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David Cameron and Theresa May visit a property following an immigration operation in 2014. (Photo: Number 10/flickr/cc)

Farewell, David Cameron, It's Theresa May's Turn to Mess Things Up Now

UK is rid of Cameron's "post-truth politics," but his successor's record on human rights is cause for concern

Deirdre Fulton

Britain bid farewell to David Cameron on Wednesday as the reign of Prime Minister Theresa May began. 

Over the six years he was installed at 10 Downing Street, Cameron—who resigned in the wake of the Brexit referendum—drew criticism over his support for austerity policies, disregard for the environment, callous approach toward refugees, and hawkishness on the bombing of Syria.

The Independent offered a round-up of "10 moments David Cameron will want us to forget," while others took to social media to critique Cameron's legacy.

"David Cameron is perhaps the greatest practitioner of what has come to be understood as 'post-truth' politics," British novelist Irvine Welsh wrote on Wednesday.

He continued:

He perfected that muted Orwellian populism of saying what people wanted to reassuringly hear, while diametrically opposing this with his actions. Thus the NHS was safe in his hands, just as he was charging Jeremy Hunt with demolishing it. The BBC, ossifying into a neoliberal Pravda under his tenure, was his ‘genuine commitment to public service broadcasting’. Scotland could ‘have all the powers it wanted’ in the run up to the independence election, before waverers taken in by ‘the Vow’ realized that the actual reality was new road signs. He declared that ‘no stone would be left unturned’ in the prosecution of establishment paedophile sex offenders, who were then, of course, protected under the Official Secrets Act."

But Cameron's unelected successor may not provide much respite.

"Cameron's long-time Home Secretary is known for her tough views on immigration and asylum," wrote Maria Margaronis from The Nation's London bureau on Wednesday.

"Three years ago, she piloted a billboard campaign warning illegal immigrants to 'go home or face arrest,' and she pushed hard for Britain to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds that it makes it harder to deport terrorism suspects—a position she rowed back from when she announced her candidacy for the Tory leadership," Margaronis added.

In 2015, May was dubbed "Islamophobe of the Year" by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, leading commentator Shaheen Sattar to write on Wednesday: "I fear that Theresa May's track record as Home Secretary will result in the extended isolation and denigration of the British Muslim community."

Indeed, wrote Sattar:

It’s starkly evident that May’s actions as Home Secretary created an atmosphere where hatred and violence toward Muslims became a social norm. When it was announced that she was to become Prime Minister by default, I pictured 3 million British Muslims on an iceberg being violently prodded by May to move further away from their faith. We used to think “British Muslim” wasn’t a contradiction in terms. Now we fear the two words can never seem compatible in the eyes of the white British public or, increasingly, in the eyes of the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, as Common Dreams has reported, May introduced last year the so-called "Snooper's Charter," a sweeping expansion of surveillance powers in the UK.

"Theresa May has been a draconian Home Secretary, introducing the wrong policies at the wrong times for the wrong reasons," said Harmit Kambo, campaigns director at Privacy International, on Tuesday. "Instead of responding to public alarm about the Edward Snowden disclosures by rolling back state surveillance powers, she has instead ratcheted it up with the Investigatory Powers Bill, the most intrusive surveillance legislation of any democratic country."

And when it comes to environmental issues, May's record is mixed at best. Joe Sandler Clarke writes for Greenpeace's EnergyDesk:

May has been largely silent on the issue of climate change since becoming an MP. Meanwhile, her voting record on the environment while in government mirrors that of her party.

She supported the badger cull in the last parliament and was absent for the vote on allowing fracking in national parks, held before Christmas.

Citing a report issued this week by Britain's Committee on Climate Change—one which warned of deadly heatwaves, food shortages, and widespread flooding as a result of climate change—UK Green Party leader Natalie Bennett wrote that "there is still room for [May] to show the leadership that the country—and the planet—needs. The environmental crisis we face is one which crosses party lines and requires tough decisions and urgent action."

"What May needs to grasp," Bennett wrote, "is that the environmental, social and economic crises are not separate issues, but inter-related parts of the same issue—our failed model for Britain that over decades had led to the divides behind the Brexit vote."

She concluded: "Our political crisis is both a cause and a sign of decades of failure. The one thing that cannot continue in Britain is more of the same—the status quo is not an option."

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