Tommy Robinson is being held in solitary confinement, in his own vast isolation block in the heart of Belmarsh Prison. The great names of Islamic terrorism have all been inmates; the Manchester bombers, the 2005 London bombers, Abu Hamza and Anjem Choudary and an assortment of other mass murderers. There were secular criminals Ronnie Biggs, the great train robbers spent time here, as did Jo Cox’s murderer Thomas Mair. Tommy Robinson is one of a tiny number civil prisoners sent to Belmarsh. He published a Facebook video of defendants entering a law court, but as everyone knows, they were not ordinary defendants but part of a sequence of Muslim rape trials across the country. He was convicted of contempt of court.
We wait to get in among a crowd representative of every country in the world, intermixed with a lesser number of scruffy whites most of whom were British and working class. Surprisingly, given the large number of Muslim inmates, there was only one Muslim woman visitor. A regular visitor she was dressed in a black Abaya that entirely covered her face except for her eyes. She was friendly, showing us the way to the first of the endless security points. Her hands and fingers were covered in henna seen at Indian weddings but she was not Indian. A disgruntled visitor next to me mumbled that they could not take her finger prints with all that ‘stuff’ on her fingers but who would protest in such an environment, even if true.
We arrive at a large room somewhat like an airport security hall. Small groups of about five people proceed slowly through the complex. We are ushered into a series of rooms like lifts, entering by one set of sliding doors and exiting by another. In each room two fingers were fingerprinted and re-fingerprinted, photographed and re-photographed, our prints and photos compared afresh with the ones taken in the previous room.
Rings, bangles and shoes came off, my mouth and ears are checked. Yet even here the authorities’ fear of giving any offence to Muslims showed. While they poked and prodded my body and I was ordered to remove my cardigan, the woman in the Abaya was not asked to undress. Instead she momentarily pushed back her headdress so that they could check her ears.
Then the three of us who had come to see Britain’s No 1 political prisoner were separated from the other visitors, some of who seemed to be having fun as though it was a casual day out at a fun-fare. Now it was quiet, deadly quiet. Our own special, overly friendly warden arrived. Was he a secret supporter? What did he think? I could not ask, nor could he answer – walls in such a place have ears.
We entered a vast, walled space the size of half a football pitch: High gates, razor wire, towering walls, clanging metal. An enormous, terrifying dog pulling at his stone-faced minder followed us in. All for one prisoner.
We are shown into Tommy’s visitor’s room; tiny, dirty, plain, smelling putrid and stale, shadowed by a thirty foot wall and overlooked by a single small sealed window.
Then Tommy Robinson was brought in. It was a shock to see how short he was; tiny, almost unassuming. The media portray him as a lionised, dangerous, radicalised figure but here was someone who just looked small, thin and tired. He was pale, sporting a beard and a new haircut with a flouncy quiff that made him look like an unassuming English teacher.
Close up it was his eyes that I noticed. The girl with me said that they were ‘prison eyes’; the eyes of the worried, the isolated, the fearful. He never laughed and rarely smiled
We had two hours. He started by describing his life of the last few months.
‘I have two hours a day out of my cell,’ he said. ‘That’s it. Even the bombers get four or five hours.’
I asked what he did and how many staff guarded him. Two were on duty all of the time he was out of the cell and one when he was locked in his cell.
‘There is no one else here – no one. This entire block is empty apart from me. I have an exercise bike and books, a TV but no computer.’ He gestured to the horrible gloom below the high wall, ‘Look outside that window.’
‘That is the tiny space that I have to exercise in. I never see the sun and have to walk around and around like a caged animal.’
I asked about emails and letters. For a number of weeks he was not allowed any, then, for some inexplicable reason, he was, although every letter had to be opened and screened in case somebody had filled the envelope with anthrax spores or explosive. Each email was read and printed out so that the pile of emails he received was sometimes three feet tall. He read every single one.
He made a number of comparisons about the rights and exercise privileges afforded to Muslims who had murdered compared with himself who merely posted a film on Facebook. I thought of the Muslim woman in the Abaya who was not searched as I was.
Tommy began to talk about his life in Luton; what the town was like as he grew up compared to now. How everyone (he meant white British people) had moved out and the streets had become filled with people totally different from him. He was pained and saddened by this but did not seem hate filled. He did not rant.
He was very worried about his life – about law suits, rape threats to his daughter, his wife, and his empty house. He had built an expensive house but could not live in it because of threats from gangs from two sides, both Jihadis and from Antifa – although the later were cowards compared to the Jihadis.
An Antifa nutcase spent weeks trying to work out which safe house he was in by studying every house in a twenty mile radius of Luton until he found Tommy’s house by the print on his curtains after which immediately the intimidation and threats began again. Tommy and his family can never have a settled, safe, stable life in Britain. He ought to move abroad but he will never do that. He will fight to the bitter end.
I asked, ‘What do you want to do when you get out?’
‘I want to keep on making films, exposing what is going on. It is still going on.’
Some towns had only a very small number of Muslims, just a few percent, but there were still terrible problems with grooming gangs. If there are a thousand Muslim men between say 18 and 55 in a town, he said, you will find five hundred of them are on lists of arrested people.
‘There was some girl getting raped. I knew who the two men doing it were. I will talk to anyone. I don’t care. I went over to their house to get them to stop. I can find out who is doing this stuff, why can’t the police and the authorities? In one case, this group had made a twelve year old girl pregnant. They took her to a field and ‘fixed’ her with a screwdriver up her vaginia.’
He suddenly slipped in, ‘All this has been good for me in one way.’
Maybe, I thought, he was working on the Trump basis, of all publicity is good publicity. Could he possibly have wanted to be arrested for the publicity and the fame? I did not know.
Did I think he was genuine ? Yes. Did I think he was worried about his future, family and being sued? Yes. Did I think he would not get into trouble again ? No. Did I think he was a bit irresponsible? Yes.
He is not someone who thinks in accountancy or sensible terms. He is brave, a showman (even if a bit depressed when I met him), a fighter for a cause he believes in. Seeing an existential threat to this country, he will keep on fighting even if it kills him.
Then the interview was over and he was led away, a small figure in a large place. We left. It took us one hour to get into the prison, three minutes – the Alsation still following us – to get out.
I took a taxi amid the wasteland of semi-industrial units and roads and nothingness that surround Belmarsh. The driver, nervous of finding himself in such a place, wanted to get away as soon as possible.
I thought of Kipling’s poem Tommy Atkins.
O’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
The band is playing.
Liked this Blog ? Why not post it to a friend ?