Theresa May invoking Jo Cox’ memory is offensive – the PM’s record is one of division

May's rhetoric on immigration is about anything but unity.

Theresa May responded to allegations of abuse against Tory MPs on the campaign trail in PMQs today – asking the House for unity. Challenging that abuse was obviously the right thing to do.

But in doing so she cited the late Labour MP Jo Cox, murdered by a far-right, racist fanatic. Quoting Mrs Cox’s maiden speech to Parliament in 2015, Mrs May told the House ‘we are far more united and have far more in common than the things that divide us’.

In that speech, Jo Cox’s opening point was to praise immigration and the diversity of her constituency: ‘our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration’, she’d said.

The PM’s cherry-picking of Mrs Cox’s message is insulting, and her attempt to associate with it hypocritical. Why?

The message throughout Mrs May’s career – particularly as Home Office Minister – has been to divide communities, not unite them.

Here is a politician who as Home Secretary allowed vans carrying billboards telling immigrants to ‘go home or face arrest’ to be driven around the country.

For years, Mrs May the minister with ultimate responsibility for Yarl’s Wood women’s detention centre, a place of alleged sexual abuse and bullying, described by the chief prisons inspector as ‘a place of national concern’.

And here is a politician whose government in 2016 unveiled plans to force companies to reveal how many foreign staff they employ ‘[who] take the jobs that British people should do’. A PM who has repeatedly bashed the Human Rights Act.

And a politician who in 2011 falsely claimed – playing-up the worst of tabloid hysteria – that an immigrant had attempted use the Act to avoid deportation because ‘he had a pet cat’.

It’s good to see the PM opposing division and political abuse today. But sadly her record says something very different to her rhetoric in PMQs.

Oscar Webb is a reporter for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter here.

See also: PMQs: Theresa May needs to accept that the Grenfell fire is political – Hillsborough proves that the truth will out

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