In Britain it is the season for political party conferences, and the Conservatives’ conference this autumn provided clues about the tenor and trajectory of their policies.
Long before her ascension to the premiership, Theresa May challenged the Tories that they were known as the “nasty party”.
David Cameron’s leadership had tried to remove that stain from their reputation, and to some degree succeeded.
His ‘acceptable face’ of Toryism, at ease with itself, the natural party of government, embraced the modern Britain: multiracial, gay-friendly, reforming.
Much of this was rhetoric, a ruse to gain power, but with Theresa May’s rise, even this façade is being transformed.
On the positive side, May’s centrist regime marks a retreat from Cameroonian friendliness toward international capitalism.
The neo-liberal compromise of his era is being dismantled. Thatcherite suspicion of the state, will be replaced, at least in May’s mind, with a recognition that the state can actually do some good.
In this respect, as the daughter of an Anglican Vicar, May represents the ideals of Old Toryism: noblesse oblige: the sense of duty, as well as privileges.
H olding her fire, while the globalisers held court in Downing Street, she now embodies a reaction against laissez faire capitalism.
A supporter of ‘Remain’, herself, she realises how the wind is blowing; and, partly from conviction, partly from convenience, she places herself at the head of a reactionary army.
She will support tariffs, to protect British industry; while trying to minimise those duties which the European Union will try to place on the UK’s imports.
But it is her attitude to immigration, to foreigners, in particular, that the delineaments of her ‘Little Englander’ mentality become apparent.
She is proposing to limit the numbers of foreign students who come to study in Britain; even though few people see these, temporary, incomers as dangerous migrants.
Secretary of state, Jeremy Hunt, has joined the hue-and-cry, suggesting that foreign doctors in the National Health Service should be forced out, to be replaced by national, British-born, staff.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary, Amba Rudd called for sanctions against firms which employed too many foreign workers.
These policy proposals appear to have been floated, to discover the public’s reaction, and thereby discern what direction to take government policies.
But such ‘blue sky thinking’ also reveals their hidden agenda, their unspoken assumptions: that they might even consider such retrogressive steps.
It is also a case of cutting off our noses to spite our faces. Our economy, and health service, for example, depend on foreign-born workers.
London, in particular, will lose out immensely, as it depends on its situatedness in the global flows of migration, to maintain its advantage and attraction in the international market-place.
And it is not only the Conservative Party lashing out against the outsider. The Labour Party too has its own internal problems of anti-semitism.
As the international situation worsens, blame will be attached to minority groups, and it will evermore be the case that any party may risk becoming another “nasty party”.
(Photos: Pixabay and Wixipedia)