Mark Rowley, who is just stepping down as the country’s chief counterterrorism officer, is a classic British policeman of the best sort — a low-key, quietly amusing, naturally moderate professional who does not play political games. He became something of a hero (not a word he would endorse) for his cool handling of last year’s atrocities.
On Monday night, he delivered the Cramphorn Memorial Lecture at Policy Exchange, firmly entrenching the understanding which the British authorities were too long loth to recognise, that extremism — even when not itself violent — is a necessary condition for Islamist violence to develop. On one point, however, I felt Mr Rowley did not convince. He warned, justifiably, that right-wing terrorism is on the rise. In doing so, however — perhaps in the interests of ‘balance’ — he set up an equivalence between Islamist terrorism and right-wing terrorism which does not exist, although morally there is little to choose between them. The non-equivalence is that the first is so very much more formidable, global, well financed and politically connected than the second. Where, in Britain, are the right-wing equivalent of extremist mosques, giving livelihoods to bad actors, often funded from abroad? Where are the suicide bombers and their mentors? And where are the powerful fellow travellers?
In November, Mr Corbyn attended a parliamentary meeting organised by the extremist Muslim group MEND (which Mr Rowley says contributes to the ‘chronic threat’ we face). Also present was Chief Superintendent Dave Stringer, head of Community Engagement for the Met. It is unimaginable that Mr Corbyn (or any mainstream politician) or Mr Stringer would give their friendly blessing to a meeting run by Britain First or comparable right-wing corpuscle. The far right have no friends at court, thank goodness. The same cannot be said of the Islamists.