Time for actions now, not words

The government's new, tougher approach to tackling terror and extremism is, in theory, a step in the right direction.

In practice the Prevent review contained little that we did not already know. There were no great revelations into the previous Labour government's failures, or solid facts on the coalition's future intentions.

That Mrs May has rapped university vice-chancellors and Islamic student groups over the knuckles is a positive move, but it has taken years of universities constantly dodging the issue to get this far.

The proof of whether the government truly means business will be in its implementation of the policies.

There are many potential obstacles to that process. The review itself came five months later than expected due to cross-department squabbling. Tory ministers were split into two camps over whether to take a tough line with all extremists, or instead to engage with non-violent extremist groups.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg hold differing views on the most effective methods of tackling such groups, as shown in their respective Munich and Luton speeches earlier this year. Disruptive civil servants, who until now have been responsible for overseeing the strategy, further muddied the way forward.

LibDem peer Lord Carlile, who led the review, was adamant that the government's new approach should tackle the campus problem more effectively. He was backed by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who made a late intervention to demand the report concentrated more on that aspect.

Leaders of Islamist groups must now take on board Mr Cameron's desire for a hardline approach and respond. Whether Mrs May and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles can get their departments in order remains to be seen.

It is these crucial aspects which will determine whether Prevent stands or falls. Strong words are to be applauded, but it is definitive, effective action which is required now more than ever.

Last updated: 10:29am, September 14 2011