LibLink: Brian Paddick: The Liberal Democrat plan in the fight against terrorism

Brian Paddick has written a piece for the Huffington Post about the Liberal Democrat ideas to tackle terrorism in the wake of the appalling atrocity in Manchester.

At times like this received wisdom is that Liberals should stay quiet and allow others to offer tough solutions and new laws to eradicate violent extremism and terrorism. Us bleeding-heart liberals have nothing to say and should stick to hand-wringing. That is wrong.

If we want to continue to live in an open, democratic society that values freedom and civil liberties we must accept that we can never be 100% safe, but that doesn’t mean we do nothing either.

The first is about stopping people becoming radicalised in the first place – and that means getting rid of Prevent:

The Conservatives and Labour have wedded themselves to varying degrees to the Prevent strategy. At its core it is meant to prevent terrorism by engaging with the communities to stop radicalisation or direct individuals into de-radicalisation programmes where there are concerns.

In and of itself these are ambitions that we fully support – the issue is, it isn’t working. Prevent is viewed with suspicion – even the former independent reviewer of terrorism stated that there was a “lack of confidence in aspects” of the programme. The problem of perception cannot be ignored and simply doubling down on it when the evidence shows it may not be working in the most effective way possible shows a level of stubbornness that is counter-productive.

“Prevent” is now toxic to many people and a rebrand simply won’t work. That is why the Liberal Democrats propose scrapping it and replacing it with a new strategy called ‘Engage’ that puts the communities affected in the driving seat. We would support those communities in developing their own approach to tackling the dangers of violent extremism rather than dictating from Whitehall. We cannot alienate communities who are the best source of intelligence and who are best placed to spot those who present a real and present danger.

Lib Dem investment in community policing would also help to make sure people didn’t slip through the net.

Our intelligence and security services are the best in the world but they are being stretched. We know they are being asked to monitor over one thousand suspects, in addition they are being given mass surveillance powers, which means soon they’ll have far more data to contend with – this just makes their job harder. What we need is more targeted, community-led intelligence that can differentiate those that might hold extreme views but present no immediate threat and those whose extremism has tipped them over the edge into advocating or planning violence.

Here, community policing is key and that has been eroded. This was the assessment made by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary only a few months ago. In his annual report he argued the very concept of community policing was under threat. We all know that communities are the best source of intelligence – If we can reverse the erosion of community policing, we stand a chance of mending the net and stopping people slipping through it.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • What is to stop those who have poisoned the perceptions of ‘Prevent’ from just doing the same with ‘Engage’?

  • David Evershed 30th May '17 - 11:59am

    Obviously Wahhabi Islamists who support IS are going to try to undermine any programme which seeks to counter their philosophy of hating anyone who is not Wahhabi.

  • Dave Orbison 30th May '17 - 1:59pm

    Actually, Labour’s manifesto is to “Review the Prevent programme with a view to assessing both its effectiveness and its potential to alienate minority communities.”

    It recognises that current measures have been ineffective against the growing problem of extreme or violent radicalisation.

    So I think Brian Paddock’s article is wrong to suggest that this issue is a point of differentiation between the LibDems and Labour. On the contrary, I’d say the willingness of both parties to accept failures of Prevent and recognise the need to move on and try something else yet another example where the current Labour leadership and LibDem leadership have more in common that some would care to acknowledge.

    Surely, there more we can find common ground on such issues the better.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 30th May '17 - 3:51pm

    To confirm what Dave says above , Andy Burnham was scathing re: the prevent strategy and thinks it needs replacing.

    I feel we need to develop new ways , and I spoke on LBC with Maajid Nawaz on his show over the weekend and he said he has felt engage should be the new strategy, as he is a member of our party here, I do not know if he has input into the policy on this , but he should as the man is an extraordinary .

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