July 16, 2017

Theresa May: a failed PM and a failed Home Secretary

Amidst the chaos of her Premiership, it’s all too easy to forget Theresa May’s shambolic record as Home Secretary, says Will Singh.

Theresa May’s stock has plummeted to zero and keeps on falling – it’s clear that her record as Prime Minister is one of historic failure. But we are in danger of overlooking her real legacy: six poisonous years at the Home Office.

When the inevitable biographies are written, hers should not be one, like Alec Douglas-Hume and Anthony Eden, of a competent minister out of their depth in the top job under trying circumstances. Quite the opposite: bad Prime Minister, worse Home Secretary. At least there is a limit to the harm one PM can do in a 12-month stint sandwiched between the really important Brexit decisions. May’s legacy on immigration and human rights will haunt this country for much longer unless parliamentarians of all parties are prepared to call out and correct the abuses that seemingly unshakable governments so often succumb to.

To be clear: throughout her time in the post, there was a clear political consensus that net migration numbers should come down, and all Home Secretaries face tough decisions on balancing rights with new security measures which are bound to be scrutinised through circumstance-dependent lenses. I am not making a principle objection to either of these attempts; but the Prime Minister’s policies failed on her own terms, and were punitive and damaging in the process.

Take immigration. May knew that it was impossible to meet the Tory manifesto commitment to reduce yearly net migration to the tens of thousands. The figure remained solidly between 200 and 300 thousand throughout her tenure as Home Secretary. Around half of that on average was EU migration. That’s over one hundred thousand per year that we could never have denied even if the government had wanted to. But a roughly equal number came from non-EU countries. We didn’t bring that number down to the close-to-zero required to meet the manifesto target simply because it would have been absurd to do so. The lack of substantive overall rule changes demonstrated quite clearly that the government knew all along that this country needed migration to function in certain areas of the workforce, and that closing the borders unnecessarily was as over-the-top pandering as it was economically illiterate.

But she also knew the political cost of appearing ‘soft’ on immigration. The result? A series of pathetically punitive policies that put political appearance above human compassion. 2012’s changes to family migration rules quietly snuck in a minimum income threshold – £18,600 – that excludes 41 per cent of the population from sponsoring a foreign spouse to come to the UK and live together as a family. The Supreme Court ruled in February that such guidance unlawfully failed to protect the rights of children. No replacement guidance or policy change has yet seen the light of day.

New Immigration Acts in 2014 and 2016, too, served their primary purpose – enabling Conference speeches and vote-winning manifesto commitments, but doing little else constructive. Fines and criminal offences were introduced for landlords housing those without the right to live in the UK, leading to the inevitable reluctance to lend property to anyone who ‘seems foreign’, for example. New rules entering force this year introduce another threshold – a minimum £35,000 income to remain in the UK, even for those living and working here for more than five years, outside of certain exempted occupations. We end up with a labyrinthine series of rule changes that achieved nothing more than political point-scoring: being seen to be playing an immigration numbers game she knew was never winnable. Numbers, by and large, continued to rise – it’s time to accept that punitive rule changes were never worth the suffering and anxiety inflicted on families and workers making their home here.

At the same time, the Home Secretary sat in her job – allegedly one of the most powerful offices in the realm – harbouring a resentment of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act that enshrines it into domestic law. Seven years and one job later, the UK’s human rights commitments remain. There is no positive way to spin this. The staunchest opponent of human rights legislation can see that seven years of cruelty brought us no closer to its removal, her explicit aim – that’s a failure. And those of us who believe the government should be legally required to meet stringent human rights commitments watched a Home Secretary trying every conceivable way to find loopholes and workarounds, seeing just how many of our rights she could violate while getting away within the scope of the law.

Much has been written, too, about the consequences of decisions on police and emergency service budget cuts, which need not be repeated here.

With the unknowable spectre of Brexit looming on the horizon, we can be almost certain that there will be a new Immigration Bill in the works, and the UK’s relationship with EU human rights bodies is written bold-type in the ‘to be determined’ column. Media narratives of a Prime Minister’s hubris plunging the country into Brexit chaos will surely abound – but we’re better off leaving them to the docudrama scriptwriters. For parliamentarians and commentators of all stripes, there is serious, common-sense work to be done undoing the legacy of a Home Office given license to lack compassion. In a few short months, we’ll all be able to ignore that Theresa May the Prime Minister ever happened, but her true legacy will take years in the committee rooms to repair. The sooner the better.

3.29 avg. rating (67% score) - 17 votes
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Will Singh

Will Singh is the incoming editor of Sussex University’s award-winning official students’ newspaper, The Badger.

