Theresa May’s politics of fear and the avoidance of scrutiny
There are two paths we can take in the face of violence and hate. Manchester just pointed out the right one.
Theresa May, however, has chosen to use the understandable fear and revulsion of the people of Britain to justify the continuation of a failed approach to global terror, which has cost countless lives, billions of pounds and has left us even less safe than we were before. The temporary suspension of campaigning in the general election was appropriate but Labour are absolutely correct to resume. The opposition has every right to hold the Prime Minister to account.
We have never needed a debate about the role our country plays in the world more than we do now. There is another way to respond to this atrocity and the public needs to hear it. To allow Theresa May to shape our response to terror without debate, risked a continuation of failed policies.
In the midst of the horror and carnage, the pain and the death in Manchester this week, we found love and solidarity. One man came to wound and maim, but countless others chose to protect, support and offer comfort. There could be no greater illustration of the duality of the human condition; no starker demonstration of the choices facing all of us, as we work out how we should respond.
However, in the aftermath of this hateful act, the Prime Minister has sought to portray herself as strong, appealing to public fear, while advocating the militarisation of our streets. She does this, despite her record of cutting funding to the military and police, in the name of austerity.
We would not needs soldiers in our towns and cities, if Theresa May hadn’t cut police numbers by 20,000 during her time in government. Such policies must be exposed to scrutiny, in the full glare of an election campaign.
For Theresa May to suggest she’s anything other than a weak and directionless leader is pure fantasy. To do so in the wake of such a tragedy is pure opportunism, cooked up in Tory Central Office and presented to a frightened populous by sycophants in the media.
“Theresa May launches her war on terror” lauded one Sky News headline. What does that even mean? And, more to the point how is a woman, incapable of launching her own manifesto, able to solve one of the most complex issues facing the world today? Instead she is simply offering more conflict and the cycle of pain will go on.
The public should ask what she and her government have been doing for the last seven years? Have they only just realised there is a problem? Where they unaware that our communities needed protecting, while they were cutting budgets and demoralising police officers?
Could they not see that there was an opportunity to cut off the supply of money and weapons to groups like ISIS, while they were busy turning Britain into the second biggest arms dealer on the planet? Were they so incompetent that they couldn’t foresee that their weapons sales might end up in the hands of terrorists, or be used to oppress others?
In reality, this is a government made up of reckless, knee-jerk politicians, who promote violence, while seeking to restrict our freedoms, when their trade in bombs and bullets inevitably comes home to roost. This approach solves nothing and only inflames the situation. This is a key election issue.
In place of an election debate, there have been voices, in the media, egging the Prime Minister on and calling for internment camps and mass deportations. How long before a “Muslim ban” is proposed? Such siren calls reached their lowest point when one celebrity troll provoked outrage by calling for a “final solution”.
This is not the first time Katie Hopkins has used language dreamt up by fascists in the 1930s and she knows exactly what she is doing. It’s time her employers thought seriously about whether they want to continue giving her a platform for her bile.
However, while some seek to perpetuate the cycle of hate and violence, it seems the people of Manchester have other ideas. An attempt by the so-called English Defence League to capitalise on the tragedy, by whipping up hate and division, was given short shrift by ordinary Mancunians.
People of all faiths have rallied to offer help to their fellow citizens and those from further afield. Stories tell of acts of kindness, with people offering a free ride to the stranded and beds to the lost and separated. By far the most inspiring story to emerge is that of a homeless man who, without a thought for his own safety, rushed to the aid of the injured and the dying.
Isn’t it often the case that those who have the least give the most? How many people will have walked by, not even noticing this man sleeping rough on the street in the days and weeks that preceded the attack? How callous and indifferent has this government been to his plight and that of countless others? Yet when he was needed he gave all he had, in order to help others.
I have always believed that some of the greatest souls on earth are living in obscurity, ignored by politicians and demonised in the media. What we need is a society that unlocks the hidden potential in these people, instead of condemning them to poverty and isolation.
What we are actually being offered is more hate and more war. Meanwhile every bomb we make and every bullet fired robs food from the tables of the hungry. Surely there’s another way.
John Lennon once talked of “declaring peace” instead of war. That’s what the people of Manchester have done. In the face of outrageous violence and cruelty they have refused to be divided or cowed. I believe that the solution to all of this lies in the responses of the people of Manchester, not in the reactions of Theresa May.
Lennon also said, “Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you do, something you are and something you give away.” Isn’t that what we saw on the streets of Manchester this week? Ordinary people giving of themselves and refusing to see differences, only what they have in common.
They weren’t simply dreaming of a more united world, they were living it. Why can’t we have governments that think and behave like this, who see violence as a last resort and whose starting point is always how can we declare peace?
The choices facing us now, in the wake of this atrocity, are the same as those in the election. On the one hand we are offered a society and a culture that feeds division, terrorism and war, while seeking to marginalise the poor and the vulnerable. On the other we are presented with the chance to do exactly the opposite.
As I contemplate that choice, I find myself shoulder to shoulder with my Mancunian brothers and sisters.