When the Government launched its revised version of the Prevent counter-extremism strategy a few weeks ago my take on it was that it was essentially a fudge.
There is a very real division within Government about how to approach these issues. There is the liberal approach most clearly articulated by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg when he made his Luton speech. Then there is the populist Tory approach that Prime Minister David Cameron was playing to when he declared “multiculturalism has failed”.So in developing its policy the Home Office was working within an environment where it had to square the circle between these two contradictory strands of thinking. Yet they are so starkly different that it is unlikely that a satisfactory compromise can be found.
Maybe the best we can hope for is a fudge that lets the Tories hang on to elements of their nasty right wing rhetorical populism but that allows sensible and realistic work to be carried out on the ground. Not a particularly satisfactory outcome but one made palatable by the existence of a liberal voice in government as a result of the coalition.
This was what I was hoping we had ended up with when Theresa May launched the new prevent strategy at the beginning of June.
On Liberal Democrat Voice the former National Diversity Adviser to the Liberal Democrats and current Chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, Issan Ghazni, has written with a much more negative view. In his article ‘The Government’s new Prevent strategy – a missed opportunity‘ he suggests that the new strategy represents a firm victory for the Tory populist approach;
“The new framework runs counter to the liberal and sensible arguments proposed and hard fought for within Government by Nick Clegg and Andrew Stunell for a more tolerant attitude to Muslim groups, to maintain a distinction between violent and non-violent extremism, to engage rather than alienate and better understand risks of withholding support to groups engaged in community cohesion programmes working under difficult conditions……This policy shift creates a challenge for liberals of every hue – it has the potential to undermine individualism, freedom of speech and expression of thought.”
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.