The secret of great comedy really is timing. Tragedy, too.
Which of those were we seeing yesterday, when the Conservative government desperately tried to extricate itself from the political quagmire of the Windrush Generation migration scandal while England celebrated its patron saint – who happens to have also come from a foreign country?
You see, St George was – well, here’s Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror to spell it out:
The day we celebrate a Turkish migrant worker in the pay of the Romans. Tricky for English racists who’d ban him from Britain https://t.co/V1TwthQG8e
— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) April 23, 2018
Pedants have pointed out that Turkey didn’t exist back then, but you get the idea.
We all know how Theresa May would have us treat this man, don’t we?
Bloody immigrants. Coming over here from the Middle East, slaying our dragons, making themselves into our patron saint.
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) April 23, 2018
That’s the lesson of the Windrush Scandal – it was a situation deliberately engineered by the Conservative government to create a “hostile environment” against anybody who was demonstrably from another country, in order to make it possible to ship them out of the UK and not care what happened to them afterwards.
The #WindrushScandal is evidence of how Theresa May’s “hostile environment” works, how this govt is prepared to act towards its electorate – British citizens. If govt had not been found out, people would continue to be denied NHS care, denied jobs, denied lives. #Windrush
— Dr Lauren Gavaghan (@DancingTheMind) April 23, 2018
That’s the truth of it: If the government had not been found out, people would continue to be denied NHS care, denied jobs, denied lives. Don’t forget that at least one person has died because of Theresa May’s racism.
And it is still taking place
Ugandan Asians are next for deportation as reported on the Westminster Hour on R4 22/4/18. How far are the Tories going to take this?
Voting all Tory councillors out on May 3rd tells Tess her policies are cruel & her power base erodes, something Tories can't stand. https://t.co/tjAccF7B8d
— Carole Hawkins (@hawkins_carole) April 23, 2018
Carole Hawkins is absolutely correct. Listen to that evening’s edition of Westminster Hour and around 18 minutes into the programme you will hear: “The next group to be snared in this will be Ugandan Asians; people who were allowed to come here by Ted Heath when they were fleeing Idi Amin. And that is going to be another painful moment in the life of the government.”
It continues: “They arrived in 71-72 so we can expect to get that problem for the government in 2019-2020… This problem is not going to go away.”
Amber Rudd says she is rowing back on the racist policies that led to the scandal:
“The home secretary has pledged that the Windrush generation will be granted British citizenship as the government attempted to draw a line under the scandal by describing her apology as “just the first step”.
“Amber Rudd told the Commons she recognised the “harrowing” experiences of the Caribbean immigrants who helped rebuild postwar Britain and that she was determined to right the wrongs that had taken place.
“The Home Office will now waive citizenship fees for the Windrush generation and their families and any charges for returning to the UK for those who had retired to their countries of origin after making their lives here.
“It will also scrap language and British knowledge tests and bring in speedy financial compensation for those that had suffered loss, although there has been little detail so far.
“The free citizenship offer will apply not just to the families of Caribbean migrants who came to the UK between 1948 and 1973 but anyone from other Commonwealth nations who settled in the UK over the same period.”
But all she is doing is making an exception for a small number of those affected by the overall policy – and she wouldn’t be bothering with any of the above if the Conservatives’ policy of victimisation and deportation had not been discovered.
And what is the mood of the public as a result?
Why? Because she’s a racist, obviously. Some are coming to this late:
“Theresa May could be accused of racism in the wake of the Windrush immigration scandal, a Labour frontbencher has said.
“Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler said the Prime Minister’s policies were delivering “institutionalised racism”.”
Institutionalised racism is right – it seems the Tory government knew for years that they were harming the Windrush Generation of migrants:
“A letter from a Home Office minister dated May 2016 and obtained by the Guardian shows that the government has known for years about the impact of its “hostile environment” policy on the Windrush generation.
“The letter the Guardian has obtained relates to Trevor Johnson. In a story that has shocked even veteran immigration rights campaigners, both Trevor and his brother Desmond have had their lives wrecked by hostile environment policies.
“They arrived as boys from Jamaica in 1971. Trevor has faced threats of deportation, while Desmond has not been allowed to visit Britain, where he has a daughter as well as a brother, since he went back to Jamaica for his father’s funeral in 2001. Desmond has not seen his daughter for 16 years.
“The letter was sent by James Brokenshire, immigration minister from 2014 to 2016, to Kate Hoey, the Labour MP who had raised the case of Trevor, her constituent.
“The letter set out that Johnson was liable to be deported despite having lived in Britain for 45 years because he could not show that he had arrived before 1973, when the law changed. Nor could he provide the documentary evidence the Home Office demanded of continuous residence over other periods in the 1980s and 1990s.
“In 2014 he was told he was here illegally, and his benefits were stopped.
“Asked about the letter on ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme, Brokenshire – who is now on the backbenches and has been receiving treatment for lung cancer – said he had not seen the letter before.”
