Who or what is Theresa May?
I find it very difficult to answer this question. I stare into those cold dead eyes and nothing seems to look back at me.
Thatcher had a different version of those eyes. Hers was the icy glare of intransigence – the refusal to U-turn. May has U-turned (or lied) several times, but the iciness is still there. Hypocrisy has not softened her. The question has to be then – what is Theresa May’s bedrock? Upon what axis does she turn? These reversals of policy must be based on some over-arching principle – because she certainly doesn’t look like she went into politics for the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
I suppose we keep being led back to the vicarage and her Christian faith. If she’s not wedded to an economic doctrine, then perhaps she’s to be defined by something vaguer yet more compelling.
I’m not going to be cynical when it comes to Theresa May’s Christianity. The truth is much darker and more troubling than a diagnosis of cynicism can accommodate. It is true that her application of Christianity seems to me to be bereft of love and compassion and joy and salvation and forgiveness and redemption and all the things I was ever taught as a child formed the basic grammar of the Christian faith. Her “Christianity”, like the Christianity of so many self-proclaimed Christians these days, preaches bad news to the poor and the desperate and regards exiting the wrong sort of birth canal as the sin against the Holy Ghost. Dives is rewarded in heaven as on earth while Lazarus’ torments are to last for endless generations. If, as Marx suggested, Religion was once the opiate of the people, then the poor are now to be deprived of that opiate and the pie in the sky has gone. No longer are the poor to be just subjugated, they are to be vilified and insulted as well. Cursed are the poor, for poverty proves that God hates you.
Theresa May’s Christianity is utterly indifferent to the suicides of those she has benefit-sanctioned but can assert itself in response to a misreported labeling of an Easter Egg. It is a “Christianity” that protects the privileges of a tribe. It is an essential part of a brand logo of a very narrow definition of a “nation”. She was not born wealthy, though she and her husband are wealthy now. The
British government is comprised of people who can zap their money around the world whenever they want, betting against the British economy whenever it’s in their interest to do so. Recessionary fears don’t really touch this government personally – and indeed recessions are restructuring opportunities – opportunities to re-organise the labour market along more “flexible” (exploitative) principles. May’s support comes from the prevalent narrative of “kickdownism” – the idea that the threat to insecure privileges always comes from below rather than above. Kickdownism evokes a sense of a swamp lapping at your heels – drowning people clutching at your lifeboat threatening to overturn it (a metaphor literalised and therefore visualised by vicious media coverage of the refugee crisis).
The Christianity of May and her supporters is not insincere, but it is Bronze Age paganism, refashioned for a twenty-first century that no longer believes in the soul and looks for rewards in this life rather than the next. This Christianity exists to protect a narrow tribal identity and the supposed privileges which such a club membership is meant to confer. Rather than a Christ who rails at hypocrites and consorts with outcasts offering hope to the hopeless, May’s Christ is more of a bouncer who stamps your hand for re-entry into a very dull golf club.
The abstraction called “Christ” who actually validates May’s world view seems to have no human or even mammalian empathy at all. I think I’ll call him “Lizard Christ”. “Lizard Christ” is the being you invoke when you want to feel smug about not caring for other people. And May knows Lizard Christ well, and understands His will.
One problem with people who claim to have a privileged relationship with God is that they can find it easier to break faith with mere mortals. King Charles I was a good example of this. If only Lizard Christ can judge you, then the judgement of mortal mammals counts for nought. The Theresa May who was in favour of staying in the EU and who became the accelerator of extreme Brexit could do so because of her sense of her own tribe and a determination to lead that tribe. The Theresa May who promised she wouldn’t call an early general election and then calls one can do so because her sense of what her tribe can rally around right now permits her renege on her own commitments to mere mammals.
Britain is based on exclusions, exclusions that are based on fears. The frightened, suspicious and dull nation she celebrates can achieve its optimal tribal advantage if it asserts itself right now rather than in a few years time when the folly of Brexit has demonstrated itself. Since May is not held to any standard of truth or consistency beyond the short term advantages of the tribe symbolised by Lizard Christ, she is not, in her own mind, being hypocritical.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.