Davis fires a warning shot over control orders

Top Tory rebel vows to resist “Kafka-esque” control orders.

After Andrew Rawnsley's Observer column blew open coalition tensions on control orders on Sunday, it was only a matter of time before David Davis added his two cents. And, as expected, the most feared rebel on the Tory benches has warned Theresa May that this is no time to go wobbly.

Davis did little to suggest the coalition would avoid what David Cameron described as a "fucking car crash". He told the Daily Politics:

It's certainly headed for a problem on a major scale. You've probably got 25 Lib Dem MPs who will find trouble voting for this; I suspect as many Tory MPs as well, maybe more. Certainly many more who are worried about it.

The former shadow home secretary, who first pushed the Conservatives in a libertarian direction, has vowed to vote against any attempt to renew the "Kafka-esque" control orders.

With Labour once more a civil libertarian party under Ed Miliband's leadership, ministers will, as Paul Waugh suggests, face an unholy alliance between MPs from all three parties if they renege on their pledge to abolish control orders. Moreover, Davis, Kenneth Clarke and Dominic Grieve are on the record as being unambiguously opposed to control orders.

Any attempt to maintain control orders under the guise of anti-terrorism is likely to be met with contempt across the House. Cameron must hold his nerve and face down the security establishment.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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There's something missing from our counter-terrorism debate

The policy reckoning that occured after the 2005 terrorist attacks did not happen after the one in 2016. 

“Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department, says Wernher von Braun.” That satirical lyric about Nazi rocket scientists has come to mind more than few times watching various tech giants give testimony in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, one of the underreported sub-plots of life at Westminster.

During their ongoing inquiry into hate crime in the United Kingdom, committee chair Yvette Cooper has found a staggering amount of hate speech being circulated freely on the largest and most profitable social media platform. Seperately, an ongoing investigation by the Times has uncovered how advertising revenue from Google and YouTube makes its way straight into the coffers of extremist groups, ranging from Islamist extremists to white supremacists and anti-Semites.

One of the many remarkable aspects of the inquiry has been the von Braunesque reaction by the movers and shakers at these tech companies. Once the ad revenue is handed out, who cares what it pays for? That’s not my department is the overwhelming message of much of the testimony.

The problem gains an added urgency now that the perpetrator of the Westminster attacks has been named as Khalid Masood, a British-born 52-year-old with a string of petty convictions across two decades from 1982 to 2002. He is of the same generation and profile as Thomas Mair, the white supremacist behind the last act of domestic terrorism on British shores, though Mair’s online radicalisation occurred on far-right websites, while Masood instead mimicked the methods of Isis attacks on the continent.  Despite that, both fitted many of the classic profiles of a “lone wolf” attack, although my colleague Amelia explains well why that term is increasingly outmoded.

One thing that some civil servants have observed is that it is relatively easy to get MPs to understand anti-terror measures based around either a form of electronic communication they use themselves – like text messaging or email, for instance – or a physical place which they might have in their own constituencies. But legislation has been sluggish in getting to grips with radicalisation online and slow at cutting off funding sources.

As I’ve written before, though there  are important differences between these two ideologies, the radicalisation journey is similar and tends to have the same staging posts: petty criminality, a drift from the fringes of respectable Internet sub-cultures to extremist websites, and finally violence.  We don’t yet know how closely Masood’s journey follows that pattern – but what is clear is that the policy rethink about British counter-terror after the July bombings in 2005 has yet to have an equivalent echo online. The success of that approach is shown in that these attacks are largely thwarted in the United Kingdom. But what needs to happen is a realisation that what happens when the rockets come down is very much the department of the world’s communication companies. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.