Theresa May, Britain’s unelected Prime Minster, will hold talks with Donald Trump in the White House later today. May has been urged by many to “stand up to Trump” and fight back against his regressive politics.
The latest issue to prompt such rhetoric has been Trump’s advocacy for torture, despite the fact that it has been widely discredited as a means of extracting usable information.
May has been urged by MPs to echo Britain’s anti-torture position when visiting Trump in what will be nothing more than a cynical attempt to appear strong and principled.
Britain though, despite making the right noises, cannot really hold Trump to account regarding human rights abuses, particularly as the Tories (May included) want to take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The proposed British Bill of Rights would, according to research conducted by the London School of Economics, result in a decrease in basic human rights.
In this context it’s naive – and also incorrect – to present May as some sort of protector of human rights and arbiter of what’s good and pure. She is far from this, as are the Tories and the British political establishment more broadly.
Britain does not have a particularly good track record in regards to the implementation of the human-rights agenda they often trumpet.
Let’s remember that Jack Straw, MI6 and the UK government are being forced to defend claims about their involvement in the illegal kidnapping of Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his family as well as allegedly torturing him.
The judge in the case ruled that torture “has long been regarded as abhorrent by English law” but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen on the government’s watch.
Extraordinary rendition, in the words of Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie (chair of the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition) was “a programme of kidnap and torture developed during the Bush administration and facilitated by the UK government.”
Such information is critical when we consider the war on terror, Trump’s rhetoric on torture and the allegations that May is going to stand up to him. In public she may well do this but in reality we all know that May, despite her protestations, is no human-rights advocate.
Historically Britain has long been complicit in breaching the same human-rights they pretend to champion. As May is desperate to cosy up to President Trump, we can only expect her to aid-and-abet any cobbled together policies he promotes.
For those British politicians and liberal commentators claiming a moral high-ground over this and various other issues though, they need to “get real”. The British political class has long been involved in such practices, as was made abundantly clear by The Iraq Inquiry last year and the allegations surrounding “extraordinary rendition”.
More broadly the public need to be told the truth: gross human-rights abuses happened in the name of the supposed war on terror. Such revelations must be, unlike The Iraq Inquiry, followed up with resignations and criminal proceedings, rather than empty rhetoric about future positive change.