The Wrong Trousers — A Review of Theresa May’s First Six Months in Office

Sam Brooke

Theresa May’s bad handling of Brexit makes her ability as a Prime Minister questionable (Photo: Reuters)

As Home Secretary, Theresa May was always the sort of person to push on with a policy even when faced with opposition — just not in a good way. Known for her authoritarian anti-drug stance, in 2014 she tried to doctor the results of a report that showed no clear link between illegal drug use and harsh anti-drug policies because she didn’t like the result.

That spirit seems truly alive and well in Mrs May as we enter 2017 — after the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled Persons claimed that changes to benefits was a violation of disabled people’s rights, the Government simply refuted the claims. The Government also gave a similar response when the European Court of Justice ruled that the Investigatory Powers Bill was illegal.

In fact, the most striking thing about Mrs May’s tenure as leader is that she seems to hold human rights with contempt. The PM seems hell-bent on repealing the Humans Rights Act and withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights in order to get what she wants, even though doing so would breach the Good Friday Agreement, risking peace in the UK.

It’s obvious that her ideal government is an authoritarian one — her passing of the Snooper’s Charter and her plans to control internet pornography more tightly exemplify that. The fact that 48 government organisations now have access to the last 12 months of our online history is outrageous and sets a horrifying precedent for the future — imagine the DWP denying someone benefits because they haven’t been searching for a job on the internet, or GCHQ monitoring someone because of a mistyped Google searches.

Another worrying point of Theresa May’s first six months is her cabinet appointments, chiefly Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. It was a mind-boggling appointment, not only because the former Mayor of London has never run a department before but also because the man flip-flops on issues frequently, including on Turkey joining the EU.

Liam Fox as Secretary of Trade should never have happened, as the former Defence Secretary gave his friend access to his Ministry and therefore showed that he was incapable of being a Minister. Chris Grayling as Transport Secretary has proved to be a disastrous choice as the Southern Rail crisis rumbles on, while the fact that Jeremy Hunt remains Health Secretary despite his poor handling of junior doctor contracts is hard to believe.

Andrea Leadsom being chosen as the Environment Secretary also shows that Mrs. May is not taking climate change seriously enough, as the former Conservative leadership candidate had to actually ask if climate change was real upon her first meeting with the department. The Government’s abolition of the Department for Energy and Climate Change and continued support of fracking is once again worrying — though the Prime Minister’s opposition to the costly Hinkley C nuclear power plant is an admirable move since the previous administration was happy to bend to the will of EDF even though the costs of the plant were ridiculously high.

However, the elephant in the room concerning the Prime Minister is her handling of Brexit. Though she claims that Article 50 will be activated by March this year, that seems increasingly unlikely, mainly because it seems that the Government has no plans regarding it, and if they do they’re certainly not intent on reassuring the public about it. From “Brexit means Brexit” to “Red, White and Blue Brexit” it’s clear that Mrs. May is hoping that buzzwords and soundbite politics will be enough to tide the population over until plans are announced.

So what can we expect from the May administration in 2017? Article 50 will most likely be triggered by the end of March, but it doesn’t seem that the Government will be ready for it, what with the UK’s ambassador to the EU resigning and the Brexiteers baying for blood. We can also expect plenty more authoritarian policies — expect the Prime Minister to go after “unconventional” pornography on the internet, as well as any Internet Service Providers that are unable to uphold the demand that the Investigatory Powers Bill places on them.

There are also plenty of obstacles to overcome in 2017 in order for the PM’s first full year in power to go smoothly. The aforementioned Southern Rail crisis needs to be ironed out at soon as possible, as it’s clear the public are getting more agitated by the company’s incompetence and the government’s lack of action. More needs to be done about the crumbling state of the NHS, too, as hospitals are rapidly becoming overwhelmed and underfunded.

Moving forward, Mrs May needs to handle Southern Rail by threatening to take away their franchise in order for them to reach a solution, as well as possibly sacking Transport Secretary Chris Grayling if his lack of action continues. The NHS needs more funding and attention, and Jeremy Hunt should be promptly replaced by a politician that wants to preserve the NHS and not dismantle it.

Of course, concerning Brexit the Prime Minister is in a very tough situation, with hardline Brexiteers one side of her and angry Remainers the other. She desperately needs to be clearer about the stage Britain is at with Brexit in order to satisfy the public, and if no concrete plans are created, then she needs to make the tough decision and push back the activation of Article 50. When it comes to the future of the country, it’s unacceptable to put politics before the people — if the government isn’t prepared for Brexit, than it needs to make the hard call.