Tommy Robinson and UKIP: A new future?

UKIP is arguably one of the most successful political parties in British history.

It was founded to get us out of Europe and in a few weeks it is going to happen.

Now UKIP is at sea looking for new land - territory it can occupy.

Long-time captain Nigel Farage has abandoned ship saying the party is being steered in a far right direction by new skipper Gerard Batten.

Mr Batten, says he wants UKIP to become a “populist party."

He’s brought in Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, to advise him on grooming gangs and prisons.

He wants Robinson, who co-founded founder of the English Defence League, to join the party, but under party rules he is excluded because of his history with the EDL.

But association with the party was enough for UKIP Assembly Member, Caroline Jones to quit. She now sits an independent in the Senedd.

“I think he [Gerard Batten] is taking the party in a far-right direction. I don’t see a future for UKIP under Gerard Batten, certainly not as it was with lots of moderate members in it.”

She and Nigel Farage are not the only ones quitting UKIP in recent weeks.

Among the list of resignations are Welsh MEP Nathan Gill, former deputy chair Suzanne Evans, the former leader Paul Nuttall and the leader in Scotland David Coburn.

All cite the link with Tommy Robinson as the reason.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson's real name) is banned from joining UKIP under current rules Credit: PA

So why Tommy Robinson such a divisive figure?

To his supporters he is the working class anti-establishment champion of free-speech. To his opponents he’s the Islamophobic rabble rouser stirring intolerance.

In December Robinson addressed a “Brexit betrayal” rally in London. He told the crowd that “I was not one of the main campaigners for Brexit. I devoted all my time and attention to the islamisation of Britain.”

Neil Hamilton denied UKIP is becoming a far right party Credit: ITV Wales

On the platform with him was Gerard Batten and Welsh leader Neil Hamilton.

“Tommy Robinson has been demonised by the media. He’s not as bad as he is painted” he says.

Mr Hamilton has welcomed other controversial YouTube figures into the party like Mark Meechan, better known Count Dankula and Paul Joseph Watson who works for the conspiracy theory website InfoWars.

So why did he share a platform with Tommy Robinson?

But his former colleague Caroline Jones thinks Neil Hamilton was wrong to share a platform with Tommy Robinson.

“I thought dear me Neil, where are you going?”

She believes Tommy Robinson’s association with UKIP could go further, even becoming leader.

“There’s a strong possibility that Tommy Robinson would take over a ready made party.”

Given that Tommy Robinson isn’t even a member of UKIP just shows how influential some think he’s becoming.

Last week The Sun reported how Gerard Batten was lining him up as a successor. Mr Batten denies this.

There are reports Gerard Batten will face a leadership challange with some in the party unhappy with him Credit: PA

The Guardian report that UKIP leader Gerard Batten will face a leadership challenge this year with some senior figures unhappy with him.

So would Neil Hamilton like to see Tommy Robinson become leader one day?

“He’s not a member of UKIP so it’s a highly hypothetical question.” He said.

When pushed for a yes or no answer he didn’t give one.

UKIP’s national executive has deferred a decision on whether party members can vote on Tommy Robinson joining the party until after March 29th - when we leave the EU.

That’s also when UKIP will lost it’s MEPs meaning the Welsh Assembly will the the main body for elected UKIP politicians.

The last ITV Wales opinion poll projected they would only get one seat at the next Assembly election, but if UKIP morphs into something else beyond Brexit, a populist party with Tommy Robinson backing - can it win new support?