We need to talk about Theresa

In the wake of the latest senseless act of terror by warped and vicious individuals, the Conservative party may have officially suspended campaigning officially but one cannot help but note that Theresa May’s response qua Prime Minister—that greater regulation of the Internet is needed to fight terrìorism—aligns nicely with her campaign manifesto.

But we need to talk about Theresa, and about terrorism. And we need to talk about money.

One of Theresa May’s showcase “Global Britain” visits was to Qatar, where she made a speech the day before the Brexit negotiations began, stating (not a week after the Westminster attack):

The relationship between the United Kingdom and our allies in the Gulf is not just of great historic value – but also fundamental to our shared future. It is fundamental to our shared security because Gulf security is our security, and together we face the same global threats from terrorism and extremism, as we saw again so tragically in London just last week. Already the United Kingdom is Qatar’s number one destination for foreign direct investment, with investments worth over £35 billion ranging from the iconic Shard to new housing in the Olympic Village in East London. And Qatar is already the third largest market for UK exports across the Middle East and North Africa, with over 600 UK companies already benefitting from the opportunity to support your growing infrastructure and provide goods and services to your people. But this week I hope that we can go further, by laying the foundations for a bold new chapter in this partnership between our nations. Last night we signed an historic Memorandum of Understanding to support Qatar’s 2030 National Vision […] As a global Britain, I am determined that we will be the most committed and most passionate advocate of free trade in the world – and I look forward to continuing these vital discussions on growing our trade and investment as part of hosting the Gulf Co-operation Council in London later this year. […] Through this enduring commitment between our countries and our peoples, let us meet the shared challenges to our security; grasp the shared opportunities for our prosperity; and build a brighter future for the United Kingdom and Qatar, today and for generations to come.

Inspiring stuff.

Putting aside the fact that we are jumping into bed with a state whose economy is basically built upon slavery, the Qatari government openly funds Hamas—precisely that organisation that the Tories are seeking to damn Corbyn for having “friends” in. The Qatari government has also long been accused by experts of supplying arms (some of which, no doubt, were purchased from the lucrative arms deals which May and her predecessor were so eager to line up) and possibly even direct finance to extremist groups in both Libya and Syria, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and possibly even ISIS itself. Islamist fund-raisers operate openly in Qatar. In 2014 a bipartisan letter from US Representatives raised the permissive environment for terrorist fund-raising with the US government. Qatar, the country which Theresa May chose to make her flagship post-Brexit “Global Britain” co-operation partner is, in short, Terror Funding Central.

Theresa May has also recently visited Saudi Arabia to promote arms sales—arms sales which she claimed “keep people on the streets of Britain safe.” Once again, let us put aside the hideous, medieval nature of the theocratic dictatorship that is the family of Saud; let us forget that precisely the arms that we sell to Saudi Arabia are used in a brutal and vicious war on Yemen; and let us focus solely upon terror groups. Of course, this goes right back to 9/11, and the 15 out of 19 of the hijackers who were Saudi; but as Al-Qaeda have waned so ISIS have waxed and the Wahhabist extremism which is the idealogical centre of the Saud dominance is utterly committed, as are ISIS, to the destruction of Shi‘a Islam—the links between them run deep. Minimally, alongside Qatar, Saudi authorities have turned blind eyes to the substantial flow of private money from these countries into the coffers of ISIS. One of Hilary Clinton’s leaked emails exposed the reality as it is actually understood by our leaders: “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” In the news just today is the fact that the Home Office is trying to suppress our own report into terror funding exactly because it focuses upon Saudi Arabia. Theresa May’s own love affair with Saudi Arabia—a country where she only manages to appear in public uncovered and without a male family member because she is a foreign dignitary—is not a new affair either. Back when David Cameron and Chris Grayling’s hideous policy of selling the services of our own Justice Department to the Saudi state—whose “justice” includes floggings and public decapitations—was becoming so obviously toxic that they were forced to drop it, Theresa May was one of those who sought to persuade Cameron to keep the policy in place.

Theresa May offers one solution to extremism: surveillance, surveillance, and more surveillance. She would have us living in a Big Brother state, the Internet entirely regulated because of a minute proportion of the activity on it. Yet she has taken 22,000 police officers off the streets, and seeks to reorient Britain’s economy to be further entwined with precisely the two states most directly accused of funding the extremist Islamist groups. She would sacrifice our safety—as she will our well-being, our welfare, and our health—at the altar of corporate gain.

Theresa May has made you less safe, not more so. Theresa May is a friend of the friends of terrorists. A vote for the Conservatives on June 8th is a vote for placing British arms deals above the security of British citizens.

What you do, and don’t, have to prove to get welfare from this government

One might almost think that the fake news furore over the purported de-Eastering by the National Trust earlier in the week, which Theresa May laid into, was specifically designed as a distraction from the unpleasantness of this government: how Theresa May is currently in Saudi Arabia, pitching further sales of arms to that disgusting, medieval regime; and how they are introducing massive cuts in benefits to the bereaved with children.

