This morning, (June 4th), twelve hours after the terrorist attack in London, Theresa May gave a speech to the media outside 10 Downing Street. (May speech.) Prior to giving the speech, May had agreed with Jeremy Corbyn that election campaigning would be ‘suspended’ for the day. Similar to the ‘suspension’ of campaigning after the terrorist attack in Manchester – Suspension of election campaigns after terror attack – the Tories, May in particular, are using the attack, and Labour’s suspension of its campaign, as an opportunity to dominate the media.
The bulk of May’s speech was a political statement. She spoke as the leader of the Conservative Party, not the prime minister. Less than a week before a general election, May’s decision to speak as such was deliberate. It is particularly noteworthy that May outlined intent with respect to changes to the law, changes that could be made only if the Tories are in government at the end of this week. That is clear electioneering. The brutality of Lynton Crosby’s philosophy means that deaths and injury, at a pop concert in Manchester or among Saturday evening revellers in London, are an opportunity for the Tories to have a day or two of free electioneering.
The public see through this ruse. This election campaign has persistently exposed the Tories as charlatans and liars. Their tricks, misrepresentation and dead cats have been spotted immediately as have their evasive question-dodging and incompetence. However, Theresa May, increasingly more hapless and pitiful, continues to treat the knowledge and intelligence of the public – the voters – with disdain. In this morning’s speech she said
“On behalf of the people of London and on behalf of the whole country, I want to thank and pay tribute to the professionalism and bravery of the police and emergency services.”
The Tories are destroying the NHS and have made huge cuts to police numbers. Medical professionals and the police have been treated with utter contempt by the Tories for seven years. The recently released Naylor report, a release that the Tories tried to delay until after the election, exposes plans to give away NHS land to property developers, there has been a dramatic fall in applications to study to be a nurse following the removal of nursing bursaries and Home Secretary Amber Rudd was heckled at a recent police federation conference after she displayed abject ignorance of police officers’ salaries. A fraudulent claim in the Tory manifesto of £8 billion for the NHS was swiftly shown to be merely moving around money already assigned. Privateers’ gofer Jeremy Hunt, allegedly the Health Secretary, lied about his input following the terrorist attack in Manchester: He claimed he was organising the response when all he had done was shake hands with a senior manager for a photo op. The people of this country pay tribute to medical professionals and police officers but the Tories have no respect for either.
Later in her speech May proclaims
“Enough is enough.”
Circular tautological gibberish is one of May’s favourite Unwinisms. What she has appeared to have forgotten is that prior to being prime minister, she was Home Secretary for six years. What did she achieve in the fight against terrorism as Home Secretary?
- Prevent Strategy that includes harassment of children at school and harassment of anti-fracking and environmental protesters
- Endless expensive court cases to deport two extremist preachers
- Schedule 7 to harass activists and journalists at airports
Alongside her focus on suppressing free speech rather than fighting terrorism, May also oversaw huge cuts to police numbers and the replacement of experienced prison staff with untrained low-paid G4S. Perhaps she just forgot about her former responsibilities. Certainly, those who care about safety and security will remember “enough is enough” when at the polling both on Thursday.
A generous portion of May’s speech discusses the use of social media to aid terrorism. A key point to remember is that laws already exist to combat promotion of terrorism online. An equally important point is that all of May’s discussion of plans to address terrorists’ use of social media is a plan for the future; that is, it is an electioneering policy statement. Her observations on social media and terrorism are ignorant, insidious and another insult to the intelligence of the public/voters. She begins by asserting that
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet and the big companies that provided internet based services provide.”
The “big companies?” Big companies like, for example, Google who the Tories allow to dodge millions upon millions in tax? “The internet?” Is that an actual entity?
“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace, to prevent terrorist and extremist planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.”
Why only “allied democratic governments?” So, May does not want to work with, for example, China, or, more surprisingly, Saudi Arabia with whom the Tories have such a close relationship? This is May unsubtly implying that only governments that conform to a particular structure can be trusted in the fight against terrorism. It is a counter-productive and stupid thing to say.
“As the nature of the threat we face becomes more complex, more fragmented, more hidden especially online, the strategy needs to keep up. So in light of what we are learning about the changing threat we need to review Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy to make sure the police and security services have all the powers they need.”
Above, May describes an intent that extends beyond the final few days of the current government and, thus, is clear unabashed electioneering: It is an addendum to the Tory manifesto. The phrase “the powers they need” is not synonymous with necessary changes to the law, in a democracy.
Theresa May has a history of opposition to free speech and of wanting to know what everyone is saying. The Investigatory Powers Act, one of the most illiberal laws in any democracy, allows snooping by government agencies randomly and without proper legal process. May wants to go further:
“While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is to be frank, far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult and often embarrassing conversations, but the whole of our country needs to come together to take on this extremism, and we need to live out lives not in series of separated and segregated communities, but as one truly United Kingdom.”
“Tolerance of extremism?” Does she mean Prince Charles on one of his jollies to Saudi Arabia to prance about with fellow royals who are orchestrating devastating carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians? Does she mean herself visiting Erdogan in Turkey to broker an arms deal with a president who is jailing opposition activists, journalists and teachers? Does she mean Defence Secretary Michael Fallon who described mass murderer Duterte, president of Philippines, as having “shared values” with Britain?
“Difficult and often embarrassing conversations?” Is this a threat to pry into peoples’ private lives? An extension of snooping that descends in Orwellian territory? (May should have a difficult and embarrassing conversation with her husband to find out exactly how much the decisions she makes as prime minister assist his clients to dodge tax?)
“We need to live out lives not in series of separated and segregated communities.” Do we? If so, why are the Tories operating a social cleansing methodology for housing, particularly in London?
For a prime minister, a post-terror speech needs to be reassuring, compassionate and undivisive. Theresa May failed completely. Prodded by Lynton Crosby, she tried to do a campaigning speech but her haplessness and lack of sincerity shone through. Hopefully, by the end of the week, her tenure can be dismissed as a footnote.