Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said today that the party’s appointment of Tommy Robinson as an adviser drags the party in a ‘shameful direction.’
Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been brought in by current leader Gerard Batten to advise the party on prison reform and child grooming gangs.
He is a convicted criminal and former leader of the far-right English Defence League and his previous membership of that party bars him from being accepted as a UKIP member.
Farage says UKIP should ‘get rid’ of Batten for appointing Robinson and that it ‘goes against all the things I did as leader.’
He previously criticised Batten for joining an anti-Islam protest by a federation of football supporters in Sunderland in September.
Batten, the fourth UKIP leader since Farage stood down in 2016, defended the move and said he ‘looked forward’ to working with Robinson.
Some UKIP members have expressed opposition to Robinson’s new role, but Batten said he had ‘great knowledge’ of the subjects he would be advising on.
A move to allow UKIP members a vote on Robinson joining the party was deferred by the party’s NEC on Sunday until after the UK leaves the EU in March next year.
But Batten insisted: “It is not necessary for him to be a party member in order to assist me in this role.”
Farage told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It goes against all the things I did as leader to say we’ll talk about immigration, about the extreme forms of Islam.
“But, we will do it as a non-racist, non-sectarian party. This blows a hole in all of that.
“I will be writing to the (UKIP) National Executive Committee today urging that we have a vote of no confidence in Gerard Batten as leader. That we get rid of him.
“We can have one last go at getting rid of somebody who as leader is dragging us in a shameful direction.”
UKIP’s Welsh members votes last week against Robinson being allowed to join the party, but Batten has frequently expressed his admiration for him.
He told the BBC last month that Robinson was a ‘brave man’ who fought victims of sex abuse, but conceded that he had done things he did not condone.
Robinson became an international cause celebre when he was jailed for 15 months in May for contempt of court after filming outside the trial of a grooming gang.
He successfully appealed and his conviction was later quashed after a retrial on procedural grounds.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC referred the case to the attorney general for a decision on how to proceed.