John McDonnell evokes Cable Street in call to oppose Tommy Robinson
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John McDonnell evokes Cable Street in call to oppose Tommy Robinson

Shadow Chancellor calls for opposition to the former leader of the English Defence League, amid speculation he'll join a pro-Brexit march

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell 

Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has called for a show of opposition against the “poison” politics of far-right activist Tommy Robinson, invoking the Battle of Cable Street.

With Mr Robinson expected to feature prominently in a Brexit march in London two days before the Commons votes on the UK’s EU withdrawal deal, Mr McDonnell urged Labour supporters to join a counter-demonstration.

He called for a mass protest against Mr Robinson at the December 9 march, and said: “This march isn’t about Brexit, it’s about far-right extremists dressing up in suits and pretending to be respectable.

“It doesn’t matter whether you voted leave or remain, Tommy Robinson doesn’t represent you.

“A newly-energised, well-funded network of hate is emerging, from Steve Bannon in the US to the former EDL leader Tommy Robinson at home, and it threatens the very fabric of our nation.

Mr McDonnell added: “The working class of Britain have a proud history of beating the far-right.

“In Lewisham in the 1970s the National Front were outnumbered by nearly 10 to one.

“At Cable Street, the local Jewish community and socialists from across Britain stood firm against Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts.”

Last week, the Board of Deputies condemned UKIP leader Gerard Batten for appointing English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson as an adviser on rape gangs and prison reform. They tweeted: “Today’s revelation, that UKIP leader Gerard Batten has hired Tommy Robinson as an advisor, is a disgrace. This isn’t the first time we’ve noted UKIP’s association with the far-right. They need to change course immediately.”

They also said Robinson’s invite to parliament by the party was “utterly wrong”.

McDonnell comments come after the appointment of Mr Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, as an adviser on rape gangs and prison reform to Ukip leader Gerard Batten caused controversy.

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who has denounced Mr Robinson as a “thug”, has called for Mr Batten to be ousted over the move.

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