WHEN politicians make a practice of lying straight-faced to the electorate, it can be difficult to work out where they stand and who they represent.
An innocent arriving in Britain from another country, or perhaps a distant galaxy, could be forgiven for accepting at face value Theresa May’s claim that the Tories are now “truly the party of the workers, the party of the NHS, the party of public servants.”
Her insistence that Britain will become a “great meritocracy” based on fairness and opportunity has echoes of the early years of Tony Blair.
Similarly, the Tory leader’s warning to the “big six” energy companies that she will intervene “where markets are dysfunctional” smacks of Ed Miliband’s pledge to “reset” the energy market. May didn’t emulate Miliband in threatening to impose a temporary tariff freeze, but her admirers applauded her comments nonetheless.
The Prime Minister must have been listening to speeches by Jeremy Corbyn or John McDonnell as she sympathised with working-class people frustrated over unaffordable housing, stagnating wages and insecure jobs and put employers on notice that not looking after staff or allowing pension funds to go bust “can’t go on any more.”
Into her list of working-class complaints she slipped in “pay undercut by low-skilled immigrants.”
It may have escaped her notice that immigrants of whatever skill level do not lay down pay rates. Employers do, while government sets the legal minimum wage.
And yet, in sad contrast to the glaring absence of proposals to tackle housing, low pay, secure jobs and so on, she made dealing with foreign-born workers a priority.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd floated a proposal on Tuesday that companies could be compelled to reveal the number of staff members born outside Britain to shame them into employing more British-born workers and reducing immigration.
The impact of this bullying on workplace relations aside, what if birthplace disparities aren’t easily discernible? Perhaps employees could have, as a condition of employment, to wear a tasteful addition to their clothing such as a nicely embroidered star, with different colours for various categories of workers. Who could possibly object?
Rudd’s revolting proposal has nothing to do with improving skills or employment prospects for British-born workers.
It is a deliberately divisive ploy to set workers at each other’s throats, make Britain a less hospitable place for people wishing to settle here and gain votes for the Tory Party among racists and xenophobes.
It is 14 years since May noted that many voters saw the Tories as the “nasty party,” in view of its hostility to the poor, claimants, racial minorities and LGBT people.
She is now trying a con-trick of global proportions by pinning that epithet on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, claiming that her Tory government will stand up for the weak against the strong.
Anyone tempted to believe that this leopard has changed her spots might ask themselves why the CBI bosses’ organisation and all May’s ministers who previously backed David Cameron and George Osborne’s capitalist austerity policies are right behind her.
They know that May’s rhetoric about workers, the NHS and public services is empty. It’s window dressing for the hard of thinking. The only positive aspect of her verbal lurch to the left is that she understands the attraction to voters of the new approach pushed by Corbyn and McDonnell.
Their commitment to social justice isn’t confined to conference speeches. It’s a daily reality that puts May’s political dishonesty to shame.
This article appeared in the Morning Star, Thursday 6th October