There's been a lot of questions about the participation of 'Tommy Robinson's' videographer, Caolan Robertson, on a panel about Far Right funding and terror networks at the 2019 Byline Festival. People have asked for my thoughts. /1
As a member of the Byline Times team, I was made aware of Robertson's conversations with Byline journalists in the weeks prior to the festival. I was told of his participation on the panel in the week or two leading up to the event. /2
While I had some serious concerns about these developments - that I'll get to in a moment - I trust the Byline Times of investigative journalists to find the truth, wherever it is. The paper has broken several major stories, that led the other papers in setting the agenda. /3
I also believe in the need to hear out those who wish to leave the toxic environs of the Far Right - not *believe*, but *hear out*. As the Russian adage goes, 'Trust, but Verify' - independently source every claim made, before making a decision. /4
I do, generally, think the panel went well. There were some powerful moments, for sure. I do, however, wish we had more time to ask probing, specific questions regarding funding & radicalisation - naming names, so to speak. The question of redemption crowded it out. /5
Now, I do not trust Robertson. I do not trust him for a couple of reasons.
Figures close to 'Tommy' have made these sort of moves before, then re-entered the fold - see assistant Lucy Brown's attempts, running to the papers to spill, then helping 'Tommy' re: John Sweeney. /6
He also needs to fully own all the intimidation of individuals that followed him joining 'Team Tommy', not picking or choosing.
He says he came up with the tactic of doorstepping journalists, but won't accept liability for anything that happened once he left. /7
The timing is also suspicious. 'Tommy' is a sinking ship, his funders deserting him, the crowds dwindling. Now's the perfect time to leave.
Finally, he needs to be providing concrete, verifiable proof of his claims, and I have yet to see that, personally. /8
If Robertson really is dedicated to his journey, for altruistic, rather than personal ends, then he should turn over *everything* on 'Tommy' not only to Byline, but police as well.
If he is as integral to 'Tommy's' operations as he says, he will have evidence of crimes. /9
He can also take the opportunity to meet with the young Imams who approached him from the Baital Futuh mosque and have a serious conversation about his experience in the Far Right. He will never be in warmer, safer hands than with those lads. /10
Redemption and disassociation from the Far Right takes more than a festival appearance. It's a long process and it involves hard, unpleasant work. I just hope he's up to the task None of this, especially now, is a game. /FIN
You can follow @MikeStuchbery_.
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