On this latter issue, the government’s attempts to spin their appalling cuts to families struggling with the most horrific of circumstances as not just necessary, but actually generous go beyond mere cynicism. Richard Harrington, the Under-Secretary of State for Pensions, recently suggested that cutting bereavement benefit from the entire period that the remaining parent had responsibility for children to a paltry eighteen months was an act of generosity, as the bereavement payments previous would stop people from “readjusting” to life as a single parent. Nasty, cynical? That was just the warm-up. Because his justification for the fact that cohabiting but unmarried bereaved partners will get precisely nothing was that this was in order to save them distress: that “having to prove cohabitation could be a lengthy, complex process, which could cause distress at a time of bereavement.”

This is breathtakingly cynical and vicious. To portray this removal of support from grieving and possibly suddenly impoverished people as an act of kindness… well, it’s almost a surprise that his own oesophagus didn’t spontaneously close over and refuse to allow him to utter such a hideous, distorted piece of mendacity.

Now, let us skip forward to today, and the introduction of new rules about tax credits for children. In general, I am in favour of the government discouraging families from having large numbers of children. We have far too many people on the planet already, and we certainly don’t need to be producing more at the unstoppable rate that we currently are. But whatever steps are taken to encourage less children must always balance this against the fact that not all pregnancies are volitional, and that some people have moral objections to abortion—though I may disagree with them on this, it would be as hideous to push people who genuinely objected to abortion into having one as it is for those who oppose abortion to attempt to prohibit them for others. As such, direct financial incentives tied simply to number of children seem too blunt a tool for the government to use to achieve the end of discouraging over-large families. Unless, of course, the government’s actual purpose was not discouraging volitional third pregnancies, but simply an excuse for finding further support to cut.

Because, as of today, tax credits will only be paid for the first two children in a family—unless a rape or coercive relationship led to the pregnancy with the third child. A rape, which the mother will have to prove by completing an eight-page form, and reporting the rape to a “third party organization” who will assess her claims: this for a crime so personal and traumatic that only about 15% of instances are reported to the police, and where institutional support for survivors is so desultory that precisely those Rape Crisis Centres who will be required to carry out the third-party confirmation (and who will thus be put in the position of having to make judgments on behalf of the government concerning the validity of a survivor’s claims; rather than neutrally and unjudgmentally providing support and counselling) had, as of March 2016, waiting lists of more than 4,000 people.

So, this is the state of welfare under Compassionate Conservatism. Bereavement and rape must be two of the most traumatic events that an individual can experience in their lives. But any bereavement payments at all are withheld from a unmarried person, to save them the “distress” of proving cohabitation—something that a quick glance over the electoral register would rather easily accomplish. And yet to gain support for a child born from rape or a coercive relationship, extensive and intrusive enquiries and proof must now be undergone.

Cynical, hypocritical, and just downright nasty: this government has no moral grounding of any kind. It is the most repugnant administration I have seen in my lifetime.

Nice continent you’ve got here…

Not content with using the livelihoods of four million Europeans living in the UK as a bargaining chip, Theresa May appears to have upped the ante and decided to threaten withdrawal of security co-operation with the EU as a negotiating stance in her Article 50 letter. It brings to mind an image of an inept gangster, wandering through the EU, saying in loaded terms and a dodgy fake Italian accent: “Nice-a continent you got-a here. Would-a be a shame if anything were to happen to it…” [“Accidentally” pushes Luxembourg off a cliff.]

Just as with her refusal to guarantee the position of EU citizens in the UK, Theresa May was attempting the posture that she is negotiating from a position of strength. The threat has also spectacularly backfired: partly because, of course, we are not negotiating from a position of strength at all: the EU will offer us terms and we will accept them or face the economic suicide of trading solely under WTO rules; and partly because it is a staggeringly callous threat to make: to endanger not just the livelihoods but the actual lives of the entire EU—and of course her own citizens, as a withdrawal of co-operation would be mutually imperilling.

For the record, here is the relevant passage of the Article 50 letter:

The United Kingdom wants to agree with the European Union a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security cooperation. To achieve this, we believe it is necessary to agree the terms of our future partnership alongside those of our withdrawal from the EU.

If, however, we leave the European Union without an agreement the default position is that we would have to trade on World Trade Organisation terms. In security terms a failure to reach agreement would mean our cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism would be weakened.

David Davis has been rolled out to claim that this was not a threat, but the Sun certainly thought it was, triumphantly declaring YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIVES—the Sun, it would appear, approves of threatening the lives of Europeans, though imagine the raging indignation they would have manufactured should the threat have been the other way round.

Here’s the thing though. That certainly looks like trade-with-menaces. It certainly sounds like Donna May is accidentally-not-accidentally nudging Luxembourg towards that cliff-edge. If that wasn’t the intention—and given the nine months that the government has had to draft the letter—then one despairs at the skill of our negotiators, carelessly making assertions that read, for all the world, like a direct threat. If a simple six-page letter can contain such a thoughtlessly worded passage, what hope for the detail of the negotiations? And what hope for the many, many further negotiations that Great Global Britain will have to make?