IF THERESA MAY believes this country is ready for a shameful love-in with Donald Trump, she has badly misjudged the public mood — and she must be made to pay for it.
A weekend spent schmoozing a US bigot who has slapped a flagrantly racist travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries and a Turkish tyrant who flings opposition MPs into jail and shuts down critical newspapers exposes the depths of May’s cynicism and hypocrisy.
Mealy mouthed platitudes about not sharing the new president’s enthusiasm for torturing prisoners and labelling his ban on refugees “divisive and wrong” clearly count for nothing when the bewigged Wotsit in the White House is to be honoured with a state visit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s call for that invite to be withdrawn unless and until Trump removes his ban on Muslims would make it clear to Washington that Britain will not wink at the normalisation of statesanctioned racism.
Our country was deeply complicit in the human rights abuses of the George W Bush years. British ministers connived at the use of British territories for the transfer of victims of the “extraordinary rendition” programme, and Blairite hero David Miliband fought a long court battle — in vain — to prevent the extent of our intelligence services’ involvement in the torture of suspects becoming public knowledge.
We now have a chance, not to make amends for the lives ruined in the “war on terror,” but at least to avoid partnership in an unholy alliance with a regime hell-bent on rolling back the decades on human rights and civil liberties.
May’s own calculation is obvious enough. Like the liberals she affects to despise, she sees the result of last year’s referendum on EU membership, when a majority backed withdrawal, as a green light to rip up rights, demonise immigrants and drown the left in a wave of tub-thumping nationalist populism.
Divisions on the left have helped her in this project — not least the tendency of some Labour MPs to try to block Article 50 or demand a second referendum, a stance guaranteed to alienate millions and which lets the right pose as the defenders of democracy.
But as Jeremy Corbyn noted last June, the referendum result showed the scale of “dissatisfaction with the status quo” rather than signalling that a majority of British voters were racist.
Just as polls show there is no appetite, even among most Remain voters, for Parliament to overturn the result of the vote, they also indicate widespread backing for Labour’s demand that EU nationals resident here be guaranteed the right to stay.
“Send ’em back” vitriol from the far-right fringe has grown louder since last June, but it is still a sentiment that disgusts the majority.
In broadcasting that message loud and clear this week we can show solidarity with immigrant communities in Britain and indeed with those in the United States and elsewhere who are menaced by Trump and his rotten administration of investment bankers, oil barons and Ku Klux Klan sympathisers.
All those who can make it should support the demonstration outside Downing Street tonight in protest at May’s silence over the Muslim ban.
And we should build for the march this coming Saturday called by Stop the War, Stand Up to Racism, the Muslim Council of Britain and others against the May-Trump alliance.
This article appeared in The Morning Star, January 30th 2017