Cameron and Blair: the real counter-terrorism coalition

Cameron is completing the policy Blair had begun to implement.

According to Mark Townsend and Hannah Olivennes writing in the Observer, David Cameron is set to emerge this week as the victor in a long and "bitter cabinet battle" with Nick Clegg by unveiling a "hardline approach to tackling Islamist extremism". Home Office sources say that Cameron has "quashed Nick Clegg's argument for a more tolerant attitude to Muslim groups" by confirming the analysis he made in his Munich speech in February.

Writing in the Guardian, Allegra Stratton also predicts that "the government will make good Cameron's pledge to ban foreign hate preachers and will bring in a new link between extremism and violent extremism". Then, her Westminster sources suggest, there will be proper scrutiny of groups "to make sure they are effective, not extremist, and reflect mainstream British values".

Clegg's calculation seems to be that he will lose the argument but at least win credit amongst his party for articulating an alternative analysis and standing up to Cameron. Understandably and regrettably, Clegg has been overly cautious, merely objecting to Cameron's posturing against multiculturalism while declining a perfect opportunity to defend specific Muslim organisations and individuals that have been unfairly labeled extremist by Cameron.

To illustrate, if the Observer is right that the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board has had its annual public funding withdrawn because it "has links to the hard-line Muslim Association of Britain" then Clegg has missed a golden opportunity to challenge a fundamentally flawed policy. In fact the MAB has an outstanding track record of tackling violent extremism in the UK as I describe in my new book .

It is also on this point that Clegg might qualify the argument Stratton ascribes to Charles Farr, head of OSCT at the Home Office "that to get to the really nasty guys, you have to engage with the not-so-nasty guys". In certain cases that may indeed be the case but what is needed right now are more brave politicians on the front bench like Jeremy Corbyn on the back benches who are prepared to stand up for their Muslim partners against unfounded allegations of extremism.

In labeling many mainstream Muslim organisations as "extremist", Cameron reveals his affinity with Tony Blair, not Clegg. Cameron has always admired Blair's populist instinct throughout the war on terror - even though he tries to distance himself from its worst excesses now. Blair's genuine special relationship with George Bush, a Republican, and Cameron's superficial special relationship with Barack Obama, a Democrat, are both premised largely on the war on terror and an analysis that conflates many of their own Muslim citizens who oppose US / UK foreign policy in the Muslim world with a handful of violent and non violent extremists and terrorists.

While waiting a long time for Barack Obama to shake hands with hundreds of admiring parliamentarians in Westminster Hall David Cameron turned away from Clegg and stood listening attentively to Tony Blair. Blair was familiarly animated and passionate and Cameron appeared genuinely interested in what he had to say. While it was purely idle speculation on my part it did strike me that Blair may have been talking about violent extremism as this is perhaps the one topic where the two prime ministers' views are fundamentally inseparable.

Indeed, although Cameron was at pains in his Munich speech in February to create the impression that he was breaking with the past he was in fact completing the policy Blair had begun to implement himself. According to Townsend and Olivennes, Home Office sources say that "Cameron has quashed Nick Clegg's argument for a more tolerant attitude to Muslim groups by insisting on a strategy centred upon the notion that violent extremism is incubated within the ideology of non-violent extremism".

This is a policy first prescribed by Michael Gove and his friends at Policy Exchange and set now to become Home Office policy. It is also an extension of the policy that the arch Blairites, Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears first began to implement when they enjoyed brief control at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In fact, the popular notion that there is a conveyor belt from non-violent ideology to violent extremism or terrorism has been utterly discredited by academics and counter-terrorist practitioners. It always was a triumph of New Labour spin over reality. It seems extraordinary that Cameron will be allowed to consolidate such a misguided policy this week without at least one cabinet voice being raised in defence of the many Muslim organisations and individuals that will be falsely labeled extremist by it.

