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DEMOS - UK PM Cameron to fast-track new legislation to tackle radicalisation

Just days after celebrating an unexpected general election victory David Cameron told a closed door meeting of the National Security council that new anti-radicalisation measures were needed.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron announced recently that he will fast-track new legislation to tackle radicalisation.

Just days into his new government, he told a meeting of the National Security Council that the UK had been a "passively tolerant society for too long" and that "poisonous" extremist ideology must be confronted. The new laws will include new immigration rules, powers to close down premises used by extremists and banning orders.

These measures to protect so-called British values and ban hate speech, were proposed by the former coalition government earlier this year but Mr Cameron failed to secure the support of the Liberal Democrats. 

Now with a parliamentary majority, the legislation is being given priority. It comes amid concern about fears of an attack on British soil and the number of young British Muslims that have joined the Islamic State (IS) fighting in Syria and Iraq. Among them is Briton Mohammed Emwazi, also known as “Jihad John”, who became the public face of IS executions.

The proposed measures are a follow on from the Counter Terrorism and Security Act, which was passed earlier this year giving police specific powers to deal with individuals hoping to travel to join extremist groups.

"We believe that more than 500 British nationals have travelled to Syria and Iraq, many of them to fight,” said Theresa May, British Home Secretary, in November 2014. “And they've been joined by people, not totalling thousands, from other European and Western countries."

Now the government wants new banning orders for extremists and their organisations with the ability to monitor those suspected of promoting hate speech. It is not clear whether these new proposed laws will face legal challenges on the grounds of freedom of speech but they are being seen as a change in focus by the government. 

Some doubt they will be effective.

"A worrying number of young people who are taking up extremist and very radical ideas,” said Jamie Bartlett, Head of Violence and Extremism, Demos Think Tank. “But I don't think that you tackle the problem right at the very end, you need to tackle it earlier. 

“And I don't think you tackle it by disrupting groups that propose the ideas, propose hateful language, hateful speech, or those who are vocal in their opposition - for example - to democratic values. I think the better way is to try to encourage a more integrated society."

The proposed legislation has also sparked a debate about what are British values and whether these can be imposed through legislation.

There is a fine balance between civil liberties and national security and some fear the proposed legislation is likely to tip that balance against freedom of speech and association.  But this is a high priority for Mr Cameron's government and is likely to pass through parliament now that he commands a majority. 

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