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Title: How did the U.K. Government's decision to include right wing extremism within its counter terrorism 'Prevent' Strategy in 2011 impact on local responses to the English Defence League?
Author: McCann, Craig
ISNI:       0000 0004 6424 2068
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2017
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Since the U.K. Government reviewed its counter terrorism Prevent Strategy in 2011 to include "all forms of extremism" with an emphasis on right wing extremism, there has been no empirical research undertaken to explore the impact of this decision on local responses to the phenomenon. Furthermore, the international literature on responses to right wing extremism has thus far focussed on its various political manifestations, particularly in relation to both right wing extremist and populist political parties and the ideology that underpins them. From a U.K. perspective, the emphasis over the last thirty years has been very much on attempting to understand the causal factors underpinning the extreme right wing, the composition of these groups and how they compare with similar groups throughout Europe. It is striking that there is very little material available which provides a platform for debate as to how the state should actually respond to movements such as the English Defence League who do not seek legitimacy through the ballot box. As a movement at the zenith of its power and influence in 2011 the English Defence League mobilised thousands of people through its street protests, and although its ability to galvanise large numbers of people to turn out to protest has waned, the sentiment from which it gained its legitimacy has not. As the first study of this subject matter, through data yielded from 80 qualitative interviews based on unique access to frontline practitioners in the three case study areas of Luton, Newcastle and Waltham Forest boroughs, conducted by a serving counter terrorism police officer specialising in the Prevent Strategy, it will explore the ways in which this shift in the strategy played out at a local level among statutory actors interpreting and implementing it against the backdrop of central government imposed austerity measures. The major conclusions of this research are that; (1) the impact of the decision to explicitly include right wing extremism within the Prevent Strategy has been minimal. With the exception of the Channel intervention programme, there are for instance no specific counter narratives that have been created as a response to the expansion of the policy to include "all forms of extremism". Instead, this has led to a generalised approach to countering extremism without a clear understanding of right wing extremism as a distinct phenomenon, (2). The EDL is understood by local actors as a threat to the public order and community cohesion, but not as a terrorism threat. Notwithstanding this position, the case studies highlight the continued role of counter terrorism Prevent Officers in the pre, during and post phases of EDL attendance in maintaining community cohesion and providing reassurance with reference in particular to Muslim communities, and (3). Right wing extremism is poorly understood and articulated at a national policy level. There is a lack of synergy on this issue between the integration, cohesion, hate crime, Prevent and extremism policy areas, the interpretation of which at a local level has led to inter-agency tensions that have been further negatively impacted by Government imposed austerity measures on public sector resourcing since 2010.
Supervisor: Goodwin, Matthew ; Sudulich, Laura Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral