Rishi Sunak is 'losing the campaign' says Michael Portillo
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Plans were announced by the Tory leadership candidate yesterday to crack down on terrorism in the UK. The former Chancellor vowed to “do whatever it takes” in order to keep Britons safe.
He said: “There is no more important duty for a Prime Minister than keeping our country and our people safe.
“Whether redoubling our efforts to tackle Islamist extremism or rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country, I will do whatever it takes to fulfil that duty.
“Britain is a beacon of freedom, tolerance and diversity.
“We must never let those who seek to undermine and destroy our way of life to succeed.”
Mr Sunak’s campaign said the Richmond MP believed “extremists do not just want to attack our values, but our very existence”.
They said he would change the definition of extremism if in No10 to ensure that “vilification of the United Kingdom” was included.
The plans have caused panic among some who are demanding a new Scottish independence referendum, with fears that the new, loose definition will lead to them being persecuted as well.
Dr Maria Norris, an assistant professor in international relations at Coventry University, told The National: “Those who are arguing for and campaigning for Scottish independence or Welsh independence or Irish reunification, they do want the United Kingdom to stop existing as it currently is.
“So is this going to be a form of extremism as well?”
“I think it is not a coincidence this is the language that is being used – they talk about extremists attacking the UK as a country, of its very existence as a country,” she added.
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“I have been researching UK counter-terrorism for decades, I am an expert on terrorism and extremism and this is not something you see from Islamic terrorism.
“They are not attacking the UK’s right to exist or anything like that, the whole thing about attacking the country’s very existence – that is about separatism and independence, so it is a very deliberate inclusion.
“It is an attack, really, on those that are campaigning for independence.”
Anne McLaughlin, the SNP’s shadow justice spokeswoman in Westminster, accused the Tory hopeful of “pandering to right-wing” with his proposals.
She said: “These dangerous and ill-thought-out proposals from Rishi Sunak are yet another reminder of the depths to which this toxic Tory leadership race has sunk.
“Rather than pandering to right-wing Tory backbenchers and party members, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss should be more focused on the fact that people across these islands are facing the most horrendous rise in the cost of living most of us have ever seen and it’s under their watch.”
Mr Sunak’s campaign said the new extremism definition would not impact those criticising the Government or its policies.
They added that it would not be a legally binding definition.
Extremism is currently defined in the 2011 Prevent strategy as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and belief”.
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