Chris Grayling’s interview puts significant blue water between the Conservatives and Labour on extremism and anti-terror policy. The Shadow Home Secretary could not be clearer in his rejection of multiculturalism and the policy of “engagement for the sake of engagement”.
Mr Grayling has taken some time to come to these conclusions — he was appointed in January — but at least he cannot be criticised for rushing to judgment.
As he recognises, on an issue as sensitive as this, it is important to make the correct decision. It must be right, at the very least, to look again at the £60 million anti-extremism strategy, Prevent. The decision to ensure public money is used to fund organisations that promote community cohesion is a bold strategy. I will be interested to see what safeguards he intends to put in place to make this happen.
As we report below, moderate Muslim organisation, the Quilliam Foundation has now raised concerns about the bodies receiving funding from Prevent. The government can no longer claim that such complaints are coming only from right-wing interest groups and the Jewish community itself. An alliance of Quilliam, the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Board of Deputies should be an impossible coalition to ignore.
I know they are not alone. I am told there is serious unease within the Home Office itself about the way the Prevent money is being spent by the Department of Communities and Local Government. Sources close to Home Secretary Alan Johnson have told me that there is genuine fear that the Prevent funding will return to haunt the government in the run up to the election.
There is undoubtedly some good work being done in this area, but the public needs reassurance. The parliamentary inquiry being carried out by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee may or may nor provide this. We will not know until it reports later this year.
Communities Secretary John Denham tried to tell an audience at Labour Party conference that money from his department is not finding its way to radicals. His junior minister, Shahid Malik, made similar claims last month.
I only hope they are right because their statements strike me as a huge hostage to fortune. Mr Grayling at least seems to appreciate that £60 million is a hell of a lot of money to fall into the wrong hands.