Bridget Phillipson Labour Member of Parliament for Houghton and Sunderland South
This week’s Tory Party Conference revealed much about the new Prime Minister and her vision for the future of the UK. It demonstrated that, just like her predecessor, there is very little substance to Theresa May’s style of government.
Instead, what was revealed during her closing speech to the conference was that she has no idea how to meet the challenges that the UK faces as it withdraws from the EU.
The central thrust of the Prime Minister’s speech was an attempt to present the Conservative Party as one that cares about the working people of this country. This outrageous claim is impossible to stomach from someone who has been a senior minister in government for the last six years, during which time millions of hardworking families have seen their incomes stagnate, the cost of living rise, opportunities for career advancement disappear, and any hope of getting on the housing ladder vanish.
Theresa May cannot simply wash her hands of that record. As Home Secretary since 2010, she was heavily responsible for the policies that targeted the most vulnerable people in the UK. Whenever she attempts to claim that she has the interests of working people at heart, Labour will remind voters that she as an integral part of the Cameron/Osborne regime that did so much damage to this country.
Although most of what the Prime Minister said at conference was simply empty rhetoric, there were some concrete policy commitments. Unfortunately, many of these illustrated that she has learnt nothing from her stint in the Home Office, when she committed to cutting net migration the tens of thousands year after year without any tangible results.
The anti-immigration policies announced by the Tories this week, such as forcing businesses to publish figures of foreign workers, making international students less welcome, and Jeremy Hunt’s ill-disguised attack on the foreign doctors and nurses who keep the NHS running, will only discourage migrants who make a valued contribution to the British economy to look elsewhere. They will do nothing to cut net migration in the long term, to address the real reasons why inequality in this country has become so entrenched, or to explain why so many communities such as the north east are being left behind.
Unfortunately, the Tories have become masters of the politics of division. Frightened by the rise of UKIP, it is clear that Theresa May wants to disguise the damage her government has done to working communities since 2010 by demonising migrants, even though she was part of a government that slashed taxes for the wealthy while imposing swingeing cuts on local councils and public services, that waved through a sweetheart tax deal with Google while freezing public sector pay, and that has abandoned every single deficit-reduction target while claiming economic credibility.
These policies not only reveal the failure of the Tories to address the myriad economic, political and social challenges of our time but also their true feelings about the working people of this country. Labour will not let voters forget who is really responsible for tearing Britain’s working communities apart.
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech, I told the Sunderland Echo:
“No one will be fooled by the Prime Minister’s claims that she wants to stand up for the many and not the few, or swallow her hollow words on the importance of ‘good government’.
“After all, she is the leader of a party that has inflicted six years of punishing austerity on the most vulnerable people in our country.
“The speech she delivered today will do nothing to help those who need government on their side, especially in the north east.
“Instead, she outlined a cynical and divisive vision of the type of country that she wants Britain to become.
“It was Theresa May who first identified the Tory Party as the nasty party. It is clear from her speech today that the nasty party is back.”
To read these comments in the Sunderland Echo, click here.