UKIP in turmoil as Nigel Farage attempts to force out leader Gerard Batten over his infatuation with Islamophobic extremist ‘Tommy Robinson’

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has vowed to submit a letter of no confidence in current UKIP leader Gerard Batten after he appointed Islamophobic extremist and serial criminal Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) as his “Special Personal Advisor on Rape Gangs and Prison Conditions and Prison Reform” on Thursday.

Farage told BBC Radio 4 that Batten is taking UKIP in a “shameful direction”, and has a “sort of fixation with Tommy Robinson, and discussing Islam, and dragging UKIP into the direction of effectively being a street activist party”. Farage claimed that he is “going to fight, try and save [UKIP], but if it continues in this direction, electorally it is finished”.

Whilst UKIP under Farage was no stranger to Islamophobic and anti-immigrant messaging, Batten is a veteran anti-Muslim activist who, since taking control of the party in February, has taken UKIP deep into far-right territory.

Lennon’s appointment came after Batten’s proposed motion to allow party members to vote on whether Lennon should join the party was postponed this Sunday. UKIP’s ruling NEC claimed that “the focus of the Party must be on Brexit” as “Brexit has reached a crucial juncture”, and would reconsider the motion after 29 March 2019.

Whilst UKIP has made recent gains in the polls, there is legitimate concern within UKIP that Batten’s obsession with Lennon, Muslims and street politics may scupper UKIP’s chance to capitalise on discontent around Brexit proceedings. Batten has spoken at multiple street demonstrations in support of the English Defence League (EDL) founder Lennon during his most recent stint in prison. Batten is currently due to speak at the Lennon-organised rally in London on 9 December.

Batten speaking at the Day for Freedom event outside Downing Street in May

Lennon has a long series of convictions, including violently assaulting a police officer in 2003, leading a 100-man football hooligan brawl in 2010, common assault of a fellow EDL member in 2011, attempting to enter the USA with a false passport in 2012, and mortgage fraud in 2014.

As leader, Batten has welcomed a series of extreme figures into UKIP, including Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right conspiracy theorist and Editor-at-Large of the fake news outlet InfoWars. In 2013 Watson described the 7/7 bombings as a “false flag event”. Batten has also welcomed Carl Benjamin (AKA Sargon of Akkad) into the party, an online anti-feminist who said the following in a February 2018 video chat: “You are acting like a bunch of n*ggers, just so you know. You act like white n*ggers”, then adding “Maybe you’re just acting like n*ggers, mate. Have you considered that? You think white people act like this? White people are meant to be polite and respectful to one another”.  

UKIP leader Gerard Batten alongside Paul Joseph Watson (left) and Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad) (Right)

It is unclear whether Farage, who enjoys comfortable media positions, himself wishes to return as UKIP leader. However, if he is successful in his attempt to force Batten out of the party, UKIP could face yet another leadership election, and potentially its fifth new leader since the 2016 EU Referendum.