Theresa May’s key campaign message is one of strength and stability. It is a message that she reiterates persistently and arguably; the only claim this central campaign piece rests on is pointing out that she is better than Jeremy Corbyn. Whilst Corbyn is seen by many as setting the bar unfashionably low, it is conceivable that even our esteemed, Oxford educated mistress is utterly unsuited, not only to the premiership, but also to the leadership of her party.
When Britain entered the EEC and the European Atomic energy community in 1973 it was a victory for Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath and Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. It had been an uphill battle, with Heath fighting against both prejudice toward the United Kingdom, contemporarily considered too economically weak and too ideologically divergent on the future of Europe to make a useful contribution, and against the Eurosceptic wings of his own party. Neither party was united on the role of Britain in the EU and although exactly what membership of the EU should mean for Britain was never unanimously accepted, both Wilson and Heath led their party in strong applications for entry to the EU.
Although EU membership has always divided the British public, Conservative concerns over membership largely revolved around the cost of entry and scepticism about the benefits of membership. Although the battle over the exact role of the UK in the EU has never abated, the question of its economic benefits has. The fact that that Britain is in a stronger trading position, that our currency is worth more in the EU and that we make more money on trade is about as controversial as the existence of anthropogenic climate change. That is not to say that no-one disputes it, but that those who dispute it do not do so because they think what they say is true.
As with her brash, unhesitant and obnoxious approach to Brexit, signalling the desire for progressive and uncontrolled change, she equally betrays the principles of the conservative party in her manifesto. Namely, the government’s increased charge to hire non-EU workers may superficially seem to put in her in a good position to make good on the promise to reduce immigration, and in reality, after her brash Brexit, this will most likely apply to EU workers as well, making the tax not only anti-immigration, but anti-business. The political reward for anti-immigrant rhetoric is mounting and this may serve to keep the most Euro-sceptic components of her party satisfied, however it could have a significant impact on British businesses.
It is little more than a UKIP fantasy that additional expense for hiring non-EU workers will mean that these ranks will be filled with British workers of equal quality. In roles that are predominantly filled by immigrants, this can largely be explained by two factors. Firstly, self-selection: many people from less economically developed countries are happy to make a life for themselves working jobs that the British are not. Work as a Barista or a Macdonald’s till server can change lives, particularly if you’re from a country where a teaching salary does not pay enough to get by. The second factor is that when somebody from the US, India or China is chosen over a British worker in a specialised sector, it is typically because they are better. This then becomes a choice between employing less competent staff, or paying more for the staff you want. One only has to walk around their university’s mathematics department to recognise the dearth of British born academics who are the best in their field. The most dishonest part is that May knows this. She’s telling us she knows this because she has no intention of staffing the NHS exclusively with British trained nurses, doctors and administrators, which is precisely why the NHS and other government institutions are exempt from this new charge. Nursing is not yet sufficiently fashionable or well paid to convince the number of British people we require to undertake this gruelling career, particularly without a bursary. How can a pro-business candidate levy such a charge, when she knows full well that without foreign born staff, the NHS would collapse within a day?
May has convinced us that she is willing to peruse ‘Brexit at any cost’. This should be concerning to conservatively minded people. Conservative politics is centred on slow and measured change. Radical changes, throwing caution to the wind in an ideological pursuit of some utopian fantasy is not the stuff of the left, it is the approach of the extreme wings of left and right left, who are willing to dissolve the state in an anarchistic pursuit of ill-defined ‘freedom’ or ‘equality’. May pretends she has a mandate from the people to pursue an economically disastrous policy at any cost because of fanciful rhetoric about ‘sovereignty’ or outright lies about our financial situation. On the 8th of June, we must decide whether to let May turn her disastrous, myopic and pig-headed approach to Brexit into her Falkland war. Unless the dramatic changes in the polls bear any truth, we, the British people, are going to let her.