Rishi Sunak tasks Michael Gove to broaden the UK’s extremism definition, potentially encompassing independence campaigners. The move sparks concerns about stifling dissent and targeting groups critical of the government.

I t seems that we are all extremists now; Rishi Sunak has asked Levelling Up Secretary, the oleaginous Michael Gove, to update the Government’s definition of extremism so it has a much broader scope, encompassing those who “undermine” British values and institutions.

The change is expected to be announced later this month and is expected to include a list of groups that fall foul of the new definition. Independence campaigners have warned that this broad definition could encompass those seeking Scottish and Welsh independence and the reunification of Ireland, or anti-monarchy campaigners.

Those of us who want an independent Scottish state or who seek to replace the parasitical money grabbing nonce defending Windsor clan with a republic are by definition engaged in “undermining” British institutions and could very well find ourselves branded as extremists by a political party which has fully embraced an intolerant and xenophobic form of right-wing populist Anglo-British nationalism.

We live in a British state where a party that shamelessly denies Scottish democracy, suppresses legitimate protest, hands out licences to develop more oil and gas production, defends war crimes and genocide perpetrated by Israel in Gaza, neuters attempts to hold it accountable, blatantly lies and is shockingly corrupt, insists that those of us who seek a strong democracy, political accountability, action on climate change and a reduction in inequality are dangerous extremists. The irony meter is well and truly broken.


In a move which smacks of the McCarthy era in 1950s America, the UK government is creating a “blacklist” of organisations under this new definition of extremism. Several Muslim groups are likely to be on the list after being singled out in government reports. The groups facing the measures as part of Communities Secretary Michael Gove’s extremism review would be banned from receiving public funds, engaging with government agencies and appearing at university campuses.

The largest Muslim group in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), as well as Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and Palestine Action have been named in the media as earmarked for inclusion. The Muslim Council for Britain Charitable Foundations last year received £326,000 from Kickstart, a government scheme to get young people into work. The Ministry of Defence separately cut ties with the group itself.


In a move which appears to show that Scottish and Welsh independence and Irish reunification organisations and individuals could be targeted too, recently Kemi Badenoch, the Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade intervened to block Irish language republican hip hop band Kneecap from receiving a £15,000 government grant. The band had applied for funding under the Music Export Growth Scheme (MEGS), a government-backed initiative which offers grants of up to £50,000 to UK-registered music companies to promote artists in overseas markets.

An independent selection board had approved the grant, but the band claimed they were told that their 2019 tour entitled “Farewell to the Union” had angered the Conservatives. Those approved for grant awards must be given the go-ahead by the UK Department of Business and Trade. A spokesperson for Badenoch said the government did not want to hand taxpayers’ money “to people that oppose the United Kingdom itself.”

Those of us who want Scottish or Welsh independence or Irish reunification are ourselves UK taxpayers, and as long as we remain such, we should not be discriminated against by the British Government for our political beliefs and deprived of opportunities open to any other UK taxpayer.

Colum Eastwood MP, leader of the Social Democratic And Labour Party, one of the parties supporting Irish reunification, condemned Badenoch’s decision, saying: “It is highly irregular for a Secretary Of State to intervene to overturn the decision of an independent assessment board to award funding to an artist on the basis of their political aspirations.”

He added: “Not only that, but Badenoch blocking the grant could be a breach of the British government’s obligations under the Good Friday Agreement.”

The Agreement was signed as part of the Northern Ireland peace process in 1998, and includes “a commitment to exercise power on the basis of parity of esteem between communities in the North.”

A spokesperson for the band said that they have decided to take legal action to challenge Badenoch’s decision. As Irish republicans, Kneecap have protections offered by the Good Friday Agreement which are not available to supporters of Scottish and Welsh independence. We are fully exposed to the authoritarian hypocrisies of the Conservative Party.


This move comes in the wake of George (the ego in a fedora – Does he think we don’t know he’s bald? As a fellow baldie, George, get a grip) Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election last week.

Following Galloway’s victory in Rochdale, Rishi Sunak took to his podium in Downing Street to warn that the growing influence of divisive extremism in British politics poses a threat to democracy. Well, quite.

The Conservative Party has been taken over by extreme right-wing authoritarian democracy deniers who imposed the hardest possible Brexit on a deeply divided UK with zero concessions to that half of the populace who voted remain and which has cracked down severely on the right to protest while introducing voter ID vote suppression measures straight out of the US Republican playbook.

— Following Galloway’s victory in Rochdale, Rishi Sunak took to his podium in Downing Street.

Now Sunak’s government is passing reality-defying laws in order to deport vulnerable people to a violent African dictatorship, all in the name of throwing red meat to a noisy and vociferous extreme right-wing media which peddles conspiracy theories and stokes up hatred against minority groups.

Oh, wait. What? It’s not THAT sort of extremism that’s the problem? It’s only people protesting against war crimes, the monarchy, the devastation of the climate, and possibly in the future, those campaigning for Scottish and Welsh independence who are problematic.

Far-right British nationalist authoritarianism is just fine and dandy because according to the Tory party, who are, of course, even-handed arbiters of such things, that’s neither far-right nor authoritarian nor nationalist, because it’s merely red-blooded patriotically British common sense; and Sunak’s announcement was not in fact just another manifestation of the authoritarian far-right intolerance which has taken over the Tory party.

Phew! Glad that’s been cleared up, then.

I’m happy to be called an extremist by these democracy British nationalist-denying shysters.

PMP Magazine

GOING FURTHER




Sources:

▪ This piece was first published in Wee Ginger Dug and re-published in PMP Magazine on 9 March 2024 under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence. | The author writes in a personal capacity.
Cover: Flickr/Number 10. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)
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