“Theresa The Appeaser”? No. She’s worse

January 29, 2017

by Martin Odoni

A popular hashtag on social media at the moment rightly condemns the UK Prime Minister for her pusillanimous stance on the ban on refugees from certain Islamic countries entering the USA. Theresa May is being called Theresa-The-Appeaser for her mealy-mouthed refusal to criticise the new US President, Donald Trump, for signing an Executive Order closing borders to people originating in seven Middle Eastern countries. (Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, none of them are among the countries in the region with whom Trump has personal business interests.) This was done just as May was preparing to meet the new President for the first time.

The anti-refugee policy drew immediate, scathing condemnation from all over the world, and has seen a second furious tidal wave of protests against Trump across the USA to follow the multi-millions demonstrating for women’s rights last weekend. (Trump only got sworn in nine days ago, and already millions seem ready to start a revolution against him!) But when pressed on the matter by increasingly impatient journalists, May, for long hours, refused to be drawn. Even when one of her own MPs, the Iraqi-born Nadim Zahawi, revealed that he himself would be subject to the ban, May stayed quiet.

The ‘Appeaser’ tag of course invokes memories of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister at the heart of the notorious ‘Munich Agreement‘ of 1938, shortly before the start of the Second World War. I think the comparison is unfair though. On Chamberlain, that is.

Not quite an appeaser, but no better.

Theresa May lies back on the couch and lets Donald Trump do what he wants.

I am one of those history buffs who have some sympathy with Chamberlain over Munich, as he was in a pretty hopeless position when he tried to negotiate with Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain has long been castigated as the weakling who let Hitler walk all over him, giving up the Sudetenland and leaving Czechoslovakia undefended as the price of Britain not having to go to war, only for war to follow anyway, when Hitler reneged on his promise not to claim any further territories. But people arguing that Chamberlain was a weakling forget that Britain in the 1920s had undergone a massive program of disarmament, and the task of rebuilding the military was only just under way by the time he became Prime Minister. Militarily, Britain was far behind Nazi Germany, clearly nowhere near ready for another war, and in light of Britain’s military weakness at that point, Chamberlain’s concessions to Hitler were understandable, and may even have been wise, as they bought extra time to re-arm.

But more than that, even while Chamberlain made concessions in the face of threats, he still took an explicit position of opposing what Hitler was doing. He did not stay silent in the face of a powerful right-wing extremist; even if the promises Chamberlain extracted from Hitler in return for the concessions ultimately proved to be lies, at least they were born from a genuine attempt at offering up some opposition.

Compare that to May’s behaviour over the last couple of days, and you quickly realise that there is almost no resemblance at all. What May is doing is not even appeasement in fact (a word that is thrown around with depressing frequency, especially by militarists who do not appear to understand its meaning). What May has been doing in the face of right wing extremism is basically nothing; she has merely tried to keep her lips sealed and hoped not to become embroiled in the matter of the refugee ban at all.

What Chamberlain did to try and contain Hitler in 1938 may arguably have been wrong (although as I say, given Britain’s military weakness at that point, that is very much open to debate), but at least he did try and do something against it. Whether we think appeasement was the right action, at least it was not inaction. May’s response to such extremism when faced with it is not even to appease it, it is simply not to talk about it until her hand is forced. Even when she is compelled to speak up, all she says is that she disagrees with the refugee ban, not that she condemns it. (If Vladimir Putin of Russia had come up with a policy as intolerant as this, what, I wonder, would she be saying then?) May is making no real attempt to oppose Trump’s anti-Muslim prejudices, or his cruel rejection of the terrible plight of so many refugees (from wars that the USA and Britain themselves have played significant roles in creating), even though she is not being threatened by a powerful military in the way that Chamberlain was. She is being sycophantic, sucking up to Trump in the hope that he will give Britain a kinder trade deal to prop up an economy that will soon be ailing in the aftermath of leaving the European Union. She is scared of losing such a deal, and she is giving in to that fear.

So even if we accept that Neville Chamberlain was ‘weak’, what do the last couple of days make Theresa May?

An outright coward, perhaps?

Advertisements

One Response to ““Theresa The Appeaser”? No. She’s worse”

  1. Sophia.George 💋 Says:

    Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    Nicely put 💯👌🏼


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: