Back in 2002, as Chair of the Tory Party, Theresa May warned that many branded them as the Nasty Party. Well, here we are, fourteen years later, and May is PM. And what’s happening? Not only has she reinforced the Tories as the Nasty Party, but she’s overseeing a rapid descent of the UK into the Nasty Country.
Nasty Party Revisited
It started again under David Cameron’s leadership. We had a constant demonising of the victims of the 2008 collapse of free market economics – the poor, immigrants and disabled. George Osborne as Chancellor picked on those on benefits to suffer the harshest public spending cuts. This was because he cynically calculated it would be electorally popular.
May herself, as Home Secretary, lied that immigrants do not benefit the economy, despite the fact that every academic study into this has proven the opposite. Last year, Britain stood aloof from its fellow EU countries and opted out of the agreement to share asylum seekers amongst EU member states. Then, Britain has dragged its heels on taking unaccompanied migrant children under the terms of the Dubs amendment. More recently still, President Hollande of France criticised Britain for not taking its fair share of the children in the Calais “jungle” camp. May dismissed his statement that we had a “moral duty” to do so.
In the past few days, under May’s leadership, Home Secretary Amber Rudd dismissed contemptuously demands from victims and their families for an inquiry into the scandalous, violent behaviour of South Yorkshire Police at Orgreave during the miners’ strike in 1984. This was after May herself had led the families to believe there would be such an enquiry. Justice denied for another group of victims of arbitrary violence by the state.
Last, and by no means least, May appointed the most divisive trio of Ministers to oversee Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. Her instinct for secrecy, so often apparent during her six years as Home Secretary, has been all too evident in her handling of so-called “Brexit” so far. Her desire to use the mediaeval relic of the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50 without giving parliament a say has been thrown out by the High Court – and rightly so. Her desire to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court shows her dictatorial instincts. Her failure to slap down the most despicable attack of the High Court judges by the right wing press speaks volumes.
May’s acceptance speech on becoming Prime Minister in July spoke of her desire to be a “one nation” leader of a government that “works for all”. Her actions since have blown that assertion to pieces as the hypocrisy which some of us always suspected.
So, what’s the wider impact of all this?
Politicians set the tone, particularly those in power. Others, often more extreme, see this as an excuse to speak and behave in ways that are very nasty indeed. The huge rise in hate crime we have seen after 23rd June was blamed by the UN on British politicians. Long-resident workers from other EU countries and minority ethnic UK-born citizens are getting more fearful of increasing abuse. Leaders from the world of art and culture, such as Martin Roth of the V&A, are leaving the country. Farmers are worried about finding enough seasonal fruit and veg pickers.
But above all, the really worrying trend is the rise in the bile and hatred coming from the usual suspects in the press. Specifically, I’m referring to the Daily Mail, Sun, Daily Express and Daily Telegraph. These are all owned by offshore, foreign or foreign-born residents or, in one case, by a man who is a pornographer and UKIP donor.
Two recent events have shown this vile quartet at their nastiest. The first was the eventual arrival of a tiny number of child migrants from Calais. Rather than welcoming them, these rags attacked them by claiming they were not children. In breach of press standards rules about showing the faces of vulnerable children, these were splashed all over their front pages unpixellated. Comedian Mark Steel was spot on in his piece in the Independent that we didn’t get the cute, cuddly ones with teddy bears we thought we’d ordered. Gary Lineker’s resignation from Match of the Day was demanded by the Sun when his tweet demonstrated some basic humanity and compassion for the Jungle children. (Two for the price of one with that one: the Sun, Mail and their ilk never pass up on a chance for a pop at the BBC.)
But, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, this week, the despicable four (Mail, Sun, Express, Telegraph) launched a savage personal attack on the High Court judges (as mentioned above). The Mail led the pack with its headline “Enemies of the People”. This piece was wrong on just about everything. Not only were there the usual misrepresentation of facts, but it was tantamount to an incitement to overthrow the rule of law. I’d known for nearly half a century that the Mail was the lowest form of journalistic life. But this was a new low, even by their miserable standards. The constant hatred-inspired stream of distortions, misrepresentations and downright lies acts as a cancer on the body politic of the UK.
Theresa May’s silence on the attacks on the High Court judges speaks volumes. Tory MP Stephen Phillips has just quit because he’s now ashamed to call himself a Conservative. Conservative former Attorney General Dominic Grieve has expressed alarm. The Bar Council is up in arms. Today’s Observer explains:
May is presiding over the most disgraceful period for the UK I can remember. Nasty Party? That’s not the half of it. May’s style of premiership is fast turning us into the Nasty Country. Britain right now needs a leader with the skills and capability to heal the divisions and calm the anger in the country. We’ve seen enough already to know that Theresa May is not that person.