Here's to you, Mr Robinson. (And the Quilliam Foundation.)
Not for Nawaz a simple denunciation of the alleged deliberate leaving of Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, in a room with three men who took a disliking to his face at HMP Woodhill. No, such an incident required an open letter to the Lord Chancellor and the justice secretary (PDF) expressing his disquiet, as well as how he was worried it could reinforce Robinson's "perceived grievances" against the state and undo all his good work in persuading Robinson to quit the EDL in the first place. You see, "decapitating" the far-right street protest organisation had clearly been in the public interest, and Nawaz dreads to think what might happen if Robinson wound up dead.
Just how in the public interest Nawaz believed his good deed in extracting Robinson from the EDL to be, despite Robinson not retracting any of his previous statements, was revealed in a freedom of information request to the Department of Communities and Local Government. Despite Nawaz claiming that Quill.i.am had not received state funding since 2010, something undermined by another FOI request which showed that, although much reduced, they had still received a substantial grant for the following year, on the very day as Robinson was presented to the press as having left his inciting days behind him Nawaz was begging the DCLG for funding to help facilitate Robinson's defection. He obviously couldn't continue to live off donations to the EDL, so why shouldn't the state recognise such an important contribution to community cohesion and cough up?
Strangely, despite the polite request, the DCLG demurred (pay wall). Without wanting to surmise too much about why the DCLG decided not to donate to the keep Tommy Robinson/Stephen Yaxley-Lennon in the manner to which he was accustomed fund, it's difficult not to suspect that like some of us, they might just have felt the entire Damascene conversion was not all that it appeared. With Robinson now detained at Brenda's pleasure, something that both he and Nawaz must have known was likely, and with the EDL already falling apart, having failed to capitalise on the murder of Lee Rigby, it was the perfect time for Robinson to claim he was leaving because he couldn't control the "extremists" any longer. As Nawaz reveals in his letter, it's also clear how desperate Quilliam was, without a budget to fund their most high profile act of deradicalisation. Deprived of state funding it's unclear how the thinktank is staying afloat, although that's far from unique as many other thinktanks also refuse to disclose who their benefactors are.
Due to a lamentable oversight, the letters to the department were however published with Nawaz's personal mobile phone number not redacted. Such a breach of privacy would be unacceptable even if Nawaz hadn't been receiving threats, regardless of the credibility or lack of them. All the same, Nawaz seemed to put the blame as much on Jason Schuman, who had also placed an FOI request, as Richard Bartholomew notes. Threatening legal action or responding to criticism with insults is something Quilliam has a record for: Craig Murray faced down just such a threat, while Vikram Dodd was attacked after he revealed Quilliam had secretly profiled Muslim organisations for the government.
As Sunny Hundal argued back then, government funding of certain groups and not others only increases suspicions, and Nawaz's begging for money for having "turned" Robinson does everything to reinforce those prejudices. For an organisation that started off so promisingly, Quilliam's reputation now lies in the gutter. To have a chance of recovering it will almost certainly need new leadership, and with Nawaz the prospective Liberal Democrat candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, there's a ready explanation available should he feel it's time to move on.