis deepens, UKIP has gone to war. With itself.

Gerard Batten, Tommy Robinson, and Nigel Farage
Wilson Belshaw

Theresa May’s Brexit plan has created a national crisis. With the deal on the table angering both Leavers and Remainers, it seems like the ideal situation for UKIP to capitalise on. Instead, the party looks like it may be going to war with itself over the appointment of Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson).

Into the fold

The current UKIP leader Gerard Batten has been supporting Yaxley-Lennon for a while. He’s referred to him as an “incredibly brave man”, and called for him to be allowed into the party. What prevented this was UKIP’s ban on former English Defence League (EDL) members joining. Yaxley-Lennon was no mere member, either; he was actually one of the EDL’s founders.

Batten has now brought Yaxley-Lennon on as an advisor on “rape gangs and prison reform”. The UKIP leader described him as having “great knowledge” on these subjects. Yaxley-Lennon was imprisoned earlier this year following an incident which allegedly could have risked the mistrial of a child grooming gang.

Following the appointment, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said:

I’m appalled. Gerard Batten has this sort of fixation with Tommy Robinson and discussing Islam and dragging Ukip into the direction of effectively being a street activist party…

 

He didn’t hold back on what’s happening next:

We are going to have one last go of getting rid of a leader who is dragging us in a shameful direction.

I’m going to fight and save it [UKIP] but if it carries on going in this direction, electorally it is finished.

Farage wasn’t the only person with something to say, either.

Division

UKIP MEPs like Patrick O’Flynn have backed Farage:

His party may be divided on the Yaxley-Lennon issue, but people replying to O’Flynn seem to largely favour the former EDL leader joining:

UKIP’s Suzanne Evans, who’s sparred with Farage before, pointed out hypocrisy on his part:

Raheem Kassam used to run Breitbart‘s London bureau. He was brought on by Steve Bannon, who also has links to Farage. Bannon is another person who’s spoken favourably of Yaxley-Lennon.

Breaking point

Others pointed out Farage’s hypocrisy:

Others pointed to the hypocrisy of Yaxley-Lennon’s appointment, asking:

And some think the move signifies that UKIP should no longer be treated as a legitimate political entity:

Bravely backwards

Although UKIP taking Yaxley-Lennon on board is an unwelcome development, it isn’t an unexpected one. The links between him and people like Farage are clear, so it’s difficult to believe keeping Yaxley-Lennon out has been anything other than strategy to appear electable.

Good strategy is the last thing anyone would accuse UKIP of these days. That’s why we could see them losing another leader just as they had chance to capitalise on Britain’s mess of a political situation.

Featured image via Euro Realist Newsletter Wikimedia / Wouter Engler – Wikimedia / Derek Bennet – Flickr

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