A giddy prime minister visited both USA and Turkey last week on a mini tour of despots.
The Turkey visit was strictly business. A deal was agreed that British military aircraft would be sold to the Turkish government. A financial cost to both British and Turkish tax-payers, and a greater cost to Syrian and Kurdish people. The beneficiaries, of course, are the recipients of the welfare system for the arms industry. Theresa May had no qualms about being the vendor of military hardware to a government that has crushed free press and free speech, arrested thousands of teachers and other public sector workers and has detained opposition political leaders and activists. She does not see such behaviour as problematic at all.
The earlier visit to the USA was not about any particular business deals. The British government, casting itself adrift senselessly from its biggest trade partner – the EU, is not in an equal negotiating position with the USA. Indeed, at the meeting, Trump and May’s respective assurances to each other would have been almost entirely in one direction: Trump and May assurances.
The meeting with Trump was intended as a strong unequivocal gesture of support by the Tory government. May wanted to assure the president that the party she leads is wholly in favour of his political stance and of his actions. Last year’s Tory party conference was a succession of xenophobic speeches of senior ministers, including May, each attempting to whip up anti-foreigner anger and fear. The only difference between those and a Trump speech is his lack of eloquence.
Below are examples of recent actions by the Tory government of which far-right extremist Steve Bannon would be very proud
- An attempt to force business to create registers of their foreign workers
- Harassment of foreign workers at their workplaces by Border Agency
- Harassment based on racial and faith profiling and misrepresentation of the law by Border Agency in public places
- Illegal use of Schedule 7 of Terrorism Act at airports to harass activists, particularly those who have visited Palestine
- Proscription of pro-Kurdish political groups, including jailing of their members
- Financial contribution to walls alongside a road in France near to Channel Tunnel access to prevent refugees from travelling to Britain
- Forcing a national newspaper, (Guardian), to destroy computers on which data revealing illegal government activity was stored
- Instructing health workers to pass on patients’ details to non-health government agencies, including Border Agency and DWP
- Instructing schools to collect data on the ethnicity and national backgrounds of pupils and their parents without informing the parents that providing such data is optional
- Plentiful use of the Prevent system to harass young Muslims
Theresa May is not appeasing, she is agreeing
As a response to her visit to the USA, and following the executive order that Trump issued soon after to ban Muslims from entering the country, the prime minister has received a lot of deserved criticism. However, it is interesting to note that most of the criticism from politicians and from the media has made a point of depicting May as someone who has “abandoned principles” or “appeased” Trump. Said politicians and media hacks affected an air of disappointment with her as if they expected her to be opposed to the general thrust of Trump’s ideology. Some chose to call her “complacent” or “pragmatic”, even “naive.” Such descriptions, whether they are issued dishonestly or else in vain hope, allow May to be distanced slightly from Trump’s extremism; that is, they help her to pretend she isn’t as bad as he is.
It is true that May would have abandoned any humane principles to acquire a vague promise of a trade deal if she had any such principles, but there were none to abandon. Her political vision is similar to Trump’s transposed to a different country with a different political system and different political opposition.
It is not appeasement. Theresa May and her party agree with Trump.
May’s partnership with Trump is collaboration.