Dawn Butler: Theresa May and her Conservative government have been weak, uncaring and institutionally racist - she will not be missed

Posted On: 
15th July 2019

May Days: It was Theresa May herself who accelerated the appalling “hostile environment” policy, which contributed to the Windrush scandal, writes Dawn Butler

Demonstrators protest against the hostile environment immigration policy outside the Home Office
Credit: 
PA Images

Theresa May’s time is up, and many of us couldn’t be happier to see the back of her. Her appalling policies on race relations and immigration will be her legacy. Theresa May’s record as prime minister is one of failure – from the Home Office to Downing Street, she has entrenched racial inequality.

When she became prime minister, Theresa May spoke about tackling the “burning injustices” in society. But in office, she did nothing but tinker around the edges of the big issues, and ultimately ended up adding fuel to the fire through her shocking failures.

While our eyes welled up with tears over Grenfell, Windrush and the refugee crisis, there was a lack of emotion forthcoming from the prime minister. She only managed to muster a few tears at her demise. When I think back to the disgraceful and racist “Go home” vans, which Theresa May as the former home secretary signed off, some of which drove around my constituency in Brent targeting immigrants, it’s hard to feel any sympathy for the architect of such hate-filled campaigns.

And who can forget her role in the terrible injustice that is the Windrush scandal? It was Theresa May herself who accelerated the appalling “hostile environment” policy, which contributed to the scandal. The Windrush generation came to the UK to help rebuild the country after the second world war. They have lived here, worked here and raised families here – contributing so much to our society.

Yet despite this, and because of the scandal, many of these citizens lost their rights and in some cases were deported to the Caribbean. Others lost jobs, were forced into debt and suffer from immense stress and fear, and some have sadly lost their lives during the fight for justice.

The government said in April 2018 that it would only take two weeks to resolve the Windrush cases, but over a year later it is still ongoing with no end in sight. That is why I have recently started my own petition demanding justice and fairness for the Windrush generation; we call on Theresa May to resolve all outstanding cases before leaving office.

One of her biggest problems is her inability to understand that merely talking about an issue does not solve it. Since 2010, successive Conservative governments have launched a staggering 29,952 consultation documents, rising to their highest levels while Theresa May was prime minister. The government she led was sadly all talk – no action.

Theresa May cited the “race disparity audit” and gender pay gap regulations as some of her proudest achievements, not realising they are symbolic of her failure. The government effectively took 411 days to open a Dropbox account which highlighted the systematic institutionalised racism of her government’s policies. And the government has still failed to act on its findings. Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics on the ethnic pay gap also show that the government has failed to address the issues around pay equality.

Theresa May and her Conservative government have been weak, uncaring and institutionally racist. She will not be missed. However, I do not expect race relations to get any better under a new Conservative prime minister. After all Boris Johnson, the odds-on favourite to be the next prime minister, once wrote about “cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” and referred to African people as having “watermelon smiles”. He also compared Muslim women who wear burqas to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. A casual racist will not aid the fight for equality in No 10.

The record of Theresa May, along with the record of the probable next prime minister, Boris Johnson, goes to show that only Labour in government champions equality. Almost every piece of progressive legislation in the UK was delivered by a Labour government, such as the Race Relations Act, Human Rights Act and Equality Act. We in the Labour party will continue the vital and ongoing fight for equality for all.

Dawn Butler is Labour MP for Brent Central and shadow secretary of state for women and equalities