Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has questioned the ‘judgement’ of his successor Gerard Batten over his support for the imprisoned ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson, who was recently convicted for contempt of court.
Farage, who was speaking at a dinner for UKIP activists in Lancashire this month, did not openly criticize Batten, but told the assembled faithful that being seen as opposing all Muslims and supporting Robinson was a political mistake, reports the Guardian.
In an apparent dig at Batten’s choice of friends, Farage told dinner guests: “I think this gets to the heart of not just the positioning of a political party, but of judgment too. And judgment really, really matters. Tommy Robinson is seen to be a hero by many. But actually, what the bloody hell was he doing outside the court?”
Batten posted a picture on Twitter of himself with Robinson, on Saturday, declaring he was to speak at the ‘Free Tommy Robinson’ rally, which was marred by violence from a set of protesters against the police.
Batten seems to also be in hot water with many UKIP senior officials over his position on Islam. It is understood that one senior party member has written to him to express their concern about his alleged anti-Islam stance.
On the issue of Islam and how UKIP should conduct the debate around the issue, Farage told activists that the party was right to oppose Islamic extremism “but if dealing with Islamic fundamentalism becomes a battle between us and the entire religion, I’ll tell you the result: we’ll lose. We will simply lose.”
Adding: “We absolutely have to get that Muslim majority living in many of our towns and cities on our side, more attuned to Western values than some pretty hardline interpretations of the Qur’an.”
But it’s Batten’s relationship with Robinson that has caused unease with UKIPers, according to a life-long senior UKIP figure, speaking anonymously to the Guardian.
They told the paper: “These are the people we spent years trying to keep out of the party, and so this isn’t making a lot of people happy. It’s really upset what you might call the more old-school party members.”
Batten took over as UKIP leader on an initial one-year basis in February, replacing Henry Bolton, who was removed following controversy over his girlfriend’s racist messages.
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