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UK extremism: it's time to stand with Russell Brand

David Cameron and Theresa May's plans on extremism threaten us all, but no one more than the Dalston Durruti

Perhaps still drunk on last week’s success in the general election, the prime minister and his home secretary appear to have lost their sense of irony. Perhaps they left it in the back go a taxi.

There is no other plausible explanation for the disparity between the following two lines from David Cameron’s speech to the National Security Council today, announcing fresh plans to tackle extremism:

“As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.”


preceded by:


“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”


How does that work? If the government wished to be the party of freedom of speech and freedom of worship, surely a large part of that promise is leaving people alone as long as they obey the law. That would be the “freedom” part.

Vigilante government

The vagueness of the government’s anti-extremist plans, sadly, cannot be put down to over-indulgence at the election party. This is vigilante justice, abandoning the idea of a free trial by your peers. The central suggestion is the “extremist disruption order” used to curtail the activities of radicals. “Extremism” can only ever be subjective, but even with that taken into account, the idea that orders will be used against those engaged in “harmful activities” designed to be a “threat to the functioning of democracy” is comically open-ended.

Would, say, printing an anarchist newspaper be a threat to the functioning of democracy? What about a bearded fanatic posting a video on YouTube advising your one-million followers not to vote? What about publishing a book called “Revolution”, calling for an end to representative democracy and capitalism?

I think I know what’s happening here. The Conservatives are coming for Russell Brand. It’s time to stand with him.

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms. He is Director of Editorial at 89up and has written and ghostwritten for The Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Observer, The Irish Times, The Daily Telegraph, The New Statesman, The Sun, and The Irish Post.

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