Tommy Robinson and some of his mates. (Photo by Lee Harper)
Listen. If you see Tommy Robinson around, if he comes into your shop and, in his oddly reedy voice, asks you for 20 Silk Cut, a tube of Pringles and a Lucky Dip – or even if you're manning the information point at a tile warehouse and he comes in asking if you've got any terracotta-shaded FE-076s – I want you to serve him.
Alright, yes, no one is very fond of his views on how Muslim paedos are crawling up your drainpipes right now to rape your newborn. Yes, he has a face like a scrotum that's just returned from a package holiday to Sant Antoni. We know. We know.
That said, however tempting it may be, try not to be like that sales assistant in Selfridges, who – when confronted with "a friend of Tommy Robinson" just trying to get through life by buying an Armani sweatshirt – refused to serve him. Because that is not helping anyone's anything. Robinson, who was there to watch his friend buy an Armani sweatshirt, recorded the stand-off on his phone. "I could tell he was a Muslim," the EDL leader is reported as saying, "because he had a 'Mo' in his name."
It is everyone's civic duty to continue to serve people who aren't being actively hostile towards them, because the alternative – that the societal group "friends of Tommy Robinson", narrow though it may be, are now excluded from all shops – lays down a worrying principle. Should we refuse to serve the friends of all EDL hierarchy? To the point where they're unwelcome in every supermarket and so end up starving, reduced to prowling common lands in feral packs, foraging for edible mushrooms? Ask yourself, is that the Britain you want your children to grow up in? With packs of truffle-pig skinheads in mud-matted England shirts grazing through Epping Forrest? Not so Rosa Parks now, are we?
Selfridges already understand this subtlety because they are a large deparment store, and hence inevitably deal with all kinds of unsavoury types every day. The irony is that the logic that keeps Selfridges serving Robinson is the same one that means they would never turn away an Arabian prince just because his troops have done a few human rights violations with car batteries and testicles.
Yes, Robinson is easily recognised by young British Muslims as their own personal bigoted bogeyman. But does Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan's ruthless dictator, have his picture hanging above the tills with the word "barred" stencilled over it? And just where exactly do the department store stand on serving vile war criminal Tony Blair? Sadly, no one has yet invented a credit card error-code that means "declined for offences committed while administering Pinochet's Chile". So unless you are literally wanted by Interpol, a certain universality must apply. Which is precisely why the department store was forced to offer Robinson and pal a complimentary meal as an apology.
Tommy's video of the Selfridges exchange.
Yet such is the idiot-magnetising power of social media that there are already moves underway for a "Boycott Selfridges Day". That's right – let it be known that, for 24 hours, a bunch of right-on types and crusties will stop buying Bottega handbags, Ralph Lauren underwear and little jars of sweets that cost £11. That should put the fear of God into Selfridges owner and 133rd richest man in the world, Galen Weston. The truth is, most of us have been quietly boycotting Selfridges for years – we just never thought of it as a "thing", but merely a by-product of our socio-economic status.
It's tricky to fathom how Twitter's righteous regiment didn't think this was all going to end with an apology from the department store. Although, admittedly, that free meal (Robinson and friend both opted for a steak dinner, before tweeting a photo of their softly-lit spread) is definitely grounds for some PR apparatchik's demotion. If they wanted to give him some vouchers by way of compensation, that would have been one thing – especially if they were the typically weasel-faced ones that meant you had to spend over a hundred quid before they kicked in. But the world now contains a picture of Tommy Robinson enjoying a literal steak fucking dinner, courtesy of Selfridges' high command, which is some cataclysmically off-grid PR work, no matter how you look at it.
In fact, the whole thing so far has been a laundry list of comedy own-goals. First, Mo-therefore-Muslim's "I'm not going to serve you" routine instantly plays into the EDL's meat-and-drink of paranoia about conspiracies levelled against them. Then Robinson goes and gets video evidence of this, putting it beyond the realm of conspiracy theory. Then the Selfridges hierarchy comes out and pretty much says, "He's right." Finally, Robinson duly tweets a picture of himself eating his reward-steak – his credibility made visible. Four propaganda coups before teatime; not bad going, pal.
But that wasn't the end of it – Robinson's busy Monday soon got even more eventful. Later, the Luton lad and his dinner date went to a casino in Milton Keynes. And there, he was also refused service – this time by someone without the Mo-implying-Muslim prefix in his name. You have to wonder about the low-powered jet-set lifestyle that Robinson seems to be inhabiting; down the West End and off to Selfridges to pick up some Armani togs, before tucking into a steak – the least-gay meal on any menu. Then it's up to Milton Keynes – to a casino, of course – to continue living a life most of us can only dream of; the aces are always high on the riviera of north Buckinghamshire.
It's unknown whether Robinson used a saver-max ticket on Virgin Trains to upgrade his journey to the Monte Carlo of middle England for only £15. But given what we've thusfar learned about his fabulous lifestyle, it seems likely that him and his friend did just that – sinking into their first class seats, wolfing down the free cress and egg mayo sandwiches and quaffing as much of the free filter coffee as their true patriot hearts desired.
So where next? The Hemel Hempstead dry ski slope? Take in a film at the Enfield IMAX? Or simply relaxing with a buckwheat grass juice at LA Fitness in Barnet? The northern home counties was their oyster. Well, minus all the bits no longer serving them.
Follow Gavin on Twitter: @hurtgavinhaynes
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