Nick Clegg yesterday moved to highlight his disagreements with David Cameron over multiculturalism and how to tackle Islamic extremism in Britain. In a speech designed to appeal to his party's base ahead of next week's spring conference, and to differentiate the Liberal Democrats from their Conservative partners, Mr Clegg said he believed that multiculturalism should be the hallmark of "an open, confident, society".
Last month, Mr Cameron warned that a "doctrine of state multiculturalism" had encouraged different cultures to lead separate lives. He also called for a stronger assertion of British national identity.
Aides to Mr Clegg said there were policy tensions between the men over the review of the Government's Prevent strategy to counter Islamic extremism. Mr Clegg is unhappy about Mr Cameron's pledge not to give public money to groups if they do not endorse women's rights or promote integration. Mr Cameron also suggested immigrants to Britain must speak English and schools will be expected to teach the UK's country's common culture.
Downing Street said Mr Cameron had seen Mr Clegg's speech where the Liberal Democrat leader said it should be possible in a liberal society to welcome diversity while continuing to resist segregation. "Multiculturalism has to be seen as a process by which people respect and communicate with each other, rather than build walls between each other," he will say. "Welcoming diversity but resisting division: that's the kind of multiculturalism of an open, confident society."
Mr Clegg said it was important to continue to engage. "You don't win a fight by leaving the ring," he will say. "You get in and win." Mr Clegg chose to make his speech in Luton, now associated with the Islamist al Muhajiroun group and the far-right English Defence League. But Mr Clegg will say the town was also the home of some of the "most vibrant" campaigns against racism, extremism, and Islamophobia.
He added that it was important to distinguish between violent and non-violent extremism. "If we are truly confident about the strength of our liberal values we should be confident about their ability to defeat the inferior arguments of our opponents," he will add.
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