Theresa May showed her true colours as the Tory Party Conference began. This is the same Mrs May who warned her colleagues in 2002 that the Tory party was seen by voters as the 'nasty party'. Well that was then. Politicians of all colours say things they don't mean, to cause a stir and get noticed. Mrs May went on to become the longest serving Home Secretary in modern times. According to BBC's Danny Shaw, she had 'a vice like grip' on her department, and seemed to be immovable on most matters.
She was one of the hardest home secretaries ever and, at times, truly nasty, but quietly, sneakily. In spite of advice from education institutes and businesses, she imposed the tightest immigration controls and most shameful of all, showed no pity for traumatised child asylum seekers. David Cameron promised to take 20,000 Syrian refugees and 3,000 unaccompanied children from troubled countries. May never let that happen. Instead she made deliberately vague statements about sending money to refugee camps.
She played a blinder by appearing to be with Cameron in the Remain camp, but keeping in the background so she would be seen as neutral and responsible. That strategic decision got her to where she is now – to the top job in British politics. I never thought I would ever feel or say this but I miss Cameron and his liberal instincts, his spontaneity. This Conservative leader and her three wild Brexiters, natural born browbeaters, are truly scary. Backed by right-wing newspapers, they now behave worse than the most fanatical of Ukipers.
See how the PM scolds recalcitrant Remainers in her party and outside who still do not accept that Brexit means (hard) Brexit. She seems imperious and impervious to arguments. All Britons, including the millions who chose to remain within the EU, must now shut up and put up with fundamentalist agendas and timetables put forward by Boris, Liam Fox and David Davis. What this quartet decides will happen. It's as if suddenly we live in a one-party state where dissent is banned or scorned.
We Remainers are not allowed to consider the long-term effects of exiting the EU or examine more deeply the legal and economic effects of Brexit. We must not warn about the xenophobia that has been unleashed.
On Saturday night, I was on Sky News, doing the newspaper review with Alex Deane, Cameron's previous chief of staff and now a bullish Brexiter. We obviously disagreed about the EU and also about racism which he does not believe is rising (even though police forces confirm it is). The exchanges were robust but never rude. Soon after I started getting racist abuse, more virulent than I have had recently. Trolls turned vicious, as they do. But some of the most hurtful comments came via email, with names and addresses. The emailers felt no shame. Most were from women. Here is what one of them said:
"Go home albi brown you come on sky news spouting your poison you are not British. Please don't pretend that you are. We don't like you and you do not stand for British people. You are Ugandan and should go back there. The Muslims are trying to take over our wonderful country, not a chance"
Another told me simply "Get out or we will make you. I don't want to see your face on my screen".
An Englishwoman who has been living in Latvia for ten years said I was a guest in her country who had no right to comment on British politics. Others, well, were truly repulsive. It is happening to my nearest and dearest too. A young relative, born here, who works in rehab in a hospital was asked if her parents came over by camel or an illegal boat.
As Will Hutton wrote this Sunday in the Observer: "Hard Brexit legitimizes anti-foreigner and anti-immigrant sentiment. When Britain's flag outside EU institutions is brought down and Messrs Farage, David, Johnson, Redwood, Fox et al delightedly hail the sovereignty and supremacy of Britishness, it could signal a new round of street baiting of anyone who does not look or sound British".
Such political and racial bullying is unacceptable. Opposing headlong Brexit is now an urgent national duty. Parliament must surely have the right to debate and vote before we are taken to hell in a handcart.
Tories like Scotland's Ruth Davidson, Ken Clarke and some ex-ministers are very concerned. They see the UK, until now, successful, internationalist, multiracial, creative and competitive, becoming regressive, bigoted, nationalistic and coarse. The PM is ultimately responsible for this national decline and fall and she chooses to do nothing. That is why Remainers have to find our voices again, to assertively oppose petty Brexit dictators. We must fight to get our country back.