Some Notes on Afzal Amin and Tommy Robinson

From the website of Afzal Amin, the Conservative Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate (at least for the next few hours) for Dudley North:

Today’s [i.e. Sunday’s] allegations are part of a much wider story which has been grossly misrepresented and present an inaccurate picture of the reality of what was happening. The Mail on Sunday has provided small snippets of over 27 hours of sensitive meetings between Tommy Robinson and I which have led to a manipulation of events.

While the meetings were intended to be private and discreet, I made sure I involved Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson from the start and I made clear, which is evident in the recordings, that I refused to do anything illegal.

…At the second meeting it was Robinson who proposed the idea of staging a march at our third meeting [sic], this was a surprise to me and after some discussion I saw some merit in the potential to build bridges through negotiation and so I agreed it was worth discussing further. I recognised this as an opportunity to promote better community cohesion between various communities, particularly in Dudley because it would lead to face to face discussions between communities and an increase in awareness of the other. It would serve as a confidence building measure.

Had Amin ended with “However, I now realize that I made a mistake, and so I now intend to stand down to avoid being a distraction ahead of the election”, we might not have believed him, but he would perhaps have created enough wriggle room to be able to depart from public life with a scrap of dignity. At least, interest would have died down.

Instead, though, he appears to believe that he can ride out the storm and continue as the candidate despite evidence out of his own mouth that he proposed a scenario which would have seen him taking credit for defusing a situation that he had colluded in generating behind the scenes. In an interview with the BBC, Amin himself used the word “stage management”, which is more of an admission than he appears to understand.

And that’s before we get onto other aspects of the fiasco: Robinson recorded Amin agreeing with a proposal that Robinson would pay EDL activists to canvas on his behalf and “we’ll sort something out between me and you”, thus getting around election law; Amin also promised that the scheme would

bring the English Defence League out of the shadows into the mainstream political debate.

…And if I win my election in Parliament, you’ve got a very strong, unshakeable ally who is going to work hard to get you involved in all the institutions of the State and get you the exposure you need and the people in Parliament need to us… Like I said from the very beginning, 95 per cent of what you want to campaign against, we’re with you.

Amin claims he was referring here to white working-class voters, rather than the EDL, but that defies the plain reading. There’s also an unfortunate moment where Amin jokes that he’s “not a Paki”.

It is the case, though, that although Amin’s meetings were “private and discreet”, they were not secret: Amin met Robinson and the current head of the EDL, Steve Eddowes, in public locations, and Amin was observed at one restaurant with EDL figures (presumably those two) in February. One recorded meeting, according to the Mail on Sunday, took place on Monday 16 March, with a recorded phone-call following. According to Eddowes:

‘I was really disappointed in the man. I’d met him earlier this year and was really impressed. To me he ticked every box with his British Army background and seemed like a man of real integrity but when I left that meeting on Monday I felt like I wanted nothing more to do with him.’

The Mail has pixallated Eddowes’ face in a photo of him talking to Amin, although Eddowes has appeared in the media previously.

The affair also raises a question about Robinson’s continuing role within the EDL: Amin asserts that Robinson “remains the leader”, despite his slickly choreographed “exit” from the group in October 2013 with the help of Quilliam. I thought this rang true; however, speaking to LBC this morning, Robinson explicitly denies this is the case. Instead, he explains, he was asked by Amin to facilitate meetings with the EDL leadership, which he agreed to do “for the greater good”. Robinson has acknowledged that he may now be “recalled to prison”; his early release conditions following a conviction for mortgage fraud apparently included non-involvement with the EDL.

Robinson’s LBC interview also includes further extraordinary allegations, which he says can be supported by taped evidence. In particular, he says that on 9 March Amin introduced him to his “money man”, who Amin said is worth “£60 million”. According to Robinson, this Birmingham-based individual is a Labour voter with 25 businesses, including poultry and hotels. One of these hotels, according to Robinson, had been raided by police looking into child grooming allegations, and the man mentioned having links with individuals in Luton whom Robinson described as “gangsters”.

For some reason, the money man’s brother supposedly confided to Robinson that Amin, as Member of Parliament, would be in a position to intervene with the Chief Constable in cases of further police interest. Robinson described the plan as “infiltration” and a “Trojan Horse”. He also claims that the “money man” and Amin both shook hands with David Cameron  – at Cameron’s initiative – at a Conservative Party meeting.

There have also been a couple of spin-off stories. Firstly, Channel 4 has a new claim from another source:

Channel 4 News has also spoken to a Muslim campaign group called MPAC who are claiming Mr Amin asked them to “attack” him for “being in the army” as it would help his “political career” and make him “look like a moderate”. The group say they found it shocking he was seemingly willing to manufacture a story. 

But if the group was so “shocked”, why did they not speak out before now? And why would Amin think for a moment that MPAC would want to help?

Secondly, Robinson has said that he first met Amin in 2013 via Quilliam. This is uncontroversial and unsurprising – Amin and Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz share a similar perspective on a number of issues (although Nawaz is Liberal Democrat), and they know each other. However, a somewhat unpleasant website called Mushy Peas has attempted to generate a bogus sense of intrigue by screenshoting a Tweet by Nawaz from early 2014 in which Nawaz mentions having dinner with Amin in a Lebanese restaurant. The author, a certain “Monkey Magic”, claims that the Tweet has now been deleted, and that Maajid must therefore be “ashamed” of something. The trouble, though, is that the Tweet has not in fact been deleted – the accusation is a complete fabrication.

Noises from the Conservative Party suggest that Amin will be removed as candidate within the next few days. However, he retains one supporter: former Conservative MP Louise Mensch. Referring to Amin’s reference to Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson, in her judgement:

If statement is correct in regards to police approval, possible huge libel could have happened here.

This appears to be something of a minority view.

UPDATE: Amin has since resigned from the Conservative Party. He has also published another account of his version of events, at the Huffington Post:

As for the issue at hand, Robinson, of course, won’t release the recording where he first proposed the idea of holding and later cancelling a march as a way of creating a catalyst for engagement. He was more than happy to release a recording of me clarifying the sequence of events to the EDL chairman, Steve Eddowes, to make it seem I was proposing the idea to Robinson himself. This was the fifth meeting with Robinson and the third in which Eddowes was involved. My words spoken here were summaries of our previous discussions as part of the overall community building exercise, 90% of which appears nowhere in their secret recordings. Such selectivity is what has built this grossly inaccurate picture.

Once again, Amin seems to be in denial about what the footage shows. Whether Amin is indeed “clarifying the sequence of events to the EDL chairman” or, as the recorded context appears to suggest, coming up with the idea himself, the fact remains that his “community building exercise” would have been a charade in which the public would have been misled about the likelihood of a march taking place and Amin’s role in defusing the situation.

Amin also dismisses Robinson’s “money man” story as “ludicrous”, and he claims that Robinson attempted (and failed) to get money from him by raising the subject of his mother’s illness and the welfare of his children. There’s also this very unlikely detail:

…Nor will he admit his crisis of faith when he came out of prison last year, and how his inner turmoil almost led him to accept another faith. I questioned what he told me of his abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and his strange inclination towards trying halal meat.

Why this odd phrasing “another faith”, when it’s obvious that Amin intends to convey the suggestion that Robinson was pondering accepting Islam?

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