- Created: Friday, 26 August 2016 10:23
On 13 July Theresa May became the Prime Minister who will oversee Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. May’s record as Home Secretary over the past six years of Conservative government equips her alarmingly well for this task and no-one should be fooled by her Remain stance in the run-up to the Referendum; Theresa May is an unrepentant ruling class racist. Nicki Jameson reports.
May addressed the nation from outside Downing Street with a crafted speech reminiscent of Thatcher’s ‘where there is discord…’ Alongside an unambiguous commitment to the Union – not the European one but the United Kingdom – designed as a slap in the face to the Scottish National Party’s pro-EU stance and second independence referendum plans, the speech was replete with rhetoric about fighting injustice and tackling gender and race inequality, aimed directly at the constituencies of UKIP and the Labour Party.
May’s crocodile tears for the hard life of the British working class are not even a thinly-veiled cover for her party’s intention to do the opposite and continue stamping on the country’s working class and poor, with yet more cuts and austerity measures.
Dishonest though it was, May’s speech was clearly drawing a line around those who she was including in her brave new world, ie British citizens of all classes and backgrounds, as opposed to migrants to this country from the EU or outside, thus laying the ground for the job in hand of disengaging with the EU, and in particular of closing off migration to Britain from Europe.
Theresa May had been Home Secretary since the ConDem government’s election victory in 2010. Following on from some of the Labour Party’s virulently anti-working class, anti-immigrant Home Secretaries, like Jack Straw or David Blunkett, some of her first moves, such as abolishing the National Identity Card and database scheme, overturning measures on the retention of the DNA of suspects and announcing she would review the use of ASBOs, seemed to indicate a liberal tendency. However, this period was short-lived and, in the aftermath of the 2011 uprisings in English inner cities, May blamed violent gangs, asked the Crown Prosecution Service to press for the lifting of anonymity for juveniles and announced she would be widening police powers to allow forcible removal of face-coverings.
During the past six years May has presided over the deportation of thousands of people. She created 45,000 new Immigration Rules, including some designed specifically to narrow the guidance for immigration tribunals on the interpretation of Article 8 (right to family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In 2013, May oversaw the whipping up of a climate of increasing state and media racism, typified by government-sponsored vans featuring anti-immigrant ‘Go home!’ adverts. Introducing the Immigration Act 2014, she boasted of how living in Britain would now become ‘tougher for illegal immigrants’. Most of the Act has nothing to do with illegal immigration but this did not prevent her using the word ‘illegal’ every time she said ‘immigrant’ and ‘hardworking’ every time she said ‘taxpayer’.
The 2014 Act made procedures for checking the residence status of people applying for driving licences or opening bank accounts and for scrutinising marriage applications to see if they are ‘sham’, legally enforceable. Alongside this, new measures required private landlords and GPs to check the immigration status of prospective tenants/patients. The Act also sped up administrative removal of people with no legal immigration status and gave immigration officers increased powers to use force.
The 2014 Act was swiftly followed by the 2016 Act – more of the same, but harsher, with a new criminal offence of ‘illegal working’, measures to prosecute landlords and agents who fail to carry out the checks in the 2014 Act, more powers for immigration officers to search people and properties and seize documents and a reduction in the already meagre support for ‘failed asylum seekers’.
In 2015 the Islamic Human Rights Commission crowned May ‘Islamophobe of the year’. She will be remembered by many as the Home Secretary who ordered the extradition of six Muslims to the US in October 2012, presided over the enforcement of the racist ‘Prevent Duty’ and introduced the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, which places local authorities, prisons, NHS trusts and schools under a statutory duty to prevent ‘extremist radicalisation’, described as ‘vocal or active opposition to British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths...’.
Lies and contempt
However, it has not all been plain sailing. As Home Secretary, the courts ruled against May on multiple occasions; for example in 2012 she was pronounced guilty of contempt of court after refusing to release an Algerian asylum seeker from detention. The same year the Special Immigration Appeals Tribunal ordered the release of Omar Othman (Abu Qatada), whom May was desperate to deport to Jordan. She has also been caught out lying – having invented a story about a failed asylum seeker who could not be deported because he had a pet cat – and been subject to ridicule for her ‘racist vans’ project, to the point she was forced to withdraw them.
Furthermore, even on her Party’s own racist terms, May’s time as Home Secretary was not entirely successful. Despite all her detaining, deporting and bringing in yet more draconian laws, she did not manage to fulfil David Cameron’s 2011 aim of reducing net annual migration from 250,000 to 100,000 per year by the 2015 election. In fact, net migration in 2015 was 330,000. This target then remained a Conservative pledge with the 2020 election as the new deadline. However, now May is Prime Minister, she and new Home Secretary Amber Rudd are speaking only of a reduction to ‘sustainable levels’. What they mean by ‘sustainable’ is far from clear, but what is certain is that government under May will continue to wreck the lives of refugees, asylum seekers, low-paid migrant workers and their families.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 252 August/September 2016