PM wins cabinet battle over counter-terrorism strategy against those holding extremist views, such as intolerance of women’s rights
David Cameron has won a cabinet battle to toughen up the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy and take a harder line against Islamic traditions that fail to “reflect British mainstream values”.
The successor to Labour’s Prevent strategy is likely to redefine extremists as those who hold “un-British” views, such as intolerance of equal rights for women, because ministers believe there is a link between non-violent extremism and violent acts of terrorism.
The new policy, which could be unveiled this week, will reflect the prime minister’s February speech in Munich in which he claimed “state multiculturalism” had failed. Further education colleges are likely to be targeted in the belief that they have become a breeding ground for young Islamists.
Cameron is set to tackle a string of policies that have posed a threat to his authority over the next two weeks. He is expected to give a major speech, possibly on Tuesday, on the NHS, giving the government’s first official indication of how it will respond to the listening exercise on the NHS bill.
He is also scheduled to give a speech on crime to tackle accusations from the right that he has failed to prioritise crime-fighting and allowed the justice department under Ken Clarke to liberalise prisons policy.
The justice minister Nick Herbert has indicated that up to 10,000 people every year could benefit from the government’s controversial policy to change the plea bargaining system so offenders can cut their sentence in half, instead of the current third, if they admit guilt early.
Defending the policy, Herbert told BBC1’s Politics Show: “Ten thousand offenders are pleading guilty at the very latest point in a trial and that is often particularly damaging to the interests of victims. It’s costly and it’s not in the interests of justice.
“We need a system that is deterring unnecessarily late pleas and is also incentivising those who plead guilty at an earlier stage.”
It has been reported that the Prevent strategy had split the cabinet, with Cameron and the education secretary Michael Gove pushing for a toughened version of the Prevent strategy, against the wishes of the Liberal Democrats and even the home secretary, Theresa May.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “Preventing extremism is … too important to be dogged by government confusion and this kind of ministerial in-fighting. It seems Theresa May has lost another battle on her own policies.”