This piece traces the development of the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) since 2018 and provides a picture of the state of counter-terror policy in Britain.
Since its formation in early 2018, the CCE has undergone a noticeable evolution in its personnel, political approach, and degree of patronage it enjoys from the government.
The transition from the inaugural lead commissioner Sara Khan to the current commissioner Robin Simcox, and their respective relationships to successive government administrations, has reflected the shifting character of those administrations. And, perhaps more importantly, it also reflects the tensions between different camps within the British security industry.
Simcox currently sits at the heart of an increasingly hawkish counter-terror apparatus that has returned to its original modus operandi of targeting Muslim communities, after a brief period of expanding its focus to other ideologies.
This turn has been fuelled by aggressive security think tanks, such as the Henry Jackson Society and Policy Exchange, the ideas and staff members of which are readily absorbed by the government and various state institutions. Perhaps the most pertinent of this is the case of Simcox himself.
These think tanks have increasingly hegemonised the policy space for counter-terrorism in recent years, and have reduced the clout of regular civil society organisations which were cultivated and bankrolled by the Home Office under various funding pots – including Prevent – and from which the CCE once sought to draw its own legitimacy.
Finally, and most disconcertingly, there has been a gradual alignment across major European countries – foremost among them, France and Austria – of assertive attempts to criminalise ‘Islamism’ and introduce a suite of state powers to target, undermine and even dissolve dissenting civil society organisations This European model has its supporters in Britain, and has been an object of interest to the CCE under Simcox’s leadership.
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