The feral political underclass is moving in

Self-appointed defenders of white society are taking advantage of Britain's anger and disillusionmen

Last Tuesday night, the Klan rode again. Not in Alabama or Mississippi, but in South and West London.

In Eltham and Ealing, hundreds of self appointed defenders of white society took to streets. They were not vigilantes but "patriots". There not to intimidate but "to protect".

"These are local people, not EDL, these are patriots who have come out to defend their area", explained the eponymously named Jack England, the EDL's south-east regional organiser. He then slightly gave the game away by adding, "The EDL has come down, about 50 of us, to manage them and control them, and to sort of guide them to make sure they don't move out of order."

Jack's definition of "out of order" is unclear. According to the Daily Telegraph's report of the scene, "as the number of people swelled, the mood became increasingly violent as suspected looters were chased and set upon."

What constituted a "suspected looter" is unclear. But I can guess.

A local cab driver I know spoke warmly of the night's events. "There were some naughty boys up there," he said, "Some Millwall. Some EDL. It all got a bit tasty."

It got tasty all right. A bus carrying black youths was set upon. Then, not content with targeting "suspected looters", the defenders of white decency turned on the police with bottles. Eventually hundreds of officers from eight different police forces dispersed them.

All of this took place in Eltham. Approximately five minutes walk from where it had all turned tasty for Stephen Lawrence.

Those currently urging against an "overreaction" to the events of last week should pause to consider what happened in Eltham. Personally, I find it sickening.

As I see it, a group of racist, political opportunists joined with a slightly larger group of broadly unpoliticised football hooligans, who in turn joined forces with an even larger group of beered-up, south London corner boys to indulge in a bit of old-fashioned black and paki bashing.

But I'm not deluding myself. Because I know that, in thinking that, I'm in the minority.

Some say the English Defence League was active in Eltham. But whether this is true or not, surely white communities are allowed to protect themselves too?

Who wrote that? Nick Griffin? EDL leader Stephen Lennon? Nope. Daily Mirror columnist Tony Parsons.

The mainstream political class is already moving on. Demanding enquiries. Seeking the reason why.

And moving in behind them are our very own feral political underclass. The EDL. The BNP.

Those who have a long history of smashing and looting and assaulting their way into the public consciousness sense an opening. Actually, not so much an opening as a gaping chasm.

As Britain burned, Nick Griffin's Twitter feed could hardly contain its glee:

Well I did say that the police failure to get tough in Tottenham would lead to more trouble. Should be all over TV that, just as Nick Griffin foresaw the London bombings with what the Crown Prosecution Service called "uncanny accuracy", I called this one too.

Stephen Lennon boasted of 1,000 EDL members patrolling the streets, and claimed, "We're going to stop the riots, police obviously can't handle it".

Meanwhile, Members of Parliament have been groping for answers, David Cameron from his new US super-cop, Ed Miliband from his DIY public enquiry.

But the rest of Britain isn't. It knows what lay behind the riots. Go into any pub. Stand at any supermarket check-out or any bus stop. The riots were caused by rapacious, predominantly black youths with a bag of crack in their pockets, gangster rap on their iPods, and hate and contempt for authority in their hearts.

There are underlying causes, of course. And again, Britain knows what they were. Our rampant benefit culture. Wastrel parents. Idle teachers. And, of course, immigration.

Mainstream politicians are wringing their hands over the wisdom of spraying water at rioters or evicting them from their council houses. Meanwhile one in three Britons would endorse firing live rounds at them.

Of course Britain is wrong. But Britain isn't interested in hearing that at the moment. It's scared, angry and disillusioned. And the focus of their fear, anger and disillusionment is not the BNP or the EDL.

We are in a dangerous place. A horribly dangerous place. Enquiries and soul searching are luxuries we cannot afford. Now is not the time for nuance or abstraction.

The political class needs to get ahead of the curve. It needs to park the liberal angst and the calls for understanding.

If we have to promise water cannon, promise them. If we have to threaten to use baton rounds, threaten. If we have to prepare for troops on the streets, prepare them. Demand exemplary sentences. Reverse the police cuts. Pledge to look at curtailing the use of social networking sites.

Above all, demonstrate that the state does not need to subcontract its obligation to ensure order on our streets. Because if the state doesn't do the job, others will. People do not like vigilantes. But nor are they prepared to stand back and see their communities handed over to those who beat and burned and looted with apparent impunity.

Last week, in Eltham and Enfield, the Klan rode again. And much of white Britain cheered them as they passed.

 

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.