What does it take to bring down such an incompetent and contemptuous government? Apparently not even the Windrush scandal, possibly the worst political fiasco in modern times, can break such a cruel and floundering government – so far, not a single head has rolled, and not a morsel of responsibility has been taken.
It was in June 1948 that the Empire Windrush sailed up the Thames, carrying on it 492 migrants from the Caribbean. It marked the start of a wave of migration from Commonwealth countries who were invited by the state to come and work in this country. Now the children of those migrants find themselves facing deportation to a country they have never known, and in cases denied healthcare in the nation they have served and paid taxes in.
The Home Office harassment of the Windrush generation is perhaps the blackest mark yet against Theresa May and her government. You ask how this could have been allowed to happen. But how could a government whose fall-back position was always to demonise and smear those it considered the most vulnerable behave any other way?
Let’s just take a moment to pause and think about what the Windrush scandal reveals to us. Modern Britain has become a place where the government can round up innocent people, and ship them off to a country they have never known and bear no consequences whatsoever. Government have been literally locking up and persecuting innocent citizens and when the truth emerges, they go completely unpunished. It’s simply ‘regrettable’ that this has happened, but not anything to do with them – despite the policy they introduced which created the “hostile environment” in which such events could happen, not to mention removing protections in a 2014 Immigration bill which allowed British citizens to become effectively stateless unless they could prove otherwise.
It’s at best absolute incompetence, at worst governmental racism working exactly as intended.
The “Go home” vans which stalked our streets showed there were no depths to which the government would not sink to sow division in our communities and demonise the most vulnerable. This is institutional racism at its finest. It’s the apathy of the “nobody like us will be affected” state of mind. It’s the subconscious feeling of superiority which seems to run in middle to upper-class white families coming to the forefront of British politics.
And the response from the Conservatives has been one of sheer contempt. Unashamed contempt.
One of Theresa May’s most loyal allies, Damian Green, dismissed pleas from the Windrush generation for help to confirm citizenship status as far back as 2011, a letter seen by the Guardian shows. Tory whip, Mike Freer complained Mrs May’s hostile environment approach had “nothing to do” with the Windrush row, offered no apology, and blamed Labour. Downing Street has admitted that the last Labour government had nothing to do with it.
This is a scandal that has been bubbling beneath the surface for some years, and the culprit and architect of it now resides in 10 Downing Street.
They were warned this was happening, they were told this was happening – they knew this was happening. The fact is, the government don’t really care, they never cared – they are only are making apologies and promises to make amends now because of the public outrage surrounding the issue. A “hostile environment” is what the government has deliberately created. Calculated cruelty has been policy, not accident.
“This should never have been allowed to happen” Home Secretary, Amber Rudd said. Yet she could not give an explanation about why she and her Home Office had ignored six months of Guardian stories on the misery suffered by those sent to detention centres and threatened with deportation. And she can’t blame the person responsible for the policy because, well, you guessed it – it’s her boss.
Perhaps even worse for Ms Rudd, the Guardian got hold of a Home Office memo, sent to Amber Rudd, by the then-immigration minister Brandon Lewis, laying out the targets set by the Home Office for the number of people to be removed from the United Kingdom. Rudd had previously told the home affairs select committee that the Home Office had no targets for removals, then that she was unaware of these targets and that they would be scrapped. Now it emerges that she saw the relevant targets herself.
Apparently lying to parliament is no longer a resigning offence, that’s how far we have fallen politically.
Let’s not forget that this was not Rudd’s policy, however. The architect is our now Prime minister. This disgrace has her grubby pawprints all over it.
Theresa May is a woman who actually looks at her electorate, or in this case or a population, and sees value according to colour. She has an inbuilt sense of hierarchy, as many from her class, generation and standing in life might – and this is why we are yet to shift institutionalised racism, the Windrush scandal is perhaps the most public and poignant example of this.
Mrs May and her team calculated that when push comes to shove voters won’t care enough because this won’t affect the likes of them, because all of the victims of this policy have been, well, black and old – and innocent.
What is racism in its simplest form if not an almost intuitive belief that you’re worth as a human being is determined by where you come from, calling for people to be punished according to the circumstances of their birth, allowing them to be treated differently because of this.
But still, this scandal was nobody’s fault. Especially not Theresa May’s or Amber Rudd’s. Just something that had got a bit out of hand. Evidently.
How have Ms May and her government gotten away without either herself of her Home Secretary falling on their sword? Well, how do you ensure people don’t shout from the rooftops about such issues? Easy, hire a senior BBC editor and the former political editor of the Daily Mail to do your communications, to be your official spokesman, to call in a few favours, to manage the news to keep away from the from pages in the headlines.
But the tide turned. This was too big, it couldn’t be hidden from the public. They cared – unlike the government.
“Oh but isn’t it horrible” wail the tabloids, who did the most to stir it up. How difficult it must have been then for Theresa May to have the Daily Mail criticising her, the same Daily Mail that she has been so subservient to, and that was so instrumental in shaping the immigration debate that led to the immigration act of 2014.
Responsibility is a complicated issue though, one might be told. But then again Governments are quick to tell voters that they should take more responsibility for their own lives, yet they rush to find a scapegoat in circumstances such as these. A fine example of behaviour to present to the country.
Heads must roll. And the buck ultimately stops with Theresa May, she was the one who introduced the policy that has culminated in this mess – she should bite the bullet and resign, and take her lying Home Secretary with her. Wipe the slate clean.