Far-right activist Tommy Robinson has warned of an army backlash if a recruit is discharged after posing for a selfie with him.
The ‘at-risk’ soldier was part of a group of 28 who were videoed cheering on the former leader of the English Defence League after bumping into him at a service station.
An Army source has said that the unnamed soldier’s unit had applied for dismissal and stressed it was the latest in a long-line of disciplinary problems with the private.
It is understood the solider also shared the video on his social media pages with a ‘pretty silly comment’.
Serving soldiers are not allowed to be affiliated with any particular political group. They may hold views in private but are not allowed to express them to remain politically neutral.
In the same way that chanting Robinson’s name is forbidden, they would also have broken rules had they spoken in the same way about Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn.
The non-political rule was hammered home in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby by Islamist extremists which saw a number of rallies by the EDL.
Robinson, however, has since come to the defence of the unnamed soldier where he said allegations about his past behaviour were ‘lies.’
He said he had received calls of support from many soldiers and criticised ‘top brass’ for being ‘out of touch’ with the rank and file army members.
The far-right activist claimed ‘morale was low’ and accused military officials of coming ‘crushing down on a young recruit’ who had been prepared to ‘give his life to the armed forces.’
‘Some privileged man at the top has decided that because he shared a selfie, he can take all that opportunity, all that life he was going to lead away from him,’ Robinson said.
The 35-year-old declared there was bad feeling and the issue over the photograph could be ‘the final straw’ because many troops might not go into any future wars ‘because they have had enough.’
Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is accused of holding anti-Muslim views.
He posted a video of the meeting with the soldiers on his Facebook page earlier this week, writing: ‘Today I met real British heroes.’
The clip shows the group of young men in uniform cheering ‘Tommy, Tommy, Tommy Robinson’ and punching the air.
There was immediate condemnation of the video, including from the Muslim Council of Britain, which accused Robinson of ‘remaining silent on the sacrifices Muslims and others made in the two world wars’.
The army was also quick to release a statement saying ‘far right ideology is completely at odds with the values and ethos of the Armed Forces.’
It added: ‘The Armed Forces have robust measures in place to ensure those exhibiting extremist views are neither tolerated nor permitted to serve.’
There is no suggestion that the group of soldiers sought out Robinson and indeed it appears to be a coincidence they found each other at Watford Gap service station.
The other 27 soldiers in the video have received a stern-telling off and will receive more training.
The army is rightly sensitive of far-right association and has always stressed that it serves all communities across the UK.
Major General Rupert Jones, who will shortly take up the appointment of Standing Joint Force Commander, said he is confident that extremist views are not widely held in the British Armed Forces.
After the video posting, Maj Gen Jones, added he prided himself on diversity and ‘we have very high expectations and standards and we will comply with those.’
Robinson’s words and the selfie row comes amid a staffing problem at the army.
Between April 2016 and March 2017, 8,194 soldiers joined the British Army, but 9,775 left.
Major General Rupert Jones has downplayed the staffing crisis but experts have suggested the army needs to be careful how it handles the Robinson case and the young soldiers.
A petition against the investigation into the soldiers has been launched by Robinson and so far has received over 100,000 signatures.
Robinson was jailed for contempt of court in May but freed on bail after winning an appeal against the conviction and is awaiting a re-trial this month.
Today an Army spokesperson told Metro.co.uk: ‘We are aware of a photograph and video of a group of Army personnel on social media and are investigating the circumstances surrounding this.
‘Anyone who is in breach of the Army’s values and standards will face administrative action.’