  • Cynical Ex Academic

    For some organisations, the maternity leave ‘right’ is enjoyed by heaping up the workload on male colleagues, and it isn’t just the employer that suffers. My Polytechnic (that dates me) wouldn’t start even considering a replacement until the pregnant female had actually started maternity leave, (which incidentally seemed to always start so that she didn’t have to do a stroke for an entire academic year) thus ‘proving’ that no relief could be obtained anyway before she was back.
    Pension is OK though …

  • SonofBoudica

    I have no problem with freedom of movement between Europeans, but not with those who have invaded Europe, intent on colonising the entire Continent, in the guise of being migrants or asylum seekers.

  • Ravenscar

    You seem a bit confused Mr. Singh, everything theresa may has done ror not done: is right up your street. Is it not?

    Human rights legislation is bad law, how can a law which is deliberately designed to enshrine and protects the ‘rights’ of minorities and outrageously transcending: the rights of the majority. Human rights law: is inequitable as it is unjust tort.
    As someone has previously averred and quite rightly, human responsibilities are primary, wihout adherence to personal responsibilities society does not, cannot exist.

    Furthermore, this other canard, ie Human rights are only universal if every nation on the planet abides by one rule set, plainly this is not the case, so that I cannot expect the same rights to be respected if for some incomprehensible reason I wanted to move to Pakistan, whereas a Pakistani can expect the full gamut of benefits and protections extended to him/her in the UK and that’s just utter, ocean going bollocks. So redolent of your piece Mr. Singh.

  • Aisla Sinclair

    Happen to think that this is a bit harsh.
    She is only a politician, who would not have added up to much in a previous era. But she is honourable, dutiful and was a safe pair of hands post Referendum. Few of us thought otherwise-I`m a Brexiteer so wanted Leadsom, but May is a politician in a political party. I expected little more, and the turncoats and backstabbers now only embarrass themselves. THEY chose her by way of a coronation-and all was sweetness and light as she called that election.
    Yes, her campaign was terrible and complacent-but I heard and saw no complaints as she sank the party.
    She is STILL the best way out of the EU, and once she`s done this we`ll need David Davis or Andrea Leadsom if she can deal with the nasties in her party and in the loathsome media. Getting out of the EU is the only game in town, and the Tories will never see power again if they betray us for the Remoaning creeps or Corbyns appalling Labour cult.
    Thought the Tories were an election winning machine with no baggage-well, by God, they`d better remember that we want Brexit…and if the Tories fail to deliver the hardest of Brexits, then there`ll be real trouble.

  • Andrew Mitchell

    I think the author of the above should have a look at the minimum income requirements of other countries before having a go at ours, for example if you want to bring your family into the USA your going to have to be earning a very good wage, way more than £18+ grand, the author says May failed in the Home Office because she made cuts to the police etc, at that time she had a boss, he was the PM and he had beside him the treasure Mr Osborne, they are the two who decided where to, and by how much the cuts would be made, not Mrs May, many say Mrs May called the election for no reason what’s so ever, they are really dumb people who are utterly clueless at putting two and two together, look when is the Brexit deal supposed to be finished by? 2021 and had May not called the election when was it due to be held? Amazing! 2021 so had she not called the election when she did, it would have happened at her and the party’s most vulnerable time, she had no choice!

  • Hampsteadpinko

    It is a privilege and not an absolute right to be able to come here to live and work.
    How hard is that to understand?
    And immigrating without a viable offer of a job should not be permitted.

  • Odo Saunders

    May has always been an incompetent politician. Instead of trying yo carry out genuine reforms in the Home Office, she spent her time plotting her eventual move to Downing Street. Having elbowed her way up the greasy pole, she now realises that she does not possess the talent or ability for the post of prime minister. Being an arrogant and selfish woman, she now refuses to acknowledge her inadequacies in the position, and pathetically clings on to power. What is required is speaker in the Conservative Party Conference, who will have the guts and foresight to denounce her. Remember Leo Amery’s denunciation of Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons at the beginning of World War 2?

  • Michael990

    You must not have noticed that all the trans-Mediterraneans are being handed EU passport by the countries in which they land.

  • John Smith

    We all look forward to the Beeb’s Jon Sopel and his nightly rant about Trump

    Though they have decreased of late, maybe someone blew in his shell like

    Panorama ‘Trump’s Fortress America’, or how he is doing what he said he would do and got elected on it

  • MrVeryAngry

    Thanks. Tell me? Why is wot I rote above so difficult to understand?

  • Mojo

    Spot on

  • springmellon

    Bizarre isn’t it? Trump get called a Nazi simply for enforcing immigration laws passed by previous Democrat and Republican administrations.

