Let me start by stating very clearly: it is a privilege, not a right, to hold the most powerful job in the United Kingdom. This shouldn’t be a controversial statement, yet when Theresa May briefly broke down her veneer of stone-cold emotionlessness, the press immediately jumped onto it, making it headline news in the newspapers and spending hours upon end holding debates and discussing whether or not we should feel sorry for her.
This is symptomatic of media that treats politics like a pantomime, played on the grand stage of Westminster and detached from the real world. It is symptomatic of media that doesn’t truly hold our politicians accountable and doesn’t understand the human cost of the policies implemented by them. Before we even begin to wonder if we should feel sorry for a Prime Minister who was pushed around by a bunch of opportunist disaster capitalists from her backbenches, let’s examine her record first.
Before stepping into Downing Street, May was the Home Secretary under David Cameron. As Home Secretary, she oversaw the ‘hostile environment’ policies that put migrants at risk, culminating in the deportation and denial of healthcare of lawful citizens of the Windrush generation. For this, the new Home Secretary Amber Rudd got sacked, while May continued her premiership in Downing Street. This was without a doubt an example of systemic racism: policies that disproportionately impact people of a certain ethnicity negatively; in this case, lawfully settled black Britons.
She also pushed forward the Snoopers’ Charter, a large expansion of investigatory powers that, had it passed, would allow the state to further violate individual privacy. This was after the mass NSA/GCHQ surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden.
While in government, and as head of it, she oversaw a rise in homelessness and in children living in temporary accommodation, with a UN special rapporteur denouncing the government for the scale of poverty in the UK. She oversaw the gradual privatisation of the NHS by contracting services out to private companies, creating a decline in healthcare standards as well as an increase in waiting times. She oversaw the cuts to disability benefits that subsequently led the Equality and Human Rights Commission to state that one in five disabled people have their human rights violated. Most shamefully of all, the hard-right austerity agenda enacted by her government has been linked to 120,000 preventable deaths in a landmark UCL study.
This is without mentioning her government’s inaction on climate change, which included going back on a promise to her Maidenhead constituents by passing a third Heathrow runway bill. It is without mentioning the continuation of immoral British foreign policy by arming Saudi Arabia, which is waging war in Yemen, and Israel, which is committing grave human rights violations in Palestine. It is without mentioning the sheer incompetence displayed by her and her chosen Brexit Ministers (David Davis and Dominic Raab) in the negotiations with the EU and with her own party, and the disenfranchisement of the millions of EU citizens living in the UK.
So, I ask: where was this emotion during the government’s disgraceful response to the Grenfell disaster? Why did she feel more upset about being forced to resign from the most powerful job in the country, than she did about the human consequences of her policies? Theresa May will no doubt live a comfortable and indulgent life until the very end, but the same cannot be said for her victims, who are either dead or still suffering. Theresa May wasn’t an especially evil or immoral person compared to those leaders who preceded her and those who will come after, but, like any other individual, she has always had a choice.
To sum up: can we feel sorry for Theresa May? I’ll let her record speak for itself.