“You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.”*
On 13th July, 2016,Theresa May told us where we’re going:
“…we believe in the Union: the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and something else that is just as important; it means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom but between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we’re from.
That means fighting against the burning injustice that,
- If you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others.
- If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.
- If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university.
- If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately.
- If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand.
- If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home.
But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying a mortgage. You can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.”
Notwithstanding all this fine talk of social justice and mobility, what has our new Prime Minister actually done in the past few years?
In 2015, May was busy ratcheting up anti-EU sentiment in a fiery anti-immigrant speech, saying that it is “impossible to build a cohesive society” where there is immigration. She also introduced a £200 annual “immigrant health surcharge” for those in possession of work visas. This means that, because the NHS is funded by general taxation, immigrants who are fit and healthy enough to have received a job offer are being double-charged for healthcare, even though study after study shows that working-age immigrants are healthier and draw from the NHS far less than those born in the UK.
In 2016, May set the minimum salary for immigrants who have already lived in the UK for five years to £35,000, if they simply want to continue to do so. These are people who have spent five years paying taxes, doing their jobs, and integrating into the country. The Home Office itself admitted that the health and education sectors, among others, will be adversely impacted by this new salary threshold as it is implemented. Many of them work in our NHS and schools. Both sectors already face staff shortages, staff retention issues and falling morale.
If her record on immigration fails to send a chill down your spine, then consider one of May’s very first acts in her role as Home Secretary: in 2010, she ensured that public bodies no longer had to actively try to reduce inequality. Readers of this site will know that I am convinced that growing inequality is the single greatest cause of our current problems, including Brexit.
This departure from a key tenet of the Equality Act was not an isolated step; three years later, May expressed her disdain for the Human Rights Act, telling the Sunday Telegraph that she “personally” felt that it had caused problems in the UK. For this author, it was one of the proudest moment’s of my career to provide research that encouraged the adoption of this act in the UK. With trades unions discredited and institutions increasingly privatised, what else will protect citizens from the invasions of an increasingly suspicious state and a greedier than ever private sector?
To the dismay of her party, May spent late April 2016 – the eleventh hour of the EU referendum campaign – saying that the UK should leave the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), contradicting other Tory MPs and forcing Downing Street to clarify that the Remain campaign was not pushing for this extreme measure. Other Tories came out to say that this opinion was untenable, since the ECHR is a prerequisite for membership in the EU. The point here is that May was advocating this step before the Referendum.
Is May really a Remainer, or a closet Leaver? Either way, by staying silent through much of the campaign, she was playing as personal and political a game as Boris Johnson.
She reminds me of one of those severe characters in English novels, who mysteriously appear in the life of a household as a tutor or housekeeper and then take complete control of all the other characters. May has a tone of correction in her voice, absolutely no interest in small talk and, once she has made up her mind, does not back down.
During the first part of this century, the British have been busily exporting democracy to the people of Iraq who never knew they wanted it, and then a few years later, repatriating democracy to the Westminster Parliament. In the process, they have helped bring chaos to one continent and now threaten a similar upheaval to another.
It is difficult to see the entire British political class with anything other than scorn at the moment, millions of people have suffered or will suffer because of their actions, both Iraq and the EU referendum were entirely unnecessary. Just today the Times and the Guardian, no political partners, lambast Cameron for the failure of planning that describes his Libyan intervention, leaving a chaotic war-torn country. Another failure of our deluded, elitist political class. Such is their fear of criticism on Brexit that they are going to keep the EU negotiations ‘secret’ so that their amateurism and blunders are concealed until its too late.
And in the future? Coming events will be supervised by a woman of no political legitimacy, who has not won a general election and who has been notoriously anti-immigrant during her time as Home Secretary. As Home Secretary she dispatched a series of vans around Britain telling undocumented migrants to “go home or face arrest”.
In 2015 she made a widely-criticised speech in which she referred to some EU immigrants as criminals.
Disproportionality is usually a sign of ideology at work.
Have you wondered what has happened to the 48% who voted Remain? Who were they? Where are their views represented, discussed, analysed for the undoubted nuggets of wisdom contained in the views of more than 16 million people.
They are strangely invisible. Almost as if they have disappeared, overwhelmed by the small majority who wanted to Leave. Leaving power in the hands of unelected ideologues with known biases against ‘others’. We are much closer to the mainstream fascism that is re-emerging in parts of Europe than we realise.
*[This is a variant of the quote attributed to George Santayana-“Those who are unaware of history are destined to repeat it.”]