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Rishi Sunak Promises "New Framework" To Tackle Extremism As Political Division Hots Up

(Alamy)

3 min read

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that the government will introduce a new framework for dealing with extremism in the UK, as he declared that "our democracy itself is a target" for threats posed by extremist groups.

Sunak delivered a speech outside No10 on Friday evening, stating that he felt the need to address the nation after today's by-election result. George Galloway, leader of the far-left Workers Party of Britain, won the Rochdale by-election overturning Labour's 9,668 majority. He had focused his campaign primarily on the pro-Palestinian cause, declaring that his victory was "for Gaza".

Labour apologised for the by-election result, claiming Galloway was “only interested in stoking fear and division” and won because Labour did not have a candidate running in the seat.

Last week, a row erupted in Parliament over an opposition day motion on a Gaza ceasefire, when the Speaker made the unusual decision to alter Commons procedure with the aim of protecting MPs subject to threats. Sunak said it was "unacceptable" for MPs to feel threatened in their jobs, and that a growing sense of intimidation of politicians is a threat to democracy.

"It's beyond alarming that last night the Rochdale borough election returned a candidate who dismisses the horror of what happened on October the 7th, who glorifies Hezbollah and is endorsed by Nick Griffin, the racist former leader of the BNP," Sunak said on Friday.

He said that "small and vocal hostile groups" were carrying out intimidation threats and planned acts of violence that made democracy itself a target. 

"Council meetings and local events have been stalled. MPs do not feel safe in their homes, long standing parliamentary conventions have been upended because of safety concerns," he continued.

"The government will implement a new, robust framework for how it deals with this issue to ensure that we're dealing with the root causes of this problem, and that no extremist organisations or individuals are being lent legitimacy by their actions and interactions with central government.

"You cannot be part of our civic life if your agenda is to tear it down. We will redouble our support for the Prevent program to stop young minds being poisoned by extremism. We will demand that universities stop extremist activity on campus.

"We will also act to prevent people entering this country whose aim is to undermine its values."

The prime minister referred to dangers posed by both Islamist extremists and the far right, who he said "feed off and embolden each other".

"They are equally desperate to pretend that their violence is somehow justified when actually these groups are two sides of the same extremist coin," he said.

"Neither group accept the change in our country can only come through the peaceful democratic process."

Brendan Cox, the husband of Labour MP Jo Cox who was murdered in 2016 by a far-right terrorist, welcomed the prime minister's speech.

"90% of the framing of that was excellent," he wrote on X.

"This was a much much better intervention from him which was well balanced and well nuanced in almost all of his argument.

"The policy agenda is less clear and there should have been more willingness to call out people on his own side who drive polarisation. But the framing of it was a very welcome change in emphasis and balance."

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, however, said in response to the speech: “The British people will take no lessons from a Prime Minister and Conservative party who have sowed the seeds of division for years. 

“This is the same Prime Minister who made Suella Braverman his Home Secretary and Lee Anderson his party's Deputy Chairman."

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