Former Braverman Advisor Says It’s a ‘Smear’ to Call Tommy Robinson Far-Right

Which are the hate marches?

by Simon Childs

2 July 2024

Rory Geoghegan (background) with Suella Braverman. Photo: Public Safety Foundation
Rory Geoghegan (background) with Suella Braverman. Photo: Public Safety Foundation

Anyone who has watched the demonisation of the so-called “hate marches” for Palestine might be interested in the words of a former government home affairs advisor who took the unusual step of defending the followers of former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, in comments that flew largely under the radar.

In June, Sir Mark Rowley, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, told the London Policing Board about the different demands on his force made by public demonstrations. He said: “We’ve talked before about what we call ‘Operation Brocks’, which is the ongoing operations dealing with the Israel-Palestine related protests, as well as Just Stop Oil, Youth Demand. This weekend we also had an extreme right protest.”

The protest Rowley referred to as “extreme right” was a several thousand strong demo in London organised by Robinson against what he sees as two-tier policing – with the left apparently treated with velvet gloves and everyone else brutally suppressed.

Rowley’s comments prompted criticism from Rory Geoghegan, who advised home secretary Suella Braverman from October 2023 until she was sacked in November. Prior to that he had been a special advisor to Boris Johnson’s 10 Downing Street from 2020 to 2022.

Geoghegan told GB News: “Whatever one’s view of Tommy Robinson – and in a free country we should be entitled to one – it is deeply concerning that the most senior police officer in the land would tar the many thousands of ordinary Brits in attendance as being members of an ‘extreme right’ protest.

“For any of the thousands in attendance or more than 800,000 who watched it live online, it was very clearly not an ‘extreme right’ protest.”

Putting it even more bluntly on X/Twitter, Geoghegan called Rowley’s comments “an appallingly ill-judged smear of ordinary Brits with a love of their country and concerns for the future”. He also shared a video from Hearts of Oak, a media outlet founded by Robinson and others.

For anyone to claim that a Robinson march is not far-right is an unusual take. But the specifics here make the comments more shocking.

Two-tier policing is the topic of Robinson’s new film, “Lawfare: A Totalitarian State”, which he screened at the march. In the film Robinson, ever the narcissist, casts himself at the centre of an encroaching North Korea-style totalitarianism, complete with nods to tin-foil-hat conspiracism and commentary from such experts as washed up actor Laurence Fox, former Sun columnist Katie Hopkins, culture-warrior priest Calvin Robinson, and “classical liberal” YouTuber Sargon of Akkad.

Robinson has had beef with Rowley for some time. In 2018, Rowley, then counter-terrorism police chief, said there was “no doubt” that far-right material posted by Robinson and others caused Finsbury Park attacker Darren Osborne to “grow to hate Muslims”. Osborne hired a van and ploughed it into worshippers killing one and injuring 11, after failing to reach his original target of a pro-Palestine march. Apparently incensed by these comments, Robinson posted on X/Twitter: “I’m gonna find Mark Rowley”.

Fast forward a few years and Robinson is calling for Rowley to resign as Met commissioner. The seeming tacit approval for Robinson in this instance from a former government advisor is really quite something.

Geoghegan doesn’t take such a positive view of all concerned citizens, however. In February, he appeared on Nigel Farage’s show on GB News to talk about disorder at Palestine protests. He said: “By not getting a proper grip of that early on, we’ve allowed these marches to continue. The numbers involved are huge.” He suggested a “much more robust response to crime and disorder within these protests”, such as in France, the US, Canada.

Taken together, these comments give a bit of an insight into the kind advising Braverman when, as home secretary, she pressured the police to ban what she termed “hate marches” in November last year. Her incendiary rhetoric, lapped up by the rightwing press, emboldened the far-right to take to the streets on armistice day, causing mass disorder.

Braverman eventually got the sack, reportedly for ignoring requests from 10 Downing Street to tone down an article in the Times in which she claimed that there was “a perception that senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters”, cracking down on rightwing extremists harder than on pro-Palestinian “mobs”.

Braverman is a rare Tory likely to retain her seat, and could be a rightwing candidate in an upcoming Tory election contest, as the party seeks to reinvent itself after an election wipe out.

Meanwhile, we can probably expect to hear more from Geoghegan – albeit from the sidelines. Before he became a government advisor, he worked as a police officer, and then on criminal justice for the Centre for Social Justice – a rightwing think tank founded by Iain Duncan Smith. He now has a gig as a no-nonsense, anti-woke ex-copper for the rightwing media, through the Public Safety Foundation – “the UK’s only non-profit championing the fight against crime and disorder and speaking up for the law-abiding majority” – which Braverman helped him launch in April 2023, six months before hiring him as an advisor.

Simon Childs is a commissioning editor and reporter for Novara Media.

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