The 2024 General Election Manifestos on the Prevent Duty and Extremism

In a guest post, Rebecca Riedel of Cardiff Law School looks at what the various manifestos say about tackling terrorism and extremism.

The Prevent Duty, placed on a statutory footing in 2015 by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, makes it the responsibility of “specified authorities” (the police, schools,  prisons and universities, for example) to have due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism. Although the statutory provision makes no explicit reference to religion, the Prevent Duty has become directly associated with religion: it is in place primarily to target Islamist terrorism.

The Prevent Duty is designed to prevent individuals from becoming “radicalised”: that is, to prevent them from embarking on the path towards becoming terrorists. The Duty is therefore an integral part of counter-extremism efforts in the UK. However, it would be an understatement to describe Prevent as divisive; it has been the subject of much academic debate and public discussion for years. For example, Prevent has been described as unfairly targeting the Muslim community, discriminative on the grounds of religion, and dealing inadequately with cases of radicalisation. Prevent has received plenty of attention from the Government over the last couple of years, too. It has fallen subject to a review, received updated guidance, and has a shiny new definition of “extremism” attached to it. For these reasons, it is worth keeping an eye on the topic throughout the 2024 General Election campaign manifestos and beyond.

Turning to the manifestos, the Conservative Party plans to counter extremism as part of its plan to “protect our streets”, and it will do so by suppressing the right to protest. The Conservative Party will continue its fight to “curb disruptive protests” and strengthen police power, despite growing concerns. The Party believes that protests are linked to the ideologies associated with terrorism and extremism, which is what the Prevent Duty and numerous counter-terrorism offences already seek to target. The Conservatives’ focus on the right to protest is unsurprising following the most recent review of the Prevent Duty, which included emphasis on activist groups whose views do not align with the Prevent programme. Although these activist groups would unlikely be caught by the definition of terrorism, it is worth questioning whether engaging in harmless protest and activism would be unjustly targeted by the new definition of extremism.

The Conservative Party references its new definition of extremism in its manifesto, suggesting that it was unveiled as an attempt to prevent “a small and vocal minority [from destroying] our democratic values”. The new definition is lengthy, and very similar to the legal definition of terrorism. It states that “extremism” means the “promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance” that seeks to “1) negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” or “2) undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights” or, finally, to “intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in 1) or 2)”. On the plus side, it has shed its controversial reference to “British values”. Overall, however, the definition appears more vague than before. The introduction of the definition is explicitly referenced in the Conservative Party’s Manifesto as evidence of the party’s attempt to prevent protests “used as a cover for extremist disruption and criminality”.

The Conservative Party, whilst pledging against religious hatred, states that the Prevent Duty will remain firmly in place. It writes that it will not tolerate antisemitic or anti-Muslim hatred “in any form”.

The Green Party, on the other end of the spectrum, promises that it will “scrap” the Prevent Duty. Although the Prevent Duty has been described as being systematically used to unduly target the Muslim community, merely “scrapping” it would be unhelpful. Individuals will continue to become involved with terrorism after the Duty has been removed, so it is important to consider what would take its place.

Although Labour does not address the Prevent Duty explicitly, it does promise to update rules surrounding counter-extremism to prevent individuals from being drawn towards terrorist ideology. It is unclear how this will be achieved; it appears that the Party has yet to make firm plans. Labour also pledges to introduce “Martyn’s Law” to improve security in the face of terror attacks, a promise that will be welcomed by many. The law will make it a requirement for certain venues, dependant on their capacity, to put in place plans to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack.

The Liberal Democrats take a similar approach, pledging to provide funding to institutions, including places of worship, for protective security measures in the face of terrorist attacks. There is no mention of any pledge to work towards preventing such attacks by tackling extremist ideology, however.

Reform UK’s ‘Contract’ is perhaps as to be expected, and takes the opposite approach. Unsurprisingly, the Party uses extremism and terrorism as a scaremongering tactic, claiming that upholding “British values” will deter “extremist forces. Although the Prevent Duty is not mentioned by name, extremism is mentioned as part of a pledge to “reclaim Britain”. Terrorists are grouped together with “foreign criminals” by the Party.

There is a common misconception that the threat from terrorism is predominantly international; so-called “homegrown” terrorism is the greatest threat facing the UK at this time. It is therefore surprising that the Liberal Democrats also appear to view terrorism as an international issue. They pledge to strengthen “cooperation with our European neighbours” to “tackle” extremism from overseas.

It is evident that the parties who have the strongest visions for the Prevent Duty will unlikely be in power by July. However, the Labour Party’s Manifesto is suitably vague on the topic. Countering extremism, therefore, and the future of the Prevent Duty, is absolutely something to keep an eye on.

Rebecca Riedel


Cite this article as: Rebecca Riedel “The 2024 General Election Manifestos on the Prevent Duty and Extremism” in Law & Religion UK, 20 June 2024,

One thought on “The 2024 General Election Manifestos on the Prevent Duty and Extremism

  1. “It states that “extremism” means the “promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance” that seeks to “1) negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others” “.

    I think it unfortunate that ‘intolerance’ is included. Wouldn’t ‘hatred’ suffice?
    If I say that I think that, biblically, same-sex marriage is wrong, it doesn’t mean that i hate those who are so married or that I cannot tolerate them.

    I accept that the new (March 2024) definition of extremism footnote states:
    This phrase is found consistently in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; see for example Perinçek v Switzerland (App. 27510/08). “Intolerance” in the context of the definition is closely linked with “violence” and “hatred” and is intended to mean (and is to be applied to mean) an actively repressive approach rather than simply a strong opposition or dislike.

    But in the real everyday world there is a risk that if you express such views on same sex marriage you will be branded as an extremist by some who disagree with you.

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