The Shawcross Review of Prevent urges far-reaching changes to the administrative organisation of Prevent, involving increased centralisation and direct control by the Home Office.
A more authoritarian Prevent, applied horizontally to integrate relevant government departments through the Home Office, as well as applied vertically for more control over local authorities, will rachet up its already harmful aspects, while making it less transparent.
The Shawcross Review and nationalist conservatism
This development should be viewed in the context of increasing nationalist conservatism in government and among its associated think tank influencers.
These include the usual culprits Policy Exchange and the Henry Jackson Society, but also Robin Simcox, who as head of the Commission for Countering Extremism, is set to assume control over Prevent at the Home Office – in effect, as a direct political appointment of the Home Secretary.
Nationalist conservatism is an ideology that – according to the upcoming Natcon 2023 in London – markets itself as the “only intellectually serious alternative to the excesses of purist libertarianism, and [an ideology that is] in stark opposition to political theories grounded in race”.
A compliance unit to monitor only ‘valid complaints’
In terms of accountability within Prevent, Shawcross proposes a Standards and Compliance Unit (SCU) to monitor Prevent and to manage complaints, but only what it deems to be “valid complaints”, as opposed to complaints by “bad faith actors”.
This Unit would also have oversight of various other bodies such as the Police Prevent Board and the Counter Terrorism Committee.
The SCU will report to the Prevent Oversight Board of government ministers with a remit for Prevent.
It can be tasked by ministers to “conduct specific investigations, and a summary of findings following investigation should be made public”.
‘Due diligence’ to be applied to civil society organisations
Government departments and groups acting with Prevent remits will be subject to ‘due diligence’ applied to collaborating civil society organisations and individuals.
The criteria for the determination of due diligence are to be defined under the CCE within the Home Office in its new role: it will be responsible for directing Prevent in all its aspects and providing a certification and registration system for Muslim-led civil society organisations.
There is no mechanism provided by which the judgements of this body can be challenged, despite the far-reaching implications for individuals and organisations named as ‘extremist’.
Shawcross believes that there is no issue, in principle, with “a state-run scheme to counter specific ideas, attitudes and non-criminal behaviours”.
Certainly, he avoids any independent process by which that scheme might be regulated and denies that issues of civil liberties are involved.
Far from being “humane” and “light touch”, as Shawcross claims, Prevent is now revealed as a tool of an authoritarian government, intent on making British nationalism mainstream, despite its own extremist ideology.
- A Response to the Shawcross Review (Report, 2023) and The People’s Review of Prevent (Report, 2022)
- Shawcross Review a ‘dangerous whitewash’ (News, 2023)
- UK risks being listed among human rights abusers: NGO (News, 2023)