This government has tacitly acknowledged its failure on anti-extremism. But Labour should examine its own conscience

by Rob Marchant

Last week in Iraq, American journalist James Foley was murdered by Islamic State.

He was murdered savagely and painfully, and he was not even murdered in supposed punishment for a crime; it was merely to send a message to the West. If that were not enough, they then put a video of the whole killing on YouTube.

It is difficult to find words for the psychotic nature of both the killer and the twisted ideology which drove him, not just to kill, but to kill a quite innocent victim in such a way.

Above all, we should be disturbed to know that the perpetrator, from his accent, is thought to be almost certainly British.

How did we end up here? It is dispiriting enough that you can grow your own terrorists to bomb you, as happened in the London bombings of 2005. But to export your terrorists is, well, a bit careless.

Britain of all countries, it seems, is becoming the place where extremists can feel most at home, or even come here with the express intent of becoming radicalised. As Haras Rafiq of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, wrote yesterday, “London and the UK has been primed for this for decades”.

What is certain is that the government’s blasé approach to anti-extremism and anti-terrorism has not helped, as I wrote here two years ago. On coming to power, and egged on by Lib Dems with an interest in civil liberties sometimes bordering on obsession, the Tories largely dismissed the Labour’s rather effective Prevent anti-extremism programme, reducing its funding from £18m to £1m. As Rafiq puts it:

“When our Prime Minister says that his Government is going to redouble the efforts to stop youngsters being radicalised – the redoubling of zero still equals zero.”

It also reduced detention periods for terrorist suspects, something which Theresa May later fudged. And finally yesterday, she pretty much announced a massive U-turn on everything that had gone before.

So, bizarrely, a right-wing, Tory-led coalition had attacked and repealed Labour’s policies – from the left – and no-one batted an eyelid. And it’s not as if evidence wasn’t there that the system was ineffective: we might recall the deportation battles of extremist preachers Raed Salah (who successfully appealed) and Abu Qatada (deported only after an eight-year fight), hardly examples of a watertight anti-extremism law in action.

So, we can happily slate the coalition for their woefully inadequate response to extremism. Good.

But now we come to Labour. It is true that in 2008, Gordon Brown’s government largely failed in toughening up Britain’s detention laws. Jacqui Smith’s plan may have ultimately failed and opinions differed widely as to its efficacy as a policy, but at least she was trying to deal with the issue.

The same cannot be said for many MPs, unions and the party’s rank and file, who breathed a collective sigh of relief. It was all felt to be, well, a bit too right-wing for Labour.

And better forgotten altogether are the numerous incidents of back-bench MPs “engaging” with hate preachers such as the aforementioned Salah, invited to speak at the Houses of Parliament in a room booked by the now-disgraced former Labour peer Lord Ahmed, to speak alongside MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burden. Or mosques, such as that in Finsbury Park, which invite hate preachers.

But the lack of latterday progress in central government and stupidity of the odd Labour parliamentarian surely pales into insignificance when we compare with what the party has done on the ground, in its councils and local parties up and down the country.

At local level, we have spent not just a few years, but decades, cultivating extremist organisations* such as the Islamic Forum Europe in Tower Hamlets. One of our most senior politicians, a sitting mayor of London no less, invites a known hate preacher and hugs him in a now-famous photo-op.

In the name of “reaching out”, we have MPs such as Sadiq Khan – now on the front bench – appear at suspect Islamist conferences, such as the rather ironically-named Global Peace and Unity, now become so awful and full of radical imams that no Labour MP will touch it. And many of us doughtily defended the Muslim Brotherhood when it got into power in Egypt, because we thought it was a legitimate, moderate political representation of Islam. It is not.

No, we soft-pedalled on extremism because we were afraid of being seen as racist or sectarian; we made base calculations about losing votes; or worse: because we simply didn’t see it for what it was. That the threat from jihadism was over, exaggerated by some hawkish, right-wing types who just secretly wanted another war.

But it’s not just about Iraq any more. As Pat McFadden put it so well this week at Uncut: “We don’t have a choice about whether to engage in this fight.  If we don’t go to it, it is coming to us.”

In the wake of last week’s murder, one thing is clear: without the right action, it is surely only a matter of time before such murders take place on British soil.

It is about time we took a long, hard look at ourselves as a party, and asked ourselves what each one of us can do, to make sure that that cannot, that it will not, happen again.

*For those who doubt that this organisation is “extremist”, aside from checking out their links to some deeply suspect organisations in Pakistan, I refer readers to their Press Complaints Commission complaint against Andrew Gilligan, where this nomenclature was explicitly allowed to Gilligan in the judgement.

Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left

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24 Responses to “This government has tacitly acknowledged its failure on anti-extremism. But Labour should examine its own conscience”

  1. John Reid says:

    This is so right, what is Labour and the NEC doing about this, we can’t keep on pretending this isn’t happening for ever, if we don’t it’ll be out of control and too late, I hope the leadership read this,as it’ll get worse,

    The party will bury it’s head and ignore it ,infact if anyone dates speak out they’ll be damned by the leadership, desperate to try to hid this

  2. Neil Jennison says:

    The elephant in the room in the above article is “Immigration”.

    Labour allowed almost uncontrolled Islamic immigration into the UK in the name of multiculturalism. (And for long term electoral advantage for Labour.)

    The fact is that Islamic values are incompatible with a free western civilisation.

    It may not be politically correct to say it. It may be anathema to the Labour doctrine. But it is true.

    No, I am not saying all Muslims are evil Jihadis, of course they are not.

    But if a country significantly changes its demographics by virtually uncontrolled immigration from a culture and a religion that has very different values and ideals, then it is bound to get a large number of what you term extremists.

    I would also point out though that these “extremists” views are merely what mainstream Islam teaches….what Mohammed taught.

  3. adam pearson says:

    ‘No, we soft-pedalled on extremism because we were afraid of being seen as racist or sectarian; we made base calculations about losing votes; or worse: because we simply didn’t see it for what it was.’

    I never thought in all my years I would read a statement like this from the Left. It’s just 30 years too late.

  4. Ex labour says:

    Rob, whilst you aim your main specific criticisms at the government you miss a wider point. As a society we have been brainwashed into some politically correct nanny state, largely driven by Labour and the progressive left in general.

    Just look at the child sex scandals in Derby, Rochdale, Rotherham etc all perpertrated by Asian Muslims, some of which are illegal immigrants, some asylum seekers and others naturalised Britons. Yet we have Rotherham authorities scared to act in case they are accused of racism and where their own councilors and employees were instructed not to mention the ethnicity of the criminals involved.

    We have the odious McShane of Labour trying to plug his book on the back of Rotherham’s sex scandal and where he was the MP whilst all this was going on under his nose. Yet there are those in Labour who still support this individual.

    We have some 12000 Muslim prisoners in our jails, yet the ECHR says we cant deport them. Yes, the ECHR which Blair and Labour signed up to and where we are at the mercy of an unelected judiciary with no understanding of the UK. We have the latest news that a Pakistani man, who was convicted of murder in his own country, is now allowed to stay in the UK because he has family here.

    Throughout the reign of Blair and Brown we allowed terrorists to come, live and preach their hate in the UK, all this done on the basis that if we house them here they will not hurt us. But then of course we have had 7/7 and if news reports are to be believed several major attacks thwarted. How come these preachers of hate were never arrested for preaching their bile ? Couldn’t possibly be because they are Muslim could it ?

    France kicked out several hundred suspected Islamic extremists and terrorists in the mid 90’s. Where do most go ? Yes of course the UK. What did Blair and co do about it? Yes you guessed – nothing !

    Labour allowed mass immigration into these shores and with it many resultant problems. Labour wanted to shove everyones nose in “diversity” and wanted to make a point. What a mess you created.

    The response of all political parties has been to appease and protect some Muslims and there terrorist intent and criminal behaviour – I agree on that point. The bleeding heart politically correct leftard do-gooders have enabled terrorists to feel safe and our society and our laws have been the victims.

    On a previous blog on here a couple of days ago I made some suggestions about what we can do which include repatriation of all muslim criminals in our jails, stop immigration from muslim countries, any naturalised Briton gets his or her British nationality removed and they are deported for crimes committed, immediate withdrawl from the ECHR and so on.

    No doubt all these will offend your left wing sensibilities but unless we stop pandering to the idealistic left wing luvvies then we are heading down a dangerous path. Even our own closest international ally the US believe we are the weak link in the fight against global terrorism.

    Appeasement doesn’t work and never will. I though history has already taught us this, but clearly we have learned no lessons.

  5. Geezer says:

    In case the author hadn’t noticed, such murders have already taken place on British soil.

  6. Damien McKee says:

    Hi Rob, would you not agree that this issue is symbolic of the hyprocrisy of some sections of the party in regards to this issue especially when during the 2009 European elections we slated the Tories for allegedly going to sit with extremists-they did nothing of the sort-yet at the same time we were tolerating the likes of Lord Ahmed and his antics? Surely this should begin to be a wake up call not just for Labour but for all parties to say-Enough is enough We will no longer tolerate this kind of behaviour?

