Politicians like Trump and May are quick to slam fake news, but let’s look at the biggest spins of our Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference.
We can’t tolerate bullshit at Stand Up. We know conference season is about spin and far more about trying to energise the party base than win over new support. It’s a situation that leads to audacious claims and grand spin. Theresa May’s speech though to the Conservative Party Conference took it to a whole new level. We don’t care about coughing or a protester (although he helped break up the monotony) we care about the substance, and there was almost none present in May’s speech. These were just some of the worst claims May made in her speech.
1) She championed same sex marriage in her speech despite a long record voting against queer rights
When addressing how Britain was “leading the world” May said “same sex marriage on the statute book, so that two people who love each other can get married, no matter what their gender”. First of all, this isn’t true due to the trans spousal veto clause which means that the right of marriage for trans people can pass over to their cis partners to decide upon. The hypocrisy behind the sentiment was also jarring. May did vote for same sex marriage, but this was led by Cameron as it was his main idea of how he could rebrand the Tories as nice. Before then, May’s record on queer rights was absolutely shocking. May was absent for a vote on the Equality Act and voted against crucial bills, such as allowing same sex couples to adopt and having an equal age of consent.
This is the biggest problem with the Tories and queer equality. Do they really support it or is it a cynical ploy because queer rights (specifically marriage) got more popular?
2) Claiming Britain is leading the world on climate change
How? At the G20 summit, May was criticised for not making climate change one of her top priorities. In December last year, it was revealed that the Foreign Office had cut the number of staff working on climate change. A report by the Committee on Climate Change has also found the UK is under-prepared to deal with the realities of climate change.
Perhaps May just wants to claim some of Scotland’s credit and who can blame her? Scotland and California have signed a joint agreement to work together to tackle climate change. Scotland’s also smashed the renewable energy record with its investment in wind power.
3) The British Dream
This wasn’t an actual record claim but we can all agree this was awful rhetoric. May got incredibly close to co-opting those famous words by Reverend Martin Luther King. It would have been a disaster but then, May was wearing a Frida Kahlo bracelet, so co-opting the struggle of people of colour might have been the theme for the day.
4) Claiming action was being taken on Grenfell when survivors are still struggling for support they’re entitled to
“Because Grenfell should never have happened – and should never be allowed to happen again” Theresa May
It largely has been Labour leading the way (at least on a national level) on criticising the situation that allowed Grenfell to happen. The Tories have blocked attempts even to make homes “fit for human habitation”. The survivors of Grenfell are also still being failed. Money has been slow to come through and yet it is what they’re entitled to. People have lost everything but while politicians make speeches trying to score political points, not much is actually being done for survivors.
5) Claiming mental health would be a priority
“So we are building on our record of giving mental and physical health parity in law by investing more in mental health than ever before. ” Theresa May
Past records are a good indicator of what the future will hold and it does not look good for mental health services. There is nothing in this policy area for Theresa May – or her party – to be proud of. Since 2010, there has been a lot of talk from the Tories (and the Liberal Democrats; they deserve scrutiny too on this policy area) on supporting mental health but services have been consistently cut. This year alone the BBC has found that cuts to mental health services in England will amount to £4.5 million. Everyone loves to say how talking fixes mental health conditions but it’s absolutely useless breaking down stigma if there is no mental health care system. We don’t need more rhetoric on mental health. We need funded services.
6) Forgetting about Brexit
“Our precious union of nations – four nations that are stronger as one – threatened by those with their narrow, nationalist agendas that seek to drive us apart.” Theresa May
It’s quite worrying that not once did May, or any of her team, sit back and really look at this sentence without seeing a problem.
7) Praising free markets for lifting people out of poverty
Perhaps May’s speech was about actually believing we were in a dream version of Britain. Then it might make sense. None of the speech as it was really seemed to reflect the struggles British people are going through right now, and nothing highlighted that more than when May waxed lyrical about the free market. Between 2010-2016 homelessness increased by 54% according to Government figures. That’s right, the Tory Government figures. It got even worse this year when in January it was revealed that the number of rough sleepers had actually increased 133% since 2010. In March this year, Government figures showed an increase of children living in poverty of 100,000 over the previous twelve months. The number of people using food banks has also increased by 7% in the last year, according to Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network. Free markets aren’t lifting people out of poverty, they’re plunging families into it while the government watches.
8) Free-markets have helped “to cement Britain’s influence as a force for good in the world”
Despite Saudi Arabia being criticised for its military action in Yemen (which has caused one of the worst famines the world has seen), the UK continues to sell arms to the government. Saudi Arabia has one of the worst human rights records in the world and people in Yemen are facing a humanitarian crisis. What is our contribution due to our free market policies? We sell bombs to Saudi Arabia. The claim by May that we’re leading the way as a force of good is rather nauseating.
9) Brexit will lead us to take back control
“A country in which the British people are firmly in control” Theresa May
This was a bit of a Nigel Farage moment but she had to swing right after spending the first half of the speech trying to convince everyone the Tories were actually nice. Britain never lost control under the EU. We still decided the vast majority of our laws. We occasionally had to alter and comply with other nations but that’s inevitable. We have, however, completely lost control since.
We have secured no trade deals, the pound is even less stable than Trump’s politics, we have no idea what Brexit means and one major business has already collapsed partly because of Brexit.
The issue of taking back contorl was only ever about xenophobes who didn’t want migrants to come here.
10) The Tories invested in the NHS
“Let us not forget that it is this party that has invested in the National Health Service and upheld its founding principles through more years in government than any other.” Theresa May
If you want to be strictly literal and use a bit of spin, which the Tories are no doubt hoping, then they have invested – because every year governments spend if they so much as pay in £1 to whatever service they choose. The reality though for the NHS has been freezes and cuts in real terms. The NHS was told to make savings of over £20 billion, with poorer regions like the North East being disproportionately impacted. “Making savings” means a cut in spending. It means the NHS has been told it’ll get less money and it will just have to survive (or, inevitably, be privatised). The Tory cuts have been so bad that Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom tried to lobby Hunt to prevent cuts to services in her constituency.
With so much spin it’s difficult to believe in the integrity of politics. It’s also relentless trying to point out everything that doesn’t quite add up but the speech May give simply ignored the reality facing the country. It wasn’t a particularly controversial speech but that made it all the more dangerous. When we allow the erasure of fact and whitewashing of recent history, we lose our ability to judge critically.