    The hysteria and shamelessly brazen bias of the BBC in relation to Brexit and Trump is callously destroying the trust and credibility that previous generations of BBC employees carefully built up with the British people. I have no interest in watching or listening to any BBC news or current affairs programmes any more because I have no faith that they will present me with any facts or opinions that haven’t been filtered through its Leftist dominated agenda.

  • MrVeryAngry

    I was listening to lefty numpty on the radio. She lauded all those ’employee rights’ like maternity pay and so forth. Those rights can only be enjoyed at the reduction in the rights of the employer. Someones ‘rights’ are always at the expenses of someone else’s rights or at their cost. One’s rights can be summed up by the last five of the Ten Commandments…Honour you mum and dad; don’t kill people; don’t do adultery; don’t steal; don’t lie, don’t be covetous (envious). Stick to that – basically what the Common Law says – and everything else is dandy.

  • SonofBoudica

    Is the byline correct? Surely this was written by the editor of a 5th Form newsletter in a failing comprehensive. It is precisely the immigration from outside the EU that is harming the UK, costing us an absolute fortune in everything from housing, education and health to benefits, fraud and policing. There is no economic need for it and never was.

  • GnosticBrian

    A very partial assessment of immigration from Mr Singh, the incoming editor of Sussex University’s award-winning official students’ newspaper, “The Badger”; how surprising – not!

  • Mojo

    Leadsom was the outsider who could see clearly that we needed to leave the EU. I often think that if the Tories had stood up to the media, supported Andrea as a bonafide candidate, so campaigning could go on Andrea would be our PM today. She would be similar to Trump and indeed Corbyn. Chosen by the membership and not the Westminster coterie. But this did not suit the Remainer media or Tories.

    The real shock in my opinion was how quickly Gove, Johnson et al rallied round Mrs May and allowed Leadsom to be thrown to the wolves. This has not gone down well with many voters who will probably remember their disloyalty to a fellow campaigner when it comes to 2022 and a potential leadership election. Quite honestly the backstabbing of so many Remainer Tories still going on is losing them respect and credibility for any future leadership contest.

  • Bill

    “Empty husk” is exactly right. Every day he came up with more vacuous drivel, holding up his hands, fingers splayed in supplication to the appalling Bliar and pumping enough hot air into the atmosphere to melt both ice-caps. I’ll say one thing for the Tories. They certainly know how to pick the wrong leaders.

  • Mojo

    How true this is. Many ordinary are folk have been vocalising this for years. How can you have human rights when you do not express a need for human responsibility. It is open to abuse. One person’s perceived right is another person’s violation. We must start. Looking at our responsibilities towards one another.

    I am of the opinion that Mrs May needs to remain to see Brexit through. However, I do believe we should be scrutinising Amber Rudd as Home Secretary because she has it in her power to change much of what Mrs May is responsible for.

  • Bill

    I said exactly that to my Tory MP the day Sharisa was chosen as leader. It didn’t go down well. I have seen, first hand, county councillors with far better skills in presentation and intellect than this silly, tightly wound woman has ever been able to muster. Her welcoming of Sharia law is totally unacceptable and would not have happened before the cancer of PC started to destroy the country. I fear her final legacy will be to let in Corbyn and MacDonnell and Abbott. The damage they will do is almost beyond imagining.

  • realarthurdent

    Off topic, but….
    …I quite like this site but I would like it a lot more if the scroll bar wasn’t grey on black and therefore nigh impossible to find for my middle-aged eyes.
    Perhaps it’s just me, but a little more contrast between the two colours would be good.

  • MrVeryAngry

    No such thing as ‘human rights’. There are however ‘human responsibilities’. In other words this whole debate is the wrong way round. The sooner everyone, and especially our governments, start thinking about their responsibilities, the better,

  • Calvin Graham

    The more telling thing is that a lot of people still look back on the empty husk that was Cameron (or Brown or Blair before that) and think “well at least she’s trying to deliver on Brexit” and give her the benefit of the doubt because the last 2 decades have lowered expectations so much.

    My cartoon on the last week’s political news
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeffYp5CGgk

  • ScaryBiscuits

    You, Mr Singh, may think that this country needed migration to function in certain areas of the workforce, and that closing the borders unnecessary was as over-the-top pandering as it was economically illiterate That, however, is not your decision. It is the decision of the British people and a majority disagrees with you. Many of us, including the more sensible immigrants, see unsustainable immigration as a quick fix at a very high long term cost; they value the identity of this country as the best long-term guarantee of our prosperity.

    There are lots of criticisms that can be levelled at May but immigration is hardly up there.

