Cameron’s multicultural speech sparks fury

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron was accused of stoking extremism today, after he delivered a speech on the failure of multiculturalism during an EDL march.

Mr Cameron used his first keynote speech on the topic yesterday to blame home grown terrorism on the laissez-faire system of British immigration, where groups can live in enclosed ghettos without signing up to mainstream British social life.

But the fact that Mr Cameron was speaking as a rally of 3,000 English Defence League (EDL) activists gathered in Luton prompted outrage from many commentators, who said it could be interpreted as support for the march.

Former home secretary Jack Straw, who has previously landed himself in hot water for comments on the burkha and Muslim sex attackers, said the speech was “ill-timed” and “ill-judged”.

“It is unwise that he did not take the opportunity to reject extremism in all its forms, including that of the EDL,” said Gerry Sutcliffe, shadow Home Office minister.

Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said: “The prime minister chose to deliver his speech on a day when the extremists of the English Defence League will be marching on Luton to sow discord amongst our communities.

“We find it very disappointing that at a time when we should seek to stand together to fight violence and extremism, Mr Cameron omits any reference to this extremist group spreading hate and bigotry against British Muslims in towns and cities up and down this country.

“Such a flagrant omission by the prime minister adds fuel to fire for such extremists to further stigmatise and alienate entire communities based on their religion or ethnicity.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation added: “The speech by British prime minister David Cameron fails to tackle the stooge of the fascists EDL and the BNP.

“Singling out Muslims as he has done feeds the hysteria and paranoia about Islam and Muslims.

“On the day we see fascists marching in Luton we have seen no similar condemnation or leadership shown from the government. Only when we see true action on the fascists will confidence be restored in our politics.”

Foreign secretary William Hague defended the prime minister on the Andrew Marr programme.

“This is a prime minister giving a speech about the future of our country,” he said.

“That doesn’t have to be rescheduled because some people have chosen to march down a street that particular day.”

Meanwhile, the Tories were engaged in an unpleasant spat with Labour after Tory party chairman Baroness Warsi demanded shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan took back his comments on the speech.

“For Sadiq Khan to smear the prime minister as a right wing extremist is outrageous and irresponsible,” she said.

“Mr Khan is Labour’s shadow justice secretary and ran Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign. He must apologise, and Mr Miliband needs urgently to disown his colleague’s baseless accusation.”

Asked about Mr Khan’s statement on Sky News today, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “I think that we have always got to fight against extremism, it’s also right to challenge non-violent extremism as well.

“I do think the prime minister was unwise not to make it clearer that he was criticising all kinds of extremism and so on the day of course that we had the English Defence League march he could have made it clearer that he was criticising extremism among EDL members.”