Tories have ‘rushed’ new extremism definition which could ‘become stick to beat police with’, former Met boss warns

13 March 2024, 19:33

Former Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu (R) joins LBC
Former Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police Neil Basu (R) joins LBC. Picture: Getty/LBC
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

The Government has rushed a new definition of extremism - due to be published tomorrow - which could become a "stick to beat police with", a former assistant Met commissioner has told LBC.

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Neil Basu, who helped to run specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police, told LBC's Andrew Marr that the redefining of extremism is a "quick reaction to a problem that has been decades in the making".

"I'm incredibly pleased that the government is taking this very seriously...but it can't be so vague as to be unworkable or discriminatory, it can't erode free speech, and it can't be such that it drives dangerous ideas underground," Mr Basu said.

"I'm concerned that it's happened too quickly and there clearly hasn't been a consensus...it's united the right, left, and the centre in its concern about what's happened. It's been too quick."

Andrew Marr is joined by Neil Basu to talk about the government's new definition of extremism

"A general policy description of who we should and should not deal with as a government or as government institutions is very different from actually preventing hateful extremism from becoming a criminal problem," Mr Basu went on.

"I don't think this goes far enough in terms of giving us a legal operating framework.

"I worry for policing that this rather nebulous policy stance will become a stick to beat police officers with, particularly at protests."

Read More: Three ex-Home Secs urge Labour and Tories to work together on extremism as Gove's new definition looms

Read More: London has become a 'no-go zone for Jews on weekends,' government extremism adviser claims

Mr Basu added that under the definition he expects to be released by government, police will be seen as either "too weak or too strong".

His comments come as Michael Gove, the levelling up and communities secretary, prepares to announce the new definition of extremism in Parliament tomorrow.

Mr Gove reportedly wants to use parliamentary privilege to name groups that he believes meet the new criteria, despite warnings from government lawyers.

Levelling up and communities secretary Michael Gove
Levelling up and communities secretary Michael Gove. Picture: Getty

Commenting on Mr Gove's potential plans to use parliamentary privilege, Mr Basu said the fact that government "has to use parliamentary privilege tells you volumes".

Parliamentary privilege is the right of legal immunity afforded to MPs, protecting what they say or do against civil or criminal liability in the course of their legislative duties.

Mr Gove is not expected to call out mainstream groups in Parliament, such as the Muslim Council of Britain, The Guardian reports.

However, he will likely name smaller organisations, such as Cage, which said Palestinians had the "right to resist" following Hamas' terror attack on Israel on October 7.

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