Opposites attract - but May and Trump are ideological twins
PUBLISHED: 10:42 08 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:42 08 February 2017
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May has form to suggest her attraction to politics of Trump runs deep
On her way to Philadelphia to meet with Donald Trump last week, Theresa May was asked about their contrasting temperaments, and how that may affect proceedings. May replied, “Haven’t you ever noticed, sometimes opposites attract?”
It’s a nice soundbite, but both the answer and the question are equally nonsensical, ignoring that Theresa May’s track record aligns her with Trump on most key issues. Reducing their temperaments to the apparent contrast of a brash millionaire with a vicar’s daughter fails to take into account that May’s career has been defined by decisions that cast her temperament as anything but antithetical to Trump’s. Considering the disastrous effects of the Trump regime thus far, this should be concerning.
Why? Because there is no better way to predict the events of the future than by analysing history. History is all we have to go on.
So I invite you to look at May’s past actions, and use them when predicting her intentions for the UK’s future. When she said to Republicans in Philadelphia that she “believes in the same principles that underpin the agenda of your party”, this may be one of the most honest things she has ever said.
We can look first at one of her most recent ventures, contributing around £2million towards an anti-migrant border wall in Calais.
This wall was completed despite warnings from human rights groups that, far from acting as a deterrent, it would only result in refugees taking more life-threatening risks, and people smugglers increasing their rates.
When the Daily Mail hailed the move as “Theresa trumps Trump!”, it’s hard to believe that May doesn’t view Trump’s plan to spend billions on an anti-migrant border wall as aspirational.
May was also asked recently what she thought about Trump’s comments regarding women. She said they were unacceptable. But contrast that with the actions of the Home Office, under her leadership, which, last June, refused to answer a Freedom of Information request on the levels of sexual assault and rape committed against female detainees at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. A year earlier, after a Channel 4 investigation helped bring allegations to light, Yvette Cooper – then the Shadow Home Secretary – referred to “state-sanctioned abuse of women on the Home Secretary’s watch”.
The state-sanctioned abuse of women is a label that can already be applied to the Trump regime, with the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule making safe abortion more difficult to access for women worldwide. It is a decision that will demonstrably result in increased suffering and death.
Like Trump, May has also shown herself to be a fan of alternative facts. In her last speech on Brexit, for instance, she claimed that both sides of the referendum campaign made it clear the UK would be leaving the single market. Even a cursory online search can provide a multitude of instances where Leave campaign representatives said this would not be the case.
In the same speech, May also claimed the current pressure on schools, wages and public services was due to EU immigration. Research by UCL has shown this is false; European migrants actually pay more back into the economy in taxes than they take in benefits. To grossly misrepresent their contribution is nothing more than a self-serving lie to provide the illusion of a mandate.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, Trump signed an executive order banning immigration from several Muslim-majority countries (where he doesn’t have active business interests). Included in this ban were green card holders and those already in transit. Downing Street’s initial response was only to say May “does not agree”, a response laden with appeasement and cowardice.
However, this should not be surprising from a former Home Secretary who allegedly wrongly deported 48,000 international students, and whose speech on immigration at the 2015 Conservative Party Conference was so extreme it was described as “chilling” by the Refugee Council, and filled with “nonsense myths” and “irresponsible rhetoric” by the Institute of Directors.
May also made an amendment to the 2014 Immigration Bill – ultimately blocked in the House of Lords – allowing her to strip citizenship from terror suspects without judicial approval, which would render some foreign-born citizens or dual-nationals stateless.
Her proposal was described by Lord Macdonald, the Lib Dem peer and a former director of public prosecutions, as “a policy beloved of the world’s worst regimes in the 20th century”.
This is history. Factual. Verifiable. May is nothing like the opposite of Trump. But in acknowledging their clear parallels we can begin to take the necessary steps to steer the country away from this nightmare course, the destination of which can be seen in the US’s cautionary tale.
May is an unelected prime minister, using the marginal result of one advisory referendum – during which pro-Brexit campaigners utilised anti-immigrant posters echoing the designs of actual Nazi propaganda – to construct a mandate out of thin air. This fictional mandate will then be used to implement some of the most aggressively right wing policies seen in decades.
The US has just experienced a power grab, fronted by a man whose reputation as a businessman was built of a foundation of stiffing contractors and delighting at any opportunity to exploit social upheaval.
We are experiencing this same power grab, only in a more stereotypically British fashion, with much less gloss and bombast.
May described Trump’s regime as a new era of American renewal. But what we’ve seen isn’t renewal. It’s a constitutional crisis. It’s a countrywide forest fire. It’s a demolition project that will rip out the foundations of American progress and replace them with luxury hotels guarded by the iron fist of the state.
When May describes this dire situation as renewal, while threatening to turn the UK into a deregulated tax haven and looking to strike deals with human rights violators like Trump and Erdogan, we must be in no doubt as to what she means to do in the future.
Isolationism, xenophobia, reliance on empty sloganeering like Take back “control” and “Make America great again” has never ended well for any country. The warning signs are there for us, throughout history and in the terrible similarities between our respective leaders. We must heed them and act, not only to halt Brexit, but to challenge May too. Anyone who would look at Trump’s racist and misogynistic policies and not only fail to condemn them, but hail them as achievements, has no business leading the UK anywhere, let alone into the unknown.
Hanna Jameson is an award-nominated author and writer. Her third novel, Road Kill, is available now. Follow her on Twitter: @Hanna_Jameson