May's "Quiet Revolution" Masks a Nasty, Xenophobic Message

The Conservative Party Conference has pushed British politics through the looking glass. We can now see just how far-reaching and damaging the Brexit vote has the potential to be. The referendum opened a Pandora’s Box in which no policy direction goes too far, however backward and contradictory it may be. Britain seems to be stumbling back over itself, cementing its place in the world as a lonely, contradictory but above all xenophobic nation.

Plans to force businesses to reveal how many foreign workers they employ, and shame those that employ too many seems little more than a reactionary and ill-thought-out policy, drawn up in the back of a ministerial car to appeal to those the government considers the voters of Brexit.

In her attempts to seize Labour’s heartlands and ‘own’ a reactionary interpretation of the Brexit vote, Theresa May has admonished so many of those who have come to Britain and worked tirelessly to improve not only their and their families’ lives, but society for all of us. Her grandstanding before negotiations have even properly begun has underlined the bigoted end of the Brexit campaign. Where even in our wildest imaginations certain rights would be enshrined - such as the Human Rights Act, EU nationals rights to stay, the right for foreign students to study here - these have quickly become Brexit bargaining chips.

the Tories remain the Nasty Party

These are people’s lives we’re talking about. Not only those who rely on foreign doctors for medical care but the doctors themselves, who having spent years supporting UK society, are now being told that they are no longer wanted. This complete and utter absence of gratitude demonstrates for everyone to see that the Tories remain the Nasty Party, despite PR lines trying to shift this to Labour, or the soundbites that the government will enshrine workers’ rights.

Suggesting that foreign-born doctors working in the NHS are here only for an “interim period’’ until they can be replaced by British-born doctors is not only irresponsible policy - what happens if those doctors take their cue before this mythical time? - but also forgets the treatment of junior doctors by the man who received such warm applause at the Tory conference, Jeremy Hunt. Do they really think the fractious relationship that has been created by the imposition of the working contract on junior doctors will inspire enough British-born aspiring medical students to fill the vacuum created by such hostile rhetoric? I think not. How about foreign students? Apparently not them either. Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, wants to dramatically reduce the number of foreign students coming to Britain, despite their importance - financially and culturally - to universities.

All of this shows the absolute contradiction that the government is trying to sell, neatly surmised by the Director of the Resolution Foundation, Torsten Bell as being the “economics of Ed Miliband with the social/home affairs of the Daily Mail.’’ There is a clear contradiction between the free market economics that Theresa May claims the Conservatives are the natural party of and the decision not only to leave the biggest free market in the world, but also to interfere in the labour market in such a ill-considered and far-reaching manner as the pound hits a 31-year low.

May has sent a very clear message to the world that indigenous is positive and foreign is negative

Theresa May talks about this being a “quiet revolution”, and whilst its impact may be for now subtle and limited to the headlines of newspapers, the demise of Britain over her tenure will be marked and significant. Despite her pretence to the free market, May has sent a very clear message to the world that indigenous is positive and foreign is negative. This country has fallen further in the past three months than in decades. Let’s not forget that Theresa May was the person behind the infamous ‘go-home vans’ and this is a clear extension of that vitriolic rhetoric. It still seems that nobody knows what ‘Brexit means Brexit’ actually means, but it’s clear that no earth-shattering policies are off the table. The prime minister claims she wants to create a society in which “it doesn’t matter where you come from”, so long as it’s Britain, it seems.

For too long too many British people have felt marginalised and at the mercy of globalised competition but this intolerant and ill-conceived attack on those people who have contributed to our society is insulting and it is nauseating.  

Theresa May said in her closing speech, “whether Leave or Remain, come with me to build a new Britain”. If this is the way this country is going, then I’d really rather not.

Checan Laromani

More about the author

About the author

Hailing from Sheffield, and now based in London, Checan is a politics graduate and freelance writer with a keen interest in equality, social mobility and mental health. Alongside being a columnist for Disclaimer, he also writes and runs partnerships for U-ZINE as well as blogging for the Huffington Post. He spends most of his time drinking tea and waxing lyrical about the world and society.

Follow Checan on Twitter.

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