Theresa May: The face of the New Nasty Party

23 Aug 2016

During the Conservative Party leadership race, soap opera fiction was re-writing itself as political fact, and not for the first time since Brexit. With Leadsom dropping out of the race, Theresa May was coronated and at the expense of a democratic vote.

 

Leadsom's potential premiership was shaping up to be the most disastrous for equality since Thatcher. In the same way that Argentinians, communists and assorted terrorists (including Nelson Mandela) were not safe under the country's first female Prime Minister; foxes, homosexuals and anyone who did not follow a traditional Christian family model were seemingly first to be punished under a Leadsom administration.

 

The collective yearning from the left for Theresa May to be Prime Minister is telling of just how nasty Leadsom’s premiership was shaping up to be. Her hard stances appealed to endorsers Nigel Farage, Katie Hopkins and Nick Griffin, who all expressed overwhelming disappointment when she announced her retirement from the race.

 

In the Westminster washing machine, Leadsom is one of the dirtiest items. Yet, May is certainly far from clean. To put things into perspective, it was Theresa May who refused to guarantee the rights of  three million EU nationals' to remain in Britain, not Leadsom, who instead promised all EU citizens in the UK would be allowed to stay. May, however, was not alone in her thinking - her idea is shared with the BNP.

 

Furthermore, for the last 6 years as Home Secretary, she has been at the beating heart of a Tory government that cut welfare benefits from the poorest, and cut tax for the richest. She was at the centre of a government which forced austerity onto the people with such ruthlessness and vigour that it arguably resulted in Brexit, and the unprecedented rise of UKIP.

 

However, May does not need David Cameron or her cabinet colleagues to frame her staggeringly right-wing views. A quick glance at Theresa May's voting record can do just that. On the issue of immigration, she has consistently voted for tougher laws, stronger enforcement of these laws, and a stricter asylum system. Not to mention the Home Office vans which she herself commissioned, telling illegal immigrants to 'go home or face arrest’, a disturbing tactic that even UKIP likened to the approach of a fascist regime.

 

Concerning welfare, she voted in favour of the bedroom tax and the Welfare Reform and Work Bill 2012 which cut disability welfare. She voted against increasing welfare in line with inflation and has always voted for a reduction in welfare spending. Throw into the mix that she has also voted against introducing a tax on banker's bonuses, and has consistently voted against increasing the tax rate for the highest earners, and it soon becomes clear that May fundamentally belongs to the Tory right-wing.

 

This sounds like a completely different Theresa May to the one the nation encountered on the Downing Street steps after she became Prime Minister. That Theresa May spoke passionately about social justice, and forming a government in the name of championing social justice. That Theresa May had clearly forgotten what she had spent the last nineteen years in parliament advocating for.

 

Whether it is the politics of her nineteen-year parliamentary career, or the politics of her five-minute Prime ministerial inauguration speech, which will dominate her premiership remains to be seen. However, it is important to remind ourselves of one thing; in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote and during the Tory leadership election, it was Boris Johnson who was heralded as putting his own career ambitions before the interests of the country. However, by remaining largely silent during the Brexit campaign, Theresa May was undoubtedly being equally political, ruthless and manipulative as Boris himself.

With May comes a new era for the Conservative party. She has swept away the Notting Hill Tories, those public school, cool, young London boys who have ruled the  party since 2005. The Notting Hill set, including Cameron, Osborne and Gove, have one-by-one been confined to the backbenches. May is establishing her own politics.

 

The woman who once labelled her own party as the ‘nasty party’ is now in charge of Whitehall, and her legacy will fundamentally lie in whether she will be able to completely eradicate this label. Will she move to the centre-ground and champion social justice, or will she move to the right and ultimately stab the Tories with this fatal label once again? Will May lead a New Labour Tory Party, or a New Nasty Tory Party?


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