CONTEST 2: Content is fine – communication is key

I am watching a video clip of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary on the Politics Show . It is one of the worst interviews the Home Secretary has ever done. I am hoping that if the Home Secretary is on Radio 4 tomorrow it is 110 per cent better. The BBC’s Jon Sopel asked basic questions which left the Home Secretary floundering. None of her answers were articulated in a way that allowed her to get her key messages across.

One of the most simple (but important) lines I would suggest the Home Secretary begins with is to contrast the first CONTEST strategy with the new one. Specifically,  the Home Secretary should point out that in the past the Government had had to focus resources on the Pursue and Protect strands (because it needed to) while the new CONTEST strategy focuses on the Prevent and Prepare strands (obviously explaining the 4Ps in the process) – by tackling the causes of violent extremism by working together with communities across the UK.

I am assuming that the ‘60,000 people being trained to deal with an incident’  that the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister refer to, are the fruits of Project ARGUS:

Project ARGUS is a National Counter Terrorism Security Office initiative, exploring ways to aid you in preventing, handling and recovering from a terrorist attack. It achieves this by taking businesses through a simulated terrorist attack. The simulation (on a DVD) identifies the measures to take for preventing, handling and recovering from a terrorist attack. This simulation provides you with a unique opportunity to both learn from and contribute to valuable lessons helping to protect you, your business and your community, whether you are a national chain or a small business.

The second CONTEST strategy has taken months of hard work and reflects input from Government departments, the police, communities, and organisations across the UK. Let’s hope the Home Office and No.10 communicate it in such a way that the new strategy neither alerts or alarms but instead describes the Government’s approach and direction of travel. At least the Home Office is without Tony (three 9/11s) McNulty – this is a good thing.

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About Charlie Edwards

Charlie Edwards is Director of National Security and Resilience Studies at the Royal United Services Institute. Prior to RUSI he was a Research Leader at the RAND Corporation focusing on Defence and Security where he conducted research and analysis on a broad range of subject areas including: the evaluation and implementation of counter-violent extremism programmes in Europe and Africa, UK cyber strategy, European emergency management, and the role of the internet in the process of radicalisation. He has undertaken fieldwork in Iraq, Somalia, and the wider Horn of Africa region.