    Leaving the EU is the only way to get immigration under control. It’s not, as you claim, only responsible for the half that come from the EU. The EU sets the law by which the other half is also admitted. Yes, May, therefore, should have campaigned for Leave or gone kamikaze and refused to work in the Cameron-Osborne government that was so dishonest. Those would be fair criticisms, but in real life we often have to be grateful for small steps in the right direction (which were by no means guaranteed). We have her to thank for the clamp down on bogus universities, for the determined clear-out of terrorist preachers who abused our human-rights laws and for bringing a higher level of professionalism to the immigration service. Yes there is much more to do but people like you wailing, about ‘your rights’ is part of the problem, not the solution.

  • realarthurdent

    “the government knew all along that this country needed migration to function in certain areas of the workforce, and that closing the borders unnecessary was as over-the-top pandering as it was economically illiterate.”
    With the exception of a few genuine racists, everyone in the country knows that we need some immigration to function, and not even UKIP, has suggested completely closing our borders.

    What the vast majority of British people want, as shown in opinion poll after opinion poll, is managed immigration, whereby numbers are controlled, and those allowed to stay here are carefully selected so that they add something to British society and integrate properly.

    The article is correct that Mrs May was a failure as Home Secretary, just as all of her Labour predecessors in the Blair era were. The difference is that her predecessors were all sacked, whereas May inexplicably was allowed to carry on and, worse, allowed to be promoted to the top job. This says a lot about how the Conservative Party-supporting press are happy to turn a blind eye to incompetence from “one of their own”.

    Of course Mrs May could not have delivered on the Conservative promise of net immigration in the tens of thousands whilst we were in the EU, but if she had any principles at all she should never have agreed to that promise, or, if she did agree with it, campaigned to leave the EU.

  • Landphil

    Or “What Will Singh do now?”

  • noix

    One also needs to question therefore the judgement of all those Conservative MP’s who supported her for PM following her failure as Home Secretary.

  • ROBERT BROWN

    Mr Singh is out of kilter with most of the readers here, nay, people in the country….she is a bloody failure because she did not tackle illegal immigration, counter the imposed HR legislation, which as another poster rightly said, is a mere criminals charter, and cut the Border Farce…unreal…she is an abject failure, and a reason i refused to vote at all in the GE, disgusted with the choice on offer, Labour and Liberals that want to swamp our Isle…and the Tories that see it happening now, but are too cowed by the evil PC culture to make effective decisions…..i despair for my country…

  • Jolly Radical

    I know for a fact she wakes up every morning and says, “What would Will Singh do now?”

  • Great Briton

    BBC going all out today to throw more mud at Trump because he is doing what he said – deporting criminal illegal aliens.
    Imagine that, a politician doing what he promised!
    The Beeboid reporter sounded absolutely shocked at such a thing because she lives on a different planet.
    Then to compound the crime, Trump is also chucking out illegals who are not criminals – even more shock.
    So here we have the problem distilled. The BBC don’t actually believe that a country has a right to throw out anyone who snuck in illegally.
    Apparently it’s on Panorama tonight

  • Felt

    You illustrate the problem of those so close to the centre of the political system. People who constantly fail to clearly identify problems and solutions. The solutions are simple if you remove all the waffle. First. LEAVE means LEAVE. If you had the first bit of optimism and belief in democracy and the British nature, you would be focusing on the benefits, not navel gazing and torturing yourself about leaving behind a rotten and corrupt unelected centralist system. In terms of immigration. Of course we should encourage the immigration of those we need to support the economy. What we don’t need is the huge level of economic migration being witnessed – from wherever, that is bringing our schools, hospitals, GPs, housing and many other areas to their knees. Accept the reality and resolve to fix it rather than dance around it with endless excuses. The one thing you have got right is that May is a disaster for both her party and the country, but then she is a career politician, promoted well above the level of her own ability by those who pull the strings. That is a problem that infests the political class. ‘They’ don’t in general want bright and committed people in the cabinet.

  • Dr Evil

    The immigration policy derided in this essay simply isn’t harsh enough. The human rights act is a criminals charter and prevents the UK from deporting foreign criminals on the flimsiest of excuses. It must be abolished.

  • The Banana

    She managed to not do a thing about migration while simultaneously perfecting the police state.

    I think it’s hilarious that the Tory grandees crowned this useless woman and of all the muck thrown at Leadsom. Leadsom could hardly have been worse now could she.

  • >And those of us who believe the government should be legally required to meet stringent human rights commitments

    Count me out of that. Those ‘commitments’ are part of the reason why immigration continues to soar.

    May’s failure as Home Secretary was that she wasn’t tough enough om immigration.

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