‘Radicalisation threat is spreading’

In his 31 years in the House of Commons, Peter Bottomley has seen a host of conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. But the youngest member of the Conservative Party admits that he has never witnessed such unrest in the UK. “Attacks on our brave men and women in uniform are not isolated acts of treachery in the war on terror, they are part of a depressing and increasingly widespread crisis,” says the 61-year-old in an article published by the BBC’s World at One. “How will our government respond? Will it provide security for its citizens? Or will it fail to confront and challenge the hatred that is driving people to violence?” Over the last year, Dr Bottomley has been exploring the link between education and violence. First, he looked at a survey of Asian students in London and Edinburgh. These found that while Asian students were well educated, they still had high levels of hostile and aggressive attitudes towards students of other races. The researchers concluded that Asian students, given choices, would rather take a job with less challenging tasks and less responsibility than a decent job. Dr Bottomley is also concerned about the many young people who are denied access to educational opportunities by the system. In his book, Road Not Taken, he describes how institutionalised racism denied black and ethnic minority students a fair chance at a university education. Dr Bottomley, who is also an obstetrician and gynaecologist by profession, says that in Canada, a nation which has a large proportion of its population being born abroad, all babies are guaranteed a university place. This is not the case in Britain, and he worries that this, combined with concerns about immigrants’ rights and employment, could result in a general decline in university participation rates, which are already very low. ‘Ignorant discourse’ In response to this, the Conservative MP for Peterborough and chairman of the Government White Paper Committee believes that the fight against radicalisation and rejection of violent extremism must be proactive. “The wars we are fighting should not remain the work of specialists,” he says. “It should be an urgent priority for everyone involved in the fight against terrorism, and perhaps on the agenda of a government and parliament which is faced with the greatest threat to national security ever faced.” What has to be demonstrated to the nation is how dangerous it is to resort to things like hate sites or bomb hoaxes

Peter Bottomley “At the moment, we have inadequate guidance that helps young people understand the problem and take the right action,” he says. “Most schools have a policy that doesn’t deal with extreme intolerance and violent intolerance, and that isn’t good enough. What is needed is a nuanced approach which is neutral and good. “What has to be demonstrated to the nation is how dangerous it is to resort to things like hate sites or bomb hoaxes – which are useful in mobilising support – but all this goes only so far and causes less harm than things that cannot be counteracted with violence. “Why hasn’t the government commissioned research into the effect of hate sites? There is a poor quality of information out there. The government seems to be handing power over to people and not accepting responsibility.” As part of his research, he has been in contact with community groups and organisations working with those at risk of becoming involved in extreme violence. He also visited counselling services in East London where he met members of the Prevent unit who were dealing with young people who were at risk of falling into violent extremism. “When the Prevent unit was set up, it was said that the courts would be there to help with what was happening, but so far this has not happened,” he says. “They would be helping in the education, social and psychological work. “As for youth workers and people who work with young people who are at risk of falling into extremism and violence, they are just too busy.” Mr Bottomley recently advised a parliamentary select committee on responses to extremism.

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