Vote-seeking ‘hits terror fight’

The Government’s counter-terrorism policy is being damaged by ministers’ vote-seeking and party political interests, a report claimed.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust study said sensible plans to combat terrorism were being “submerged” by the Government’s “electoral motives”. It accused Prime Minister Tony Blair and Home Secretary John Reid of playing to a tabloid agenda and “trying to win over the white working class vote”.

Anti-terror measures which were having a disproportionate effect on Britain’s Muslim community risked alienating people within Islam who could play a vital role in defeating extremism, it added.

The authors urged the Government to abandon talk of a “war on terror” and to review its foreign policy. Mr Blair’s “close and publicly unquestioning stance” alongside the United States was damaging Britain’s influence on global politics, they suggested.

The report said: “The Government’s counter-terrorism campaign is often driven by party political and electoral motives that are ‘submerging’ its own ‘sensible’ counter-terrorism strategy. The actions of ministers, particularly Home Secretary John Reid, could have a ‘boomerang effect’ by alienating the Muslim communities whose trust and co-operation are vital.”

Report co-author Stuart Weir said: “The Government has a sensible strategy for dealing with terrorism but John Reid and Tony Blair have been playing to the tabloid gallery, raising suspicions that they are trying to win over the white working class vote.”

The 70-page study warned that ministers were creating a “shadow” criminal justice system in which Muslims are detained without trial or handed control orders which may breach their human rights. In this parallel system it is ministers who have the power to punish suspects rather than the courts, it said.

It urged the Government to find a way to prosecute terror suspects under criminal law rather than by seeking to take them out of circulation with control orders or “preventative detention”.

Press Association, 13 November 2006

The report can be downloaded here.