Priti Patel leaves Downing Street after being made home secretary

PM warned against seeking ‘short-term tactical advantage’ on extremism definition

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has been warned against seeking “short-term tactical advantage” when it come to extremism, as the communities secretary, Michael Gove, prepares to announce the government’s new definition.

Gove’s new definition of extremism will classify individuals or groups as extremist if they seek to undermine Britain’s system of liberal democracy. 

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Gove said: “The definition will … give practitioners more specificity on the ideologies, behaviour and groups of concern to support vital counter-radicalisation work”.

The communities secretary will instruct ministers and officials to cut off contact with groups or individuals who breach the new.

However, former Conservative home secretaries Priti Patel, Sajid Javid and Amber Rudd are among signatories to a joint statement warning about the risks of politicising anti-extremism.

The statement, first published in The Guardian, was also signed by Neil Basu, the former head of counter-terrorism policing, ex-head of the army General Lord Dannatt and social cohesion adviser Dame Sara Khan.

Former Labour MPs Lord Walney, now the Government’s adviser on political violence, and antisemitism adviser Lord Mann also backed the call.

The statement reads: “Keeping citizens safe is the first responsibility of government. So dealing with extremism is essential given the real threats from Islamist extremists, far right extremists and others.

“It requires as broad a consensus as possible if we are to be successful in marginalising and defeating it.

“In the run up to a general election it’s particularly important that that consensus is maintained and that no political party uses the issue to seek short term tactical advantage.

“We urge the Labour Party and the Conservative Party to work together to build a shared understanding of extremism and a strategy to prevent it that can stand the test of time, no matter which party wins an election.

“Our country is most effective in tackling extremism when it does it together.”

Election of George Galloway is ‘beyond alarming’ – Rishi Sunak’s speech on extremism in full

Earlier this month, Rishi Sunak warned that there were “forces here at home trying to tear us apart” in a speech outside No 10 Downing Street.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, appeared to endorse Sunak’s comments, saying: “The prime minister is right to advocate unity and to condemn the unacceptable and intimidatory behaviour that we have seen recently.”

The full list of signatories to the above-statement include:

  • Neil Basu, QPM Former head of counter terrorism policing 
  • Rt Hon Amber Rudd Former home secretary 
  • The Lord Dannatt GCB, CBE, MC Former chief of the general staff 
  • Brendan Cox Co-founder of Survivors Against Terror 
  • Lord Walney Government advisor on political violence and disruption 
  • Rt Hon Priti Patel Former home secretary 
  • Lord Mann Independent advisor to the government on anti-semitism 
  • Dame Sara Khan Government independent advisor for social cohesion 
  • Dame Louise Casey DBE, CB Former reviewer of Social Cohesion 
  • Rt Hon Prof John Denham Former communities secretary and chair of the home affairs select committee 
  • Sir Sajid Javid Former home secretary and chancellor 
  • Sunder Katwala Director of British Future is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.