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Mark Ellse: Prevent strategy based on a political lie


‘Our Prevent work is intended to deal with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK. The most significant of these threats is currently from terrorist organisations in Syria and Iraq, and Al Qa’ida associated groups. But terrorists associated with the extreme right also pose a continued threat to our safety and security.’

So runs section 9 of HM Government Prevent Strategy Guidance, which is part of the Government’s action to deal with the problem of terrorism. This document is only the guidance and yet it extends to 196 sections. There will be a cascade of other policies and documents such as those possibly affecting Sunday Schools, a matter that is in limbo while, as the Government says, ‘We are analysing your feedback.’

The Prevent Strategy comes from a Government that summarises its terrorism strategy as ‘pursue, prevent, protect and prepare’. It’s hard not to cringe. As one reads it through, one thinks ‘the more the paper, the less effective the action’. Will it do any good to write that police should be advising other specified authorities, for example local authorities or universities, to develop venue booking processes and good practice, or that in further education policies should outline structures in place for the managing prayer and faith facilities (for example an oversight committee)? Is it not the case that the man who aims at everything aims at nothing? Sadly, one knows that under Prevent perfectly innocuous organisations like Sunday Schools will be threatened by over-regulation while the real threats will be addressed ineffectively.

The muddle comes from avoiding the elephant in the room. Prevent seeks to be ‘balanced, impartial’. That’s why extreme Right is mentioned three times to ‘balance’ the three mentions of Islam or Islamist. This is a political lie on two levels. The first lie is singling out extreme Right as a particular type of threat, while ignoring the much greater threat from the rarely labelled extreme Left. We are reminded by recent arrests that part of the IRA is still active, though the BBC fails to remind us that the IRA is an extreme left-wing organisation and it is easy to forget the dozens of bombings and lives lost in places like Warrington, Manchester and Brighton caused by that left-wing extremist organisation. There are, too, the left-wing animal rights activists who wage prolonged campaigns of violence and terror against places like Huntingdon Life Sciences. All of this is a much bigger threat than from the extreme Right.

The bigger lie is that Prevent puts extreme Right alongside Islamist in a way that deliberately obscures the magnitudes of their different threats. The extreme Right poses no significant threat to our safety and security. Of course, like any violence it is distressing and regrettable but right wing violence is local, sporadic and infrequent, about as dangerous as the odd dustbin lorry driver having a fainting attack and well within the power of normal policing to control. The extreme Left is much more dangerous than the Right but again our police and security forces have tackled extreme left wing violence capably, without needing anything like the government intervention of Prevent.

The only significant terrorist threat that now faces us is militant Islam and government policies arise from this alone. Of course it is uncomfortable and terribly unfashionable to say so but, like any ducking of the truth, if we are not honest now it will bring us greater problems in the future.

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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