May’s last dance

Theresa May has announced that she will finally be leaving on 7 June. She has epitomised the ‘nasty party’ she once criticised.

Photo via flickr.

Theresa May has finally announced that she will be leaving on 7 June. This will still give her time to hold hands with Donald Trump one last time when he comes on his state visit to the UK next week. It will be a fitting last act.

When appointed as Tory Party chair in 2002 she warned that the party was widely seen as ‘unrepentant, just plain unattractive’, and widely called ‘the nasty party’. But the politician who denounced her colleagues for ‘demonising minorities’ in 2002 went on as Home Secretary in David Cameron’s governments, and then as Prime Minister to persecute migrants, Muslims and ethnic minorities with the hostile environment and the Prevent agenda.

In 2013 she sent racist vans touring the country with the slogan ‘Go home or face arrest’. The 2014 Immigration Act and subsequent regulations have made it harder and harder for migrants and people of colour to access healthcare in the UK. Even after the lives claimed and destroyed by the Windrush scandal she refused to apologise.

Theresa May spoke of ‘burning injustice’ in her first speech as Prime Minister in 2016, and she referred to it again today. But it is her government that has been responsible for compounding the burning injustices that she acknowledged were faced by the poor, by people of colour, by women, by people with mental health problems, and by the young. Her government’s continued commitment to rolling out universal credit while admitting it has led to an increase in people using food banks says all that needs to be said about her approach to ‘burning injustice’.

On the day Theresa May finally announced her departure (Friday 24 May), young people were striking around the world for the climate. Theresa May has accused the school strikers of ‘wasting time‘ – but it is of course her government that has not only wasted time to deal with climate change, but acted to intensify the climate catastrophe, pushing for airport expansion and attempting to force fracking on local communities.

May’s final resignation has been brought about by her inability to resolve the Brexit deadlock. May herself did not play a prominent role in the Brexit referendum in 2016, but she did make her position clear: Brexit would be bad for business. Back in April 2016 she said:

If we do vote to leave the European Union, we risk bringing the development of the single market to halt, we risk a loss of investors and businesses to remaining EU member states driven by discriminatory EU polices, and we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade.

After the vote for Brexit in the 2016 referendum, May changed her tune. She has been caught between the warring wings of her own party, and unable to win support from other political parties. But the one consistent element of her policy has been to attempt to organise support for her particular brand of compromised departure from the EU on the basis of hostility to migrants and denunciations of political opponents as threats to national unity.

In 2017, she accused the other political parties of failing to unite behind the government’s Brexit plans: ‘The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.’ When promise to provide ‘strong and stable leadership’ was rejected by the electorate, she turned to the sectarian DUP.

Theresa May is not a politician in the mould of Donald Trump. She is a far more traditional representative of the ‘unrepentant, just plain unattractive’ brand of British conservatism she once claimed to reject. But the suffering caused by her policies in government, and her opportunistic flirtation with politics of the hard right give us good reason to cheer her final departure.

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