  7. Henrik says:

    Good piece, Rob – but irrelevant, as this is not what Labour wants to talk about and it’s most certainly not what the unpatriotic, self-hating Left wants to air. When you have a party which has elements which consciously align themselves with the woman-thing, gay-bashing, racist, intolerant, anti-Semitic Islamists – and celebrate the fact – there’s something wrong, deeply wrong with that party if it still declares that it represents the interests and ambitions of the mass of the British population.

    A party which, while in government, can consciously seek to boost electoral advantage by opening the floodgates to immigration by people who will not make a net contribution to society, can consciously prop up political structures rooted in Punjabi and Bengali village society, can consciously seek to eliminate huge parts of the national history and can consciously seek to destroy patriotism – is a party which needs to have a long, hard look at itself.

  8. John Reid says:

    D thame, Islam isn’t a race and many white people are stop and searched, under what was anti terror legislation, and now under ,Section 60, for possible violence, or Section one for having a potential weapon to go equipped

  9. Alan Douglas says:

    To (slightly mis-) quote Joseph Stalin “Underage sex with one child is a tragedy, underage sex with 1400 is a normal and welcome multicultural statistic”.

    Shoot the lot of them, including the police and council officials who looked away.

  10. Oliver says:

    NeoConservatives: near saw a war they didn’t want to fight or a civil liberty they didn’t want to erode, all the while insisting it’s for the West’s own good. All your article proves is that the left is still as riddled with NeoConservatism as the right.

  11. Solutions:

    1 Stop any more muslim men entering this country. Family ties, asylum etc – no excuse. Enough is enough.

    2 Identify and prosecute for perverting the course of justice (at the very least) every councillor, council officer and copper who knowingly turned a blind eye to the almost unimaginably depraved exploitation of children. Call it a witch hunt if you want because the term is justified.

    Yes, it has got that bad.

  12. Tafia says:

    Ex Labour made some suggestions about what we can do which include repatriation of all muslim criminals in our jails, stop immigration from muslim countries

    You make some very big base errors here. For starters the majority of muslims in this country were actually born here – so you can’t repatriate them – you can only repatriate the ones from abroad. What about non-muslim criminals from abroad? You want to run a system of blatant apartheid with regards foreign criminals? There is n such thing as a muslim country – one is a faith, the other a piece of ground. There are countries that are predominantly muslim – is that what you actually mean? And what if the immigrants from those countries aren’t muslim.? Or are more secular such as Turks or Bosniaks?

    The problem is not the Islamic religion – it is extremism that is the problem. (and people who can’t or won’t accept there is a difference between the two)

  13. Alexsandr says:

    The left should hang their heads in shame over the 2 problems of Islam, the neheading in the article, and also the rotherham child abuse by Pakistanis

    This is the direct result of PC, multiculturism and mass immigration. All lefty labour policies.

    Anyone who thinks Labour are fit to govern needs their head examining after this.

    Some soul searching

  14. Ex Labour says:

    @ Tafia

    I will assume you have misunderstood what I wrote or have been drinking. I mentioned nothing about “Muslim countries” – so where did you get that from ? I took it for granted that by mentioning repatriation I was talking about foreign criminals, and yes if it comes down to it I mean all foreign criminals not just Muslim prisoners. Perhaps I should have made it clearer for you.

    As one who has actually lived and worked in a Muslim country and Muslim region of the world, I can tell you that conflict is rife within the Muslim religion between Shia and Sunni and often leads to bloodshed and death. Its the Sunni’s who are usually the violent one and Shia are generally passive. So much for the “peace loving” nature of Islam. If they are prepared to kill each other over religious differences, its an easy step for them to kill the non believers.

    Everyone understands there is a difference between religion and extremism, but the problem is those who don’t recognise that the differential is decreasing day by day and year upon year and yet continue to try to differentiate.

  15. Mike says:

    Too late, you are the party of Islam and all the misery that brings wherever it goes. History will not be kind towards those that have nearly destroyed the UK through ‘good intentions’.

  16. Ken says:

    The problems described here in the comments section encapsulate the rotten core of the new Labour culture in their obsession with image and spin. What this meant is that rather than dealing with problems by bringing them out into the open, they were tacitly covered up and encouraging a “rubber stamping” culture. This culture became the order of the day so that New Labour could keep power, their MPs could keep their seats, and New Labour chief executives and Quango chiefs could all enjoy comfortable lifestyles until drawing their pensions. Whistle blowers and people with a questioning outlook were anathema to this culture and that is why we are now seeing these terrible consequences.

