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Saturday, 25 May 2019

No, I don't feel sorry for Theresa May

The voice wobbled and broke. The mouth bent out of shape. The eyes filled. Who would not feel pity for this woman overwhelmed with grief?

Well, me, actually.

Theresa May was a woman weeping for herself, for the end of her own career, for her own wasted and lost opportunities, for her own public humiliation, for her own failure.

She was not weeping for the hundreds of child refugees who had rights under international law to join their families in this country or who, entirely alone, might have looked to our rich nation for support and care, but were denied such help. No, Theresa May had made sure that those without families would remain friendless, that those without education would stay untaught and that those at risk of sexual and physical abuse should continue to experience it. No, Theresa May was not weeping for the children whose futures she had blighted. She was weeping for herself.

She was not weeping for the thousands she had forced into debt through delays to payment of universal credit, for those relying on food banks to feed themselves and their families, for those bringing up their children in bed and breakfast accommodation or, as lone adults, sleeping on sofas, in hostels or on the streets. She was not weeping for those trapped in inadequate or unsafe housing. Theresa May was not weeping for those deemed fit to work when demonstrably incapacitated. No, she was weeping for herself.

She was not weeping for the family members she had imprisoned in detention centres and deported to their countries of origin or for the children left behind or partners bereft or relationships destroyed. She was not weeping for those of Caribbean heritage to whom she had denied healthcare and employment and removed to islands which were no longer their homes. She was weeping for herself.

Theresa May was not weeping for the European professionals who have contributed to our country's public services and our ageing population but who no longer feel welcome, or who must jump through administrative hoops to prove their rights to remain. She was not weeping for their broken families, damaged careers or the impact on our country's overwhelmed medical and social services. She was not weeping for the crops left unpicked and land left uncultivated. She was weeping for herself.

Theresa May was not weeping for the thousands suffering unfairness and injustice through denial of legal aid and devaluing and underfunding of our police forces. She was not weeping for the intolerance, racism and bigotry promoted, nurtured and rewarded by her policies. She was not weeping for her invention of impossible paper targets that destroyed the lives of real human beings. She was not weeping for the young people to whom she had denied the right to seek jobs in other countries, for the scientists removed from international research projects or for our poorest communities whose access to European social funds is ceasing. No, she was weeping for herself.

Theresa May was not weeping for our underfunded health services, despite much lauded intervention, still suffering from eight years of austerity. She was not weeping for the inadequate education resources she provided or for damaging the prospects of the most vulnerable and needy. She was not weeping for rewarding the richest at the expense of the poorest. She was weeping for herself.

Theresa May knew that Brexit would be disastrous for our country. Ambitious and determined, she chose to take up the challenge of fulfilling a task she knew to be undesirable and impossible, aware that every word she thereafter spoke about the benefits of leaving Europe would be dishonest. She stubbornly continued with actions she knew would not succeed, refusing to work with other British politicians and belittling and insulting our European friends. She justified her actions by calling on 'the will of the people', but took account of only half of them.

In the end, Theresa May wept out of loss and regret that she could no longer 'serve 'the country she loved', a telling phrase which focuses on an abstract entity rather than on the human beings who people it. Conformity and conservatism were her masters, flexibility and understanding qualities to be feared.

Perhaps aware at last of her inability to relate to the living and breathing casualties of her government, Theresa May was weeping for herself.