The PROP Briefing: Conservative Party Conference
PROP Briefing on the Conservative Party Conference
What we might expect and where Prevent might fit in
Home Secretary Suella Braverman is scheduled to address the main conference today in the Delivering Better Public Services session from 4-6pm where she will be preceded by Brandon Lewis, the Justice Minister.
Braverman has previously declared her top priority to be refugee policy and channel crossings. However, the High Court case challenging the legality of Rwanda deportations has not been concluded, and this makes it difficult for her to make this issue the centrepiece.
We know that the leaks about Prevent suggest that policy in this area will also have serious consequences for human rights (see below).
Given that the recent British Bill of Rights was withdrawn, a possible ‘big ticket’ announcement could be that it will be returned to the table, with a clause to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights.
This drive might be led by Lewis and followed up by Braverman.
What we might hear about Prevent and the delayed Shawcross report
From the leaks, we have gathered the following indications:
- There is too much emphasis on ‘safeguarding’, which means Prevent treats those subject to consideration as ‘victims’, and protects ‘potential terrorists’. This point is extraordinary, especially since it was the alignment of Prevent as ‘safeguarding’ which shunted it into education, and indeed, cemented it as law throughout the public sector.
- The above assertion, however, provides no basis for how Prevent could possibly be enacted in a lawful manner, given that no offences are involved given Prevent’s pre-crime nature.
- There should be a pivot away from ‘far right’ extremism, and a redoubled focus on ‘Islamism’ – but again, this is difficult to see how it could be practically implemented without breaching the Equality Act.
- Prevent should focus more directly on security and be more thoroughly separated from community cohesion. This involves closer control from the Department of Homeland Security through Regional Prevent Coordinators, while possibly bypassing Local Authorities
- This will create an even more abstract and unaccountable mechanism, standing to further enlarge the policy, deepening the policy spiral and imprinting an even more counter-productive, shadowy authoritarianism within the citizen experience
- Community cohesion should be directed from the Department for Housing, Levelling Up and Communities, subject to evaluation and certification of Muslim organisations by a special unit of the Home Office.
- This unit will determine whether Muslim organisations may receive public funding or whether they can be engaged by political figures at local or national level.
- This represents a clear form of political censorship – of Muslims in particular, but one which can be replicated; all groups ‘proscribed’ in this way will have committed no offence other than being critics of government policy.
- From the above, it is evident why lawyers at the Home Office have serious concerns about the report.
This also makes it clear why the government is making withdrawal from the ECHR a priority: to remove the potential for cases of rights abuse (particularly under Prevent) to be brought to the European Court.
Braverman and the broader Conservative echo chamber are likely to be seeking to make withdrawal from the ECHR an attractive across a number of fronts.