I was recently listening to the Today programme on Radio 4 and the guests were discussing reports that Theresa May’s closest advisers were struggling to decide on what her legacy should be. I am more than happy to offer my advice.
When May took office in July 2016, she stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street and pledged to fight against “burning injustices”. Under her premiership, those injustices weren’t dimmed but instead became raging infernos. Her failure to deliver Brexit is what will ultimately define her time as prime minister but the dominance of the Brexit frenzy has masked other areas where she has caused unimaginable suffering.
In May’s three years in Number 10, the number of people living in poverty soared to over 14 million, including 4 million children. A record 1.6 million foodbank parcels were handed out last year and homelessness rocketed by a staggering 169%. Also, disabled people are now twice as likely to live in poverty and their human rights have been gravely violated according to the UN. In a country as wealthy as ours, this is a scandalous record.
As the architect of the hostile environment during her six year spell as home secretary, a policy very much at the core of Tory ideology, she was then able to flaunt her racist and xenophobic policies on the UK’s biggest political stage. Under her watch, thousands of British citizens were denied NHS treatment, housing and jobs with many more deported. Shamefully, at least a dozen of those who were wrongfully deported have since died.
There was even a disgraceful attempt to shift the blame on to hard-working civil servants. PCS members who work in the Home Office are dedicated, caring and conscientious and offer the best service possible, often in trying circumstances and for whom government policy is not their responsibility.
On the first National Windrush Day at the end of June of this year, Theresa May had the gall to praise the Windrush generation and her words are absolutely breathtaking: “let us give thanks to those pioneering men and women. The UK will always be their home.” The pivotal role she played in this injustice and her abject failure to deal with the consequences should shame her to her core.
One of the images from Theresa May’s time as prime minister that will always stick with me is of her, flanked by her bodyguards, leaving a community centre in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea scurrying to her armoured car. Her response to the horrors of the Grenfell tragedy was not befitting of a prime minister. Her initial refusal to meet with the survivors and victims was symptomatic of the way in which the lives of the poor and the vulnerable – especially those who perished in the tower –are completely disregarded.
The ongoing Brexit saga is often described as a crisis of parliament but is in fact a crisis entirely of the Tory party’s making. In a desperate attempt to quell the ruptures within her party, May boxed herself in with her Brexit red lines and her insistence that no deal is better than a bad deal has led us to the very real possibility that come the end of October, Boris Johnson will be prime minister and the UK will crash out of the EU.
When Theresa May shed a tear during her resignation speech, I couldn’t help but wonder where were her tears for Gyula Remes, the homeless man who died outside the entrance to Westminster? Where were her tears for Dianne Hannaby, a grieving mother on Universal Credit who couldn’t afford to bury her son because she’d been sanctioned? Where were her tears for Dexter Bristol who, threatened with deportation back to the Caribbean, took his own life?
Theresa May’s legacy is a disastrous one but more worrying still, the foundations have been laid for the Conservative party and the next leader and prime minister, to shift even further to the right.
My union has been at the forefront of resisting the Tories' destructive ideology and what we need now, more than ever, is a strong trade union movement. That’s why I have long supported Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell and the sooner their radical alternative makes its way into government the better.