‘Catch-all extremism policy is waste of time’, says former Cabinet MP

A former Cabinet Minister has called for the Government to ‘reset’ its extremism policy, after concerns were raised by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Liam Byrne MP, a former Home Office Minister and Chief Secretary of the Treasury under Gordon Brown’s Government, said the heart of the Government’s counter-extremism policy has to change.

In recent months, groups including The Christian Institute have raised serious fears over the Government’s definition of extremism, arguing that it is so widely drawn it could criminalise Christians.

False notion

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Byrne said “we need a reset of extremism policy”.

He added “we have got to drop what’s at the heart of the Government’s policy, which is this notion there’s a conveyor belt between religious piety and violent extremism.

we need a reset of extremism policy

Liam Byrne MP

“This is provoking them to try and define extremism in a way that is so broad even the Archbishop of Canterbury says that he would be criminalised by it.

“So, I think this is a fruitless exercise, I think it’s a waste of time just at the moment when we don’t have time to waste.”

’Religious illiteracy’

Earlier this month, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the Government has a seriously flawed view of extremism that places Christians alongside extreme Muslim groups.

Criticising ministers and civil servants for “religious illiteracy”, he said many assume conservative Christian believers are “a bit bonkers”.

He then described a conversation with a politician who questioned what could be wrong with the Government’s British values drive.


The “very senior politician” said, “are you seriously going to tell me that I don’t call someone an extremist if they say that their faith is more important than the rule of law?”

He responded: “Well, you’ve got a real problem here because for me personally my faith is more important than the rule of law so you’ve got an extremist sitting in here with you.”

The Institute is continuing to monitor the Government’s approach to extremism and in particular, plans to introduce Extremism Disruption Orders, and to regulate out-of-school settings.

To find out more, visit our Extremism page.

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