Vilifying and Dangerous: Theresa May’s Conference Speech

Earlier this month Home Secretary Theresa May gave a speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, outlining the government’s planned measures to reduce the number of immigrants coming to the UK to tens of thousands (something they have continuously failed to do since coming to power in 2010). Mrs May’s speech has been widely condemned – quite rightly – not only as factually inaccurate and inflammatory, but also as a reckless attempt to further her own career ambitions. She has succeeded only in reinforcing her self-coined term “the nasty party”.

To deal with some of the most glaring factual inaccuracies first, her claim that “we know that for people in low-paid jobs, wages are forced down even further while some people are forced out of work altogether” contradicts a report by her own department last year, which stipulates that there is “little evidence” of any displacement of UK natives from the labour market as a result of migration. A report by the London School of Economics this year also contradicts May’s claims: there is “little evidence of a strong correlation between changes in wages of the UK-born (either all or just the less skilled) and changes in local area immigrant share over this period”.

However, what was more disturbing is not so much the provisions she proposed (these were to be expected), but the tone of her speech. She used discriminating and vilifying rhetoric in an attempt to scaremonger voters into agreement, and attract the flocks of Tory voters won over by UKIP. She fed prejudiced and unfounded fears that “national governments are powerless” to control immigration, which is anything but true. Better yet, after having used threatening and unjustified language to denigrate migrants and refugees throughout the speech, she then claimed that her approach was “humane for those who need our help”.

Whilst countries like Hungary, Greece, Italy and Germany share the weight of millions of refugees (Germany alone has taken nearly 800,000), Mrs May’s claim that “we should be immensely proud of the difference we making” is quite frankly laughable. Her government has allowed the UK to sit back and be content with accepting 20,000 refugees over five years, whilst elsewhere in Europe some countries receive this number of asylum seekers in a single day. Her speech reiterated the government’s defensive, cynical and misleading approach to a major humanitarian crisis.

The only thing worse than May’s chilling and bitter attack, is the realisation that the measures outlined in her speech could soon be law. The Immigration Bill 2015/16 would implement the processes May described, including; a ‘deport now, appeal later’ provision, rules to ensure landlords carry out discriminatory checks on migrant, and powers to seize wages. The bill has completed it’s second reading, and will soon go to committee stage.

Click here for a Dummies Guide to the Immigration Bill.