LONDON (AP) — Former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage called Friday for the party’s current chief to be ousted for appointing far-right activist Tommy Robinson as an adviser.
UKIP chief Gerard Batten has named English Defense League founder Robinson — whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon — his special adviser on “rape gangs and prison reform.”
Under Farage, the Euroskeptic party played a major role in the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. He stepped down after helping lead the “leave” side to victory in the 2016 EU membership referendum.
Since then the party has veered toward the far right, supporting street protests against the alleged pernicious influence of Islam in Britain.
Batten appointed Robinson as his personal adviser after UKIP postponed until next year a decision on whether to let the far-right activist join the party.
“I’m taking the party in a new direction, which is that I want to make it a mass movement,” Batten told the BBC on Friday.
Farage said Batten was leading UKIP in a “shameful” direction.
“It goes against all the things I did as leader to say we will talk about immigration, we will talk about the extreme forms of Islam, but we will do it as a non-racist, non-sectarian party,” Farage said.
He said he would urge the party executive to “have a vote of no-confidence in Gerard Batten as leader.”
Robinson is a street protester and online commentator who claims he is exposing “Muslim rape gangs” ignored by the media. He has built a large online following with links to international white nationalist and far-right movements.
He has several criminal convictions and is currently challenging a contempt-of-court finding for broadcasting live on Facebook outside the trial of men accused of sexually abusing teenage girls, in violation of judge-imposed reporting restrictions.