Theresa May is still ruining Britain

It was during her disastrous Conservative Party Conference speech in 2017 that Theresa May announced that the government would publish a Bill to put a price cap on energy bills.

Having earlier declared to a tabloid that she was “fed up of rip off energy prices”, between coughs, splutters and a protester handing her a fake P45, the former prime minister managed to declare: “We will always take on monopolies and vested interests when they are holding people back.”

Clearly the cap on standard variable tariffs was designed not only with the best of intentions – but also with focus group polling in mind.

Because something like it had originally been mooted by “Red” Ed Miliband, in between bites of a bacon sandwich. Given that the idea seemed to suggest that customers would get money off their bills, the public naturally lapped it up.

Everyone was evidently so distracted by the wheels coming off Mrs May’s car crash address that they failed to notice the concerns being raised by bodies like the Competition and Markets Authority, which had earlier warned that a cap ran “excessive risks of undermining the competitive process, likely resulting in worse outcomes for customers in the long run”.

And while Mrs May could not have predicted that Russia would go on to invade Ukraine four years after her Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018 received Royal Assent (notwithstanding Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea), the policy has proved to be one of many disasters on her watch.

It has signally failed to hold down energy bills at the same time as destroying competition in the market, while pushing multiple suppliers into bankruptcy.

We tend to remember Mrs May for her squandered majority and her inability to get Brexit done. But her legacy is fast proving even more calamitous than that.

It is beyond ironic that she refused to clap Boris Johnson during his final Prime Minister’s Questions, when you consider that, if it wasn’t for her former foreign secretary, the Conservatives would currently be in political Siberia, with Mrs May considered even more of a political pariah than she is now.

Arms folded, face like thunder, it seems the Maybot has been reprogrammed to forget just how bad her three-year tenure was. But we still remember.

Consider the parts of her Brexit disaster that Mr Johnson couldn’t fix. Thanks to the MP for Maidenhead’s catastrophic mishandling of our negotiations with the EU, we have ended up with a Northern Ireland Protocol that serves both sides badly and which now needs to be reformed.

It is all very well the Remainiacs, who thrived under Mrs May’s hapless administration, blaming Johnson for signing it. But the truth is that Brexit would have been all but lost had he not reached some sort of exit agreement with the EU after being handed a bag full of Brussels fudge by his bungling predecessor, and having been denied the option of no deal by a Parliament that Mrs May had allowed to run riot.

Even today, we still have to endure those who drank the Chequers Kool-Aid arguing that we should rejoin the single market – as oblivious as ever to the constitutional consequences of reversing a once-in-a-life-time democratic mandate.

But it gets worse. Witness the Modern Slavery Act – a piece of legislative virtue-signalling, introduced by Mrs May when she was home secretary, that is now being used by illegal migrants to avoid deportation, along with foreign murderers and rapists.

It was classic Mayism; nobody’s idea of a public priority, and cooked up with so many loopholes that it’s now backfired disastrously.

As former immigration minister Chris Philp explained to this newspaper earlier this month, the poorly drafted legislation – intended to protect vulnerable people from labour exploitation, domestic servitude or being trafficked for sex – is now being dangerously exploited.

He said that he had witnessed Channel migrants denying they were victims of slavery, only to change their story to avoid deportation after speaking to their lawyers.

Even more worryingly, he added: “I saw case after case where serious foreign criminals – including sadistic rapists and brutal murderers – used last-minute modern slavery claims to prevent deportation back to their home country.”

Calling for a tightening of the law, he said that the Act, introduced in 2015, allowed “absurdly low levels” of proof of slavery and “no supporting evidence”. He also pointed to the UK’s “incredibly naive” application of a Council of Europe treaty to combat modern slavery. While France and Germany had applied a tighter definition of slavery claims, Britain was more lax – meaning it had 10 times the annual 1,000 to 2,000 claims of the two EU countries.

Priti Patel, Mrs May’s successor as Home Secretary, is now having to clear up the mess by reviewing the Act “to make sure the system is about the recovery of victims rather than an open immigration route”.

Then there’s net zero, rushed through on the nod just a month before Mrs May left office – with no debate and little scrutiny. As with the Modern Slavery Act, it was designed to curry favour with the sorts of tree huggers who are never going to vote Tory in some attempt to divorce today’s Conservatives from what Mrs May once described as the “nasty party”.

But in reality, all the 2050 target has succeeded in doing is leaving a very nasty after-taste for ordinary taxpayers. The types of people who separate their recycling and would buy an electric car – if only they could afford it. The rush to decarbonise the economy, with no plan for how to achieve that over such a short period of time, threatens to become one of the most expensive mistakes in recent British history.

We have also been forced to count the cost of Mrs May’s cuts to police numbers. Fine the coalition was committed to an austerity programme, but her decision, as home secretary, to slash budgets by 18 per cent in 2010, was a total disaster. Little over a decade on and despite attempts to reverse the cuts, lo and behold we’re now being plagued by a crime wave.

From innocent Olivia Pratt-Korbel, aged nine, shot dead in her Liverpool home to machete wielding thugs rampaging through residential areas, to people being robbed of their Rolexes in the heart of Mayfair, there’s a sense of rampant lawlessness on the streets of Britain.

Recorded crime in England and Wales is now at a 20-year high, according to figures released last month by the Office for National Statistics with some 6.3 million crimes reported to police in the year to March 2022. Yet just 5.6 per cent of offences reported to police led to a suspect being charged or summonsed – a new low.

Part of it is down to a failure of leadership – but as any copper will tell you, the rot started to set in with Mrs May’s cuts.

And to think we haven’t even got on to her pioneering the trend of giving the NHS billions for nothing in return (remember when she gave it £20 billion for its 70th ‘birthday’ in 2018?) or how she managed to toxify social care reform with her farcical “nothing has changed” u-turn. Now no politician will dare do anything brave to fix the system.

There has been much criticism of Mr Johnson but the next prime minister may well find themselves devoting more time to unravelling the mistakes made by Mrs May – not the Big Dog to whom she refused to throw a bone.

Leave a Comment