    In the New Labour culture, dealing with problems, especially high profile issues such as being accused of racist, or anti-capitalist, and so on, would have been immediately swept under the carpet for fear of media scrutiny. That is, I suspect, why nothing was done about these 1400 victims in Rotherham. The facts are that the accused men were all from a Pakistani origin and bringing these perpetrators to justice would be secondary as long as they would avoid claims of racism and negative publicity. The tragedy is that many of these perpetrators who have committed these crimes are still walking free because of the cowardice of those who became part of this cozy culture. And it covered many aspects of government life. Remember how we had “light touch” regulation because New Labour wanted to ignore possible wrongdoings during their years of power so that they would not be seen as anti-capitalist. Yet, they left the taxpayer with a huge bail out that we are all still paying for today, whilst the perpetrators, like their disgraced knighted friend Fred Goodwin walked away with a huge pension. I could give many other examples of this behaviour, in the mid Staffs health authority, in the MPs expenses scandal, and more.

    The consequences of all this has been that, with very few exceptions, politicians, especially Labour, only say what it was safe to say not what it was right to say. This is just one symptom of the New Labour legacy where substance counted for little any more, rather it was all about keeping a good image. Look at where that has left us now? I hope some senior Labour politicians will be reading these comments and understand what they should really be in politics for: they should be in it to do something not be something. But I doubt it, because most of them are part of the problem now.

  17. Dougie says:

    A refreshingly honest post, Rob. I’d be genuinely interested to know on what basis you consider Prevent was “rather effective” under the last Government.

  18. BenM says:

    Ex Labour

    “Yes, the ECHR which Blair and Labour signed up to and where we are at the mercy of an unelected judiciary with no understanding of the UK. ”

    This kind of error makes your rants hilarious.

    The UK signed the ECHR in November 1950 you fool.

  19. Simon Fay says:

    I was pro-Labour enough back in the day to be gutted when Major won in 1992 & Thatch in 87. To vote for Labour now is on a par for me with…words fail me.

    I’d feel dirty, like I was rifling a corpse’s pockets

  20. Tafia says:

    Ex Labour, “. I mentioned nothing about “Muslim countries””

    I quote:-

    On a previous blog on here a couple of days ago I made some suggestions about what we can do which include repatriation of all muslim criminals in our jails, stop immigration from muslim countries,

  21. Ex labour says:

    @ Tafia

    I stand corrected, but I’ll now have to correct you.

    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, etc I could go on of course. In any rational mind they are Muslim countries. By this I mean where politics and religion are truly integrated and inseperable and where custom, practice and culture are based on religous beliefs and where there is little or no tolerance for other faiths.

    And before you go on, I’ve lived in all three countries and have experienced it first hand.

  22. Tafia says:

    You are on about a theocracy and there are very very few of those – not even Iran is truly theocratic. All these are are countries where the dominant religion is muslim – which is a different thing.

    Incidentally, this sudden urge to bomb ISIS and clamp down on its sources of weapons and money – does that mean we will bomb Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE?

    And why are we not demanding that Saudi Arabia takes a dominant part in any action, being as it’s Armed Forces are bigger than ours and at least as well equipped (and in some cases better).

    Saudi Arabia Military
    Active Frontline Personnel: 233,500
    Active Reserve Personnel: 25,000

    Tank value includes Main Battle Tanks, light tanks and tank destroyers, either wheeled or tracked. AFV value includes Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs).
    Tanks: 1,095
    Armored Fighting Vehicles (AFVs): 7,202
    Self-Propelled Guns (SPGs): 524
    Towed-Artillery: 440
    Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems (MLRSs): 72

    Includes both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft from all branches of service. All aircraft types accounted (UAVs, gunships, special mission, naval/carrier, trainers, etc).
    Total Aircraft: 652
    Fighters/Interceptors: 229
    Fixed-Wing Attack Aircraft: 229
    Transport Aircraft: 182
    Trainer Aircraft: 168
    Helicopters: 195
    Attack Helicopters: 12

    And you’re not the only person on the planet with a first hand experience f the ME – I helped train some of their armies.

  23. Ex labour says:

    @ Tafia

    The point was that by any interpretation they would be regarded by the public as Muslim Countries. You can be pedantic if you want but everyone knows what is meant.

    As for Iran (and yes I’ve been there also) there are different faiths although one is more dominant as you say, it has always been that way for decades so I dont understand your emphasis on Iran. They have a large christian population, the people as a whole are friendly and welcoming and well educated, the problem they have is the leadership. As most of their Muslims are Shia they pose little threat to us.

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