In 2008 Clegg tackled Policy Exchange head on when he defended the annual London Muslim event Global Peace and Unity against unfair allegations and pejorative back door briefings. Clegg is less inclined to show such bravery now as deputy prime minister. Not only is he up against Tory hawks but he also has to contend with a pro-active Blairite rump that continues to hold sway on this topic in the Labour Party. In effect, Clegg is the outsider up against an undeclared Cameron-Blair /Tory-Labour counter-terrorism coalition.

Robert Lambert is the co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre at the University of Exeter.

Steve Garry
Show Hide image

The footie is back. Three weeks in and what have we learned so far?

Barcleys, boots and big names... the Prem is back.

Another season, another reason for making whoopee cushions and giving them to Spurs fans to cheer them up during the long winter afternoons ahead. What have we learned so far?

Big names are vital. Just ask the manager of the Man United shop. The arrival of Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger has done wonders for the sale of repro tops and they’ve run out of letters. Benedict Cumberbatch, please join Carlisle United. They’re desperate for some extra income.

Beards are still in. The whole Prem is bristling with them, the skinniest, weediest player convinced he’s Andrea Pirlo. Even my young friend and neighbour Ed Miliband has grown a beard, according to his holiday snaps. Sign him.

Boots Not always had my best specs on, but here and abroad I detect a new form of bootee creeping in – slightly higher on the ankle, not heavy-plated as in the old days but very light, probably made from the bums of newborn babies.

Barclays Still driving me mad. Now it’s screaming from the perimeter boards that it’s “Championing the true Spirit of the Game”. What the hell does that mean? Thank God this is its last season as proud sponsor of the Prem.

Pitches Some groundsmen have clearly been on the weeds. How else can you explain the Stoke pitch suddenly having concentric circles, while Southampton and Portsmouth have acquired tartan stripes? Go easy on the mowers, chaps. Footballers find it hard enough to pass in straight lines.

Strips Have you seen the Everton third kit top? Like a cheap market-stall T-shirt, but the colour, my dears, the colour is gorgeous – it’s Thames green. Yes, the very same we painted our front door back in the Seventies. The whole street copied, then le toot middle classes everywhere.

Scott Spedding Which international team do you think he plays for? I switched on the telly to find it was rugby, heard his name and thought, goodo, must be Scotland, come on, Scotland. Turned out to be the England-France game. Hmm, must be a member of that famous Cumbrian family, the Speddings from Mirehouse, where Tennyson imagined King Arthur’s Excalibur coming out the lake. Blow me, Scott Spedding turns out to be a Frenchman. Though he only acquired French citizenship last year, having been born and bred in South Africa. What’s in a name, eh?

Footballers are just so last season. Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane can’t score. The really good ones won’t come here – all we get is the crocks, the elderly, the bench-warmers, yet still we look to them to be our saviour. Oh my God, let’s hope we sign Falcao, he’s a genius, will make all the difference, so prayed all the Man United fans. Hold on: Chelsea fans. I’ve forgotten now where he went. They seek him here, they seek him there, is he alive or on the stairs, who feckin’ cares?

John Stones of Everton – brilliant season so far, now he is a genius, the solution to all of Chelsea’s problems, the heir to John Terry, captain of England for decades. Once he gets out of short trousers and learns to tie his own laces . . .

Managers are the real interest. So refreshing to have three young British managers in the Prem – Alex Neil at Norwich (34), Eddie Howe at Bournemouth (37) and that old hand at Swansea, Garry Monk, (36). Young Master Howe looks like a ball boy. Or a tea boy.

Mourinho is, of course, the main attraction. He has given us the best start to any of his seasons on this planet. Can you ever take your eyes off him? That handsome hooded look, that sarcastic sneer, the imperious hand in the air – and in his hair – all those languages, he’s so clearly brilliant, and yet, like many clever people, often lacking in common sense. How could he come down so heavily on Eva Carneiro, his Chelsea doctor? Just because you’re losing? Yes, José has been the best fun so far – plus Chelsea’s poor start. God, please don’t let him fall out with Abramovich. José, we need you.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 27 August 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Isis and the new barbarism