Ex-Immigration min James Brokenshire told @peston his department acted with compassion. Brothers Trevor (forced to beg, threatened with deportation) and Desmond (exiled in Jamaica, separated from daughter for 16 yrs) don't agree #windrushhttps://t.co/yn50c4uP5G
— amelia gentleman (@ameliagentleman) April 22, 2018
And they’re not the only victims, of course:
'They were going to send me back to Jamaica. I’ve never been to Jamaica': Son of Windrush immigrant threatened with deportation….. and it still goes on till this very day
— Pebbles (@pebbles171820) April 23, 2018
And the Tories’ current solution – how permanent is it, really? Concerns are springing up about the so-called residence permits that cost almost £100 and last for just five years:
Theresa May says the #Windrush children are "British and a part of us". really, so how many other British people have to buy residence card every 5 years for £82 to be British? The Tories are not solving this scandal and their media mates are letting them off.#Marr #Peston pic.twitter.com/YwL4MRNdIc
— Devutopia (@D_Raval) April 21, 2018
Residence permits have discrimination built in. How can people build secure lives if their citizenship is up for grabs every 5 years? This move does nothing to change the 'hostile environment' created by the Conservatives in which Theresa May & Amber Rudd are key players #racists https://t.co/0oOcwHEoT2
— Keith Ordinary Guy #NHSLove (@KeithCameron5) April 23, 2018
And how are the Conservatives going to change Home Office agencies that are allegedly “rife with discrimination and harassment” as a result of their policies?
“The government immigration agencies at the centre of the Windrush scandal are “rife” with discrimination and harassment, a survey of their own employees reveals.
“Official documents show staff at Border Force reporting high levels of discrimination, with almost one in four (23 per cent) saying they had experienced it.
“The rate is almost double the civil service average and the second highest of more than 100 government departments and agencies.”
The culture has been ingrained for years – watch the clip for what John McDonnell remembers and read the text for an extra piece of harassment he didn’t mention:
Seema Chandwani is correct – I reported on it back in 2013, as follows:
“Spot-checks have been taking place at railway stations, where people who were notably not white were stopped, apparently at random, by immigration officers wearing stab vests who demanded to see identification proving they were in the UK legally. It seems they became unreasonably aggressive when asked what right they had to behave like this without direct cause for suspicion.”
“Unreasonably aggressive”. That supports the claim that there was a culture of “discrimination and harassment”, then.
At the heart of the matter is Theresa May. The prime minister was Home Secretary when she hatched her “hostile environment” plan, and has seen it through to the present day – until she was found out, of course:
Naughtily running through wheat fields. A faux coy public persona of the self-proclaimed Vicar’s daughter. Yet beneath the superficial butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth guise lie her creations-the Hostile Environment,Go Home vans & “deport first, appeal later” approach.#Windrush
— Dr Lauren Gavaghan (@DancingTheMind) April 23, 2018
Yes, Amber Rudd is Home Secretary now, and did nothing to ease the agony for the Windrush Generation migrants, so she should resign. But…
It seems obvious that Theresa May is using Amber Rudd as a human shield. Rudd really shouldn't be surprised. The Prime Minister sent her out to do a televised leaders election debate, just 48 hours after the death of her father. That's the kind of coward Theresa May really is.
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) April 23, 2018
No amount of policy tinkering from Ms Rudd is going to change public opinion. So the Tories are falling back on a tried-and-tested tactic: Whataboutery.
As in: What about the Labour Party?
More to the point, all but six Labour MPs (including Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and David Lammy) abstained when the Immigration Act 2014 was voted into law, creating the legal demand for Windrush Generation migrants. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has been criticised for his choice:
“Ed Miliband was “wrong” to order his MPs to abstain on the Immigration Bill in 2014, a former senior adviser to the ex-Labour leader has said.
“Lord Wood said Miliband had made a mistake.
““I think looking back it was probably the wrong thing to do,” the former Miliband aide said. “I think Jeremy Corbyn’s speech, looking back, was correct.””
Leading on from that, we have the comment of Tory whip Mike Freer (who?):
Government whip Mike Freer has described Labour's response to the Windrush migrant issue as "the height of opportunism and hypocrisy" in a leaked email obtained by Sky News
— Sky News Breaking (@SkyNewsBreak) April 22, 2018
Of course, we can all see through this sort of game-playing – can’t we?
THIS is how you defend the indefensible in Tory-la-la-racist-xenophobia-la-la-I'm-not-listening-land.
Actually sunshine your Tory policies were the height of opportunistic racism & xenophobia designed to gain the UKIP vote. https://t.co/BSFW7T0x73
— John Clarke (@JohnClarke1960) April 23, 2018
At the end of (St George’s) day, we had a government that remained just as hard on immigrants as before – apart from those whose plight had been brought to public attention.
For the rest – including St George, if he was trying to get here from his own homeland today – the environment is just as hostile as it was two weeks ago.
The Tories have made an exception – but the rule stays the same.
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And how many will be turned away from the polling stations next month because they don’t look British?
The Torys were deporting the Windrush people quite merrily until they got caught and found out, now wringing their hands.