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The contradiction in the Prevent Duty: Democracy vs ‘British values’

Discussions on Policy

Journal abstract

The duty to monitor ‘the failure to uphold British Values’ in the Prevent strategy, introduced in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, is itself an attack on British democracy. This article explains the contradictory nature of the Prevent Duty. First, the current state of democracy in Britain is examined and contrasted to a common teaching topic, the Suffragettes. Under Prevent, Suffragettes’ extremist tactics place a burden on teachers to explain how terrorist activities may have once been legitimate. Second, Prevent’s focus on extremism and radicalization assumes a moral consensus, which is confirmed by its incorporation into the Safeguarding agenda. The article, however, argues that fear of radicalization does not create a new moral universal. Democracy involves a struggle to influence parliament both in expanding the suffrage in the 19th century and in the contemporary discussion of political power. Prevent’s insistence on the importance of democracy, while denying the contestation of ideas which is integral to the working of a democracy, further evacuates the concept. Democracy is described as separate from the struggles that created it, a ‘value’ that everyone shares, rather than a means by which the majority can struggle to construct policy.

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