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Theresa May’s mission to save her legacy withers in the poisonous environment she’s left behind

Theresa May’s mission to save her legacy withers in the poisonous environment she’s left behind

Like any politician hurtling towards the scrapheap, Theresa May is obsessed with her legacy. 

Fair enough. Who wouldn’t want to be remembered deep into the future, and for something more epic than fields of wheat, shoes, dancing like a maiden aunt after too much sherry wine, the Arthur Askey husband, and not necessarily resolving Brexit to everyone’s satisfaction?

This week she has been scattergunning the grandiose ambitions with an abandon that might tempt the cynic to wonder about her grasp of reality.

We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.

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She wants to use her final days to push through such lavish new spending on mental heath services and education that Philip Hammond hints at resigning as chancellor if she does.

She also wants to rush through legislation mandating net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.

I have a wish list of my own. I want the body, head of hair and libido of a 20-year-old, and a beachside home on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.

Given that May has as much chance of realising her dreams as I do mine, the poignancy is this. If she took the minimal trouble to read a story on this site today, she could relax knowing that she does have a legacy, and that it will survive a very long time.

Her legacy is excluding Sofia, a baby of seven months, from this country.

Sofia is stuck in her birthplace of Pakistan because our heroic immigration authorities won’t let her enter this country. She has a legal Bioreports, Nina Saleh, a Norwegian national with permanent British residency, who has been approved as her adoptive mother.

She has applied and several times reapplied for a visa for Sofia, so she can bring her to the UK and complete the adoption process. Each time the visa has been refused on the grounds that an adoption in Pakistan cannot be legally recognised here. The argument would be less spurious had any such adoption taken place.

Before we go on, I should acknowledge that there may be another reason for this exclusion.

It could be that Sofia is a leading figure in the provisional Pampers wing of Islamic State. If the Home Office has been given information to that effect, from MI6 or the Pakistani security services, you appreciate its reluctance to share it. Minors must always be protected.

If Sofia has no form in the terrorist field, on the other hand, the explanation seems obvious. The atmosphere May fostered during her six years at the Home Office is so toxic that it has poisoned the most basic precepts of common humanity to death.

The only blemish on the legacy is that May didn’t create the culture. In response to relentless pressure from reactionary newspapers, Tony Blair’s government did that.

The truth beneath all the unchecked immigration headlines was brutal enough in the mid-2000s, when a priest who turned up at an deportation holding camp dressed as Santa Claus was refused permission to enter and give the children Christmas presents.

Later, under Gordon Brown, a brother-in-law of mine was forcibly removed to Jamaica for overstaying a visa despite having a British wife and two small British children. It took a couple of years to get him back. Even when an immigration tribunal judge found in his favour, the Home Office appealed for no imaginable reason other than the blind desperation to keep people of colour out of the country.

In 2010, David Cameron – barely less committed a Christian than his two immediate predecessors – appointed Theresa May as home secretary. 

The churchy vicar’s daughter sent out vans with the “Go Home” slogan which captured the essence of Jesus’s teaching with such elegant brevity. 

Her fixation with excluding the desperate endeared her to media outlets that traditionally destroy home secretaries in months. Effectively it made her prime minister. And it destroyed her prime ministership. She did what the tragically over-promoted do when they are way out of their depth. They cling to the life raft of what they know.

When she denied entry to a few dozen refugee Syrian children for whom homes had been allocated by local authorities, she ridiculed any pretence to moral adequacy. Her red line on freedom of movement incinerated any realistic chance of a civilised deal with the EU27.

In her last few weeks, she presides over the latest nauseation thrown up by the culture she nurtured.

A young baby is denied a mother and a home by civil servants working for the fuhrer within a system of depraved inhumanity, presumably absolved in their own minds by the Nuremberg defence.

It isn’t only May, of course, or her administration, any more than it was only Blair or Brown or the governments they led, or the bully boy newspapers who capitalise on the abundant moral cowardice of politicians.

It’s us. Always, ultimately, it is us. We learn about Sofia, and about the new born boy who died in a Syrian camp in February after his mother was banned from returning to her home country because at 15 she ran off to join Isis. And we don’t march on Whitehall to overturn ministerial cars.

We are the enablers of Theresa May’s legacy. It may not be the one she wants. The next time a sermon touches on an inconvenient biblical passage, it might even cause her a quiver of shame. But she earned it, and however long her wish list, it’s the only one she will ever have.

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