Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Theresa May has taught me how to hate again


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The Independent Online

Did you watch and listen to THAT woman, Theresa May, last week? I did, live at the Tory party conference in Manchester, while pressing my bitten nails into my hands and building up such fantasies of violence that they could imprison me for thought crimes under our anti-terrorism laws. There wasn't much applause for the first part of her speech, so she threw them immigrants and asylum-seekers and then the Human Rights Act (HRA) to tear into. Members turned into noisy hounds and May was riding high. Until Ken Clarke pulled her off the horse. He is set to be punished by the PM, who obviously backs May's inciting horn calls.

Oh yes, May is a terrific rider, has a keen brain and cunning instincts, fine clothes and kittenish hair. Don't laugh. And don't be fooled either. She once opined that her party would not win until it lost its reputation for nastiness. So they did – underwent a makeover to appear such nice people. It worked. The New Tories are perfectly charming and dangerously likeable.

I chaired a big meeting of women voters in Westminster before the election. On the panel was May, gracious and intelligent, who knew how to please that audience too. Sayeeda Warsi also woos people brilliantly and I admire that. Cameron himself is incredibly intelligent and impeccably polite. In spite of trying really hard, I couldn't see him as the enemy. But that is what he and his party are, enemies of principles and policies for a more equal, just, fair and fulfilling society for everyone, not only those born with share options lining the walls of well-appointed nurseries.

The Tories are committed to individual civil liberties and not wider protection. To them, a man must be free to shoot dead a burglar or ban gay couples from his B&B, slaughter trees in his garden, employ only white, male workers, pay them pennies, sack whoever he damn well likes, and keep most of his money. The rights of the thief, the gay couple and the other whiners, well that's political correctness and state oppression of the individual.

The HRA gives everyone, be it a pauper, a prisoner, a priest or prince the right to family life, free expression, protection from torture, justice and much more. Our courts have been assiduous in the way they have interpreted the Act. But now even judges and magistrates are starting to respond to the fanatically hardline Tories. The sentences passed after the riots for the smallest of crimes shows a worrying swerve away from temperance and fairness. In these times, some are entitled to rights and others forfeit them because they are considered undeserving or worthless.

The economic crisis has provided the Tories with the excuse to push through what they have always wanted – a deregulated economy with millions willing to work at any cost. In the developed world, only the US has a worse labour rights record now than the UK. What's more, they are determined to undermine the Equalities and Human Rights Commission set up to prevent discrimination against women, racial minorities and the disabled and aid those whose human rights have been violated. Changes to disability benefits add humiliation and genuine hardship to lives.

China does not recognise human rights and India ignores labour rights. Both countries tolerate appalling treatment of women, minorities, the poor, the socially and politically disenfranchised. The CBI and City firms admire and envy the voracious capitalism which is driving extraordinary economic growth in these nations. Their best friends, Cameron and Osborne, who are now in the saddle until 2015, will take us down this route and the Lib Dems will shut up and put up. Unfrock the new Tories and you see the ugliness. It's OK to totally loathe them once again. And boy, does it feel good and right. For that I must thank Mrs May.