4th June 2017
Photo: Theresa May talks tough but says little
The latest terrorist murders in London have resulted in justifiable expressions of outrage from all political parties and resulted in a further suspension of general election campaigning until tomorrow.
In response to the latest outrage UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, offered a four pronged approach to the issue of tackling terrorism. She suggested defeating the ideology, which preached terror and hate, winning hearts and minds to “pluralistic, British values”. She suggested that international co-operation to regulate cyberspace was vital. She suggested that “we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need.”
A further element of May’s approach is worth quoting in full, as it plays to a mentality that will not only oppose extremism but opposes anything or anyone who is in any way different. She said,
“..while we need to deprive the extremists of their safe spaces online, we must not forget about the safe spaces that continue to exist in the real world. Yes, that means taking military action to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it also means taking action here at home. While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.
So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out – across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations, but the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism – and we need to live our lives not in a series of separated, segregated communities but as one truly United Kingdom.”
Quite what May means when she states that there is “far too much tolerance of extremism in our country” is the first point here. Who tolerated the stabbing of a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament and the killing of innocent civilians on Westminster Bridge in March? Who has tolerated the murders of 22 innocent people at Manchester Arena last week? Who is tolerating the stabbings on London Bridge and Borough Market last night, resulting in another seven deaths?
Apart from a few hard core Islamic fundamentalists there is no evidence that anyone across the UK, whatever their race, creed or religion, is tolerant of such extremism. People of all faiths and none, people of all political persuasions, have united in condemning such actions and condemning extremism of this nature.
Community cohesion is certainly one of the keys to counter terrorism but it has to be a cohesion based upon mutual respect and understanding. There are a multiplicity of different communities in the UK some of which have become “segregated”, to use May’s phrase, some of which may as a result become prey to extremist ideology. May’s inference is that those communities are all Muslim but Irish Catholics could be characterised in the same way, Scottish nationalists, Welsh speakers, the disaffected white working class, for example. Where does it end?
May’s appeal to “one truly United Kingdom” is a pipe dream to play to the Daily Mail readers of Middle England, as a decisive General Election victory slips further from her grasp. The real issue is that the bigotry, which is an overt part of the UKIP programme, is only just beneath the surface of May’s remarks and the whole tone of the Conservative Party approach.
Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has called upon all communities to come together, emphasising that
“Our strength is the strength of our community unity. That was shown in Manchester straight after the horrible event there and it will be exactly the same in London.”
Corbyn has already called for a wider review of the entire foreign policy approach of the UK, in particular to end wars of aggression in the Middle East, and to adopt a more holistic approach to the threat of fundamentalist terrorism. The bigots in the right wing press and media will caricature this as ‘weak’ and no doubt applaud Theresa May’s call to “say enough is enough.”
However, tough talk, empty rhetoric and a foreign policy tied to the apron strings of the United States and NATO are what have brought us here today. It is not working, it is time for us all to say “enough is enough.”
Thursday, 8th June presents us all with the opportunity to make that statement loud and clear. There can be no excuses. On every level from personal, public to foreign policy the Labour programme lays out clear alternatives. It offers a vision of a society which offers hope, aims to work towards the resolution of differences and is based upon mutual respect and understanding.
The Tories are running scared because they have nothing new. They are falling back upon the same old tired ideas of more austerity for the many, more tax cuts for the few and more ways to sound tough, while not keeping the country safe. Those who do not vote Labour on Thursday, deserve everything they get if Theresa May is back in Downing Street on Friday.