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6 September 2019updated 07 Jun 2021 4:20pm

I hope voters in Liverpool reject Tommy Robinson’s message of hate

By Steve Rotheram

A hate-filled cockney bully boy, Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) has been on a whistle-stop tour of the North West – no doubt aided by sat-nav given his total lack of connection to the region. Earlier this week he arrived in Bootle and Huyton, two working-class communities in the Liverpool City region

That he purposely chooses to target areas worst hit by central government cuts, where public services have been hollowed out and people feel increasingly disconnected, mirrors similar tactics to those previously used by the BNP.

His toxic rhetoric attracted an audience of local miscreants, along with the usual BNP/EDL-types who travel the country with him.

I observed first-hand his supporters attacking peaceful campaigners opposed to his poison and hatred. I watched local youths capitalise on the opportunity of a heightened atmosphere to pelt people with eggs and hurl insults that might otherwise have seen them arrested.

And, at a rally in Bootle, James Goddard, a Yaxley-Lennon aide, called Liverpool a “shithole”.

Now, it isn’t just the smearing of a beautiful international city region, transformed ironically by European funding, that causes most concern. Perhaps the most distressing part of the scenes on Sunday was seeing parents with young children on their shoulders and teenagers with scarves covering their faces to ensure they went unidentified, seemingly mimicking the nefarious activities of their elders.

Of course, the international rise of the far right has long been a concern for those of us who believe in democracy, diversity and decency. Yet it is only when you see its toxic message spread on your own doorstep, that you truly begin to understand that the repercussions will last long after the individual preachers of hate have spoken and left.

There will be schools that have done so much to assist with community cohesion, who this week will find that some of their pupils have been exposed to the cancer of racism, homophobia and bigotry.

We may not fully understand for months, maybe even years, just how much damage those words of division have done to the impressionable ears that heard them over the weekend.

Liverpool and its wider city region is and will always be a tolerant, open and welcoming place. An area proud of our diversity and solidarity. A melting pot of cultures, ethnicities and religions.

I hope we show in these EU elections that those who peddle division are not welcome in multi-cultural communities like ours.

But it is still a worry that many proud Scousers who are usually strongly defensive of attacks on our reputation, might ignore the insults to their area, and actually vote for someone in Yaxley-Lennon who has far more contempt for them, than the politicians he claims are the enemy of working-class people.

It’s a frightening possibility to contemplate having a fascist representing you, but if enough sensible people stay at home on Thursday, then that could be the nightmare we wake up to when votes are counted.

Whatever the result of the election I suspect it will be a long time before we see “Tommy” again in our area. He and his circus moves on. It’s left to the rest of us to deal with his poisonous legacy – because our communities will need healing whatever the result on Sunday. 

Steve Rotheram is Labour Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

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