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Spare your pity for Theresa May and her tears

I can’t feel sorry for someone whose tenure as prime minister has inflicted so much pain on millions of people – good riddance

These last three years have been defined by broken promises, unabashed dishonesty, and widespread, Tory-fisted suffering – no matter what a teary Theresa May says in her resignation speech.

“I will shortly leave the job that it has been the honour of my life to hold,” May said earlier today, addressing press outside 10 Downing Street. “The second female prime minister, but certainly not the last. I do so with no ill will, but with enormous and enduring gratitude to have had the opportunity to serve the country I love.” And then, her voice broke, and she turned back and into the doors of Number 10.

A surprising outpouring of sympathy has emerged amid the celebrations, waving goodbye to one of the worst prime ministers in modern times, and the confusion about what the hell happens next. “Dignified and defiant,” said one Twitter user. “She’s had it harder than previous prime ministers have had,” another said. The Express highlighted how her tears were unlike her usual “stoic and steady manner” as she “cried for her country”, a rare visible moment of emotion from a politician associated with roboticism.

How anyone can feel pity for a woman who actively inflicted pain and hurt on millions of people in her political career is totally beyond me. May can squeeze the tears out for the end of her time as Conservative leader and the person tasked with leading the UK into Brexit-emboldened oblivion, but it’s difficult to pinpoint any emotion for the country’s most marginalised across her tenure. Claiming to “serve the country I love” as one of the most self-serving people in politics, all the while legislating against or just outright ignoring the most vulnerable in the state, is galling.

Across years of Tory reign, with Theresa May at the helm, people have suffered. The state has been callous – capricious at times with who it hurts, or laser-focused on the groups that Tories most revile: poor people, the ill, migrants and refugees, women, the disabled, BME people.

Emotion and empathy had a place when 72 lives were taken in the Grenfell tragedy. The failings surrounding housing and safe living conditions that led to the preventable Grenfell fire were invigorated by the Tory government and its councils. Many survivors still having been given appropriate housing. In her speech, May had the gall to congratulate herself for the inquiry into the fire, despite widespread criticism for how it fails survivors and the families of victims. The inquiry let the government’s pride and disdain for the working class, as well as wider corporate interests, succeed. As she attempts to take any justice for Grenfell to her own credit, the government is this week being accused of a “futile desperation to contain the cladding scandal”. Thousands of tower blocks across the UK – housing working class people, students, so many more – are still covered in the combustible cladding, and her government showed no urgency in addressing it.

“She deserves scrutiny and scorn for her pursuit of power, as well as the political decisions she has made”

There’s the argument that May inherited a bad deal after David Cameron, but ultimately, this was a choice she made. She deserves scrutiny and scorn for her pursuit of power, as well as the political decisions she has made. The societal destruction May has caused by choice spills over from her time as the home secretary, particularly with her treatment of refugees and displaced people. Quoting humanitarian Nicolas Winton, who saved hundreds of Jewish child refugees in World War Two, is pretty jarring, given her and her government’s dire treatment of refugees. The “go home or face arrest” billboard vans in 2012 foreshadowed a hostile new era. Today, people continue to be denied access to health and social services because of their immigration status, and policy has made it harder than ever for even recognised refugees to get British citizenship. There’s the deeply racist ‘right to rent’ policy, and there’s been disturbing examples of citizenship stripping, ‘deport now, appeal later’ cases, and inhumane deportations that has resulted in the deaths of returnees. Then ultimately, the Windrush scandal sits squarely on May’s shoulders – 11 of those deported died, countless families torn apart.

We’re living in austerity state, but May’s government doesn’t care about the misery of its residents. She speaks of the breadcrumbs – housing, employment, the environment – her leadership of a supposedly “decent, moderate and patriotic Conservative government” gave to the marginalised –  yet the NHS has been subjected to the longest spending squeeze in its 70-year history under the Tories, and food bank use has escalated at its highest rate ever in 2018, with benefits not stretching to cover people’s costs of living. 598 rough sleepers died on UK streets last year, and rough sleeping has increased by a staggering 25 per cent, with overcrowding in social housing and renting properties a growing concern.

And with regard to mental health, which May also congratulated herself on, the under-resourced NHS is at an all-time low when it comes to specialised mental health staff. It’s a gross symbiotic relationship between the Tories and our outstretched NHS – Tory policies have made people more vulnerable, while Conservative cuts have meant referrals, beds and services are severely restricted. Where are the tears for the 120,000 deaths attributed to Tory-enabled austerity?

Her continued audacity includes Northern Ireland, a place without a functioning government for more than two and a half years. May put the incompetant and uncaring Karen Bradley as its secretary, and made a dodgy deal with the dinosaurs of the DUP to preserve her pathetic rule. In exchange, she’s refused to acknowledge the need for change archaic abortion laws in place in Northern Ireland, despite Supreme Court and UN rulings, despite women being prosecuted. People who get pregnant are routinely forced to travel to England and elsewhere to access vital healthcare their non-NI counterparts have. In Northern Ireland, you can truly see May’s contempt for women in need.

May believes herself to be a proponent of women’s rights, mentioning her part in domestic abuse legislation. Rather, her government has actively upheld a criminal justice system that fails survivors, putting their safety and welfare at risk, and cut vital specialist services. She has allowed the horrors of women’s detention centre Yarl’s Wood to thrive. She may claim to be “honoured” to serve as the second female prime minister, but her disdain for vulnerable women is palpable.

“Giving a voice to the voiceless” – Theresa May can absolutely spare me. Rather than wasting your breath praising or empathising with someone who created structures that will oppress people for this generation and more to come, shout about the people doing the real work. Grassroots groups, from Justice for Grenfell to Alliance for Choice, and Sisters Uncut, need your empathy, and that has to culminate in concrete, real world action to combat a callous Tory government – give your voice, your hands and time, your platform and signatures, as well as your rightful anger and tears.