That the new Prevent strategy offers little in relation to tackling violent extremism from the far right is disappointing although it is not entirely unexpected. From the very beginning Prevent has been concerned with tackling extremism within Britain’s Muslim communities and since violent Islamism remains the greatest threat to national security, preventing Muslims from joining or supporting Al Qa’ida, its affiliates or related groups, is still the priority. Nonetheless, on the positive side, there is at least some recognition that the revised Prevent strategy must apply to all terrorist threats, ‘including in particular from extreme right-wing terrorism’ (pp. 40/41). There are, as the new Prevent strategy reveals, 17 people currently serving prison sentences for extreme-right terrorism-related offences, a figure that includes one person (Terence Gavan) convicted of 22 offences relating to the manufacture and possession of the largest cache of improvised explosives, firearms and ammunition discovered in Britain in recent years (p.15).
The recently released Prevent Strategy Review 2011 was accompanied with much fanfare and debate on the new direction Prevent would be taking. Its release was preceded by comments and speeches made by those in government hinting at some new ideas that would underpin the revised counter terrorism strategy. By way of confession, I must admit I read the new Prevent Strategy Review document with what turned out to be a naïve sense of optimism. After all the criticisms made of the earlier counter terrorism policies (and especially of Prevent ), I was keen to see evidence that crucial lessons had been learnt but find instead statements that suggest otherwise: ‘We have seen no evidence that Prevent work has damaged police and Muslim community relations’ (p.99).