Tuesday, 1 May 2018
With Rudd Gone May is now in the Firing Line
Amber Rudd bowed to the inevitable on Sunday night and resigned as Home Secretary over the Windrush Scandal. Rudd was only able to stay in post for the last week or so because she was shielding the prime minister, Theresa May, her predecessor as Home Secretary. But after the drip, drip of leaks from the Home Office to the media, the knockout blow was the publishing of a letter from Rudd to May by the Guardian on Sunday afternoon.
The letter from January last year states that Rudd’s aim was ‘increasing the number of enforced removals by more than 10% over the next few years.’ Rudd had previously denied, including in the House of Commons, that any targets had been set for removing illegal immigrants from the UK. The game was up, Rudd was caught red handed misleading Parliament, and she had to go.
The ‘hostile environment’ was introduced to the Tory government by former prime minister, David Cameron, before he scarpered after losing the EU referendum. But it was May that made the policy flesh when she was Home Secretary, and this led to pressure on immigration officials to deport more people, and the Windrush migrants, here completely legally, were caught up in this zeal for deportations.
May also initially refused to meet Caribbean leaders to discuss the issue, before the scandal took off. Opposition MPs, like David Lammy and Diane Abbott asked questions in Parliament and wrote to May when she was Home Secretary, highlighting how legal immigrants were being treated. All were blithely batted away.
The policy is still in place, although renamed ‘compliant environment’ and May aside from issuing a general apology to those incorrectly detained, refused medical treatment, have lost their jobs and have been refused re-admittance to the UK, there has been no real contrition from the prime minister. Let alone any acceptance that the ‘hostile environment’ was the root cause of the unfair treatment.
But there are more specific questions that May has not adequately answered too. May has said that when she was Home Secretary, there were targets for deportations that she was aware of. “When I was home secretary, yes, there were targets in terms of removing people from the country, who were here illegally,” she told Sky News. So, why did May assume Rudd was telling the truth in Parliament when she said there were no targets?
Even more to the point, having presumably read Rudd’s January 2017 letter to her, and the request from Rudd to have a discussion about increasing deportation targets, why did May then not act when Rudd misled Parliament, saying there were no targets for this, when May knew there were? It can only be that May was desperate to keep Rudd in place because it kept the focus off May herself. Well, focus there can now be.
May refused a demand from Labour to come to the House of Commons on Monday to answer urgent questions about Rudd’s resignation and her part in it. Instead, the new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, was sent along to make a statement and take questions. It is a good public relations exercise to make Javid Home Secretary, with his immigrant background, and he made a decent fist of it, but the questions for May remain. We will have to wait until prime minister’s questions on Wednesday for Parliament to be given the chance to question May on this.
One has to wonder too, will there be any more compromising leaks coming out of the Home Office or other parts of Whitehall relating to this scandal? Was the requested meeting in the January 2017 letter from Rudd to May, which surely took place, recorded in minutes? If it wasn’t, why was that? Did May reply to this letter in writing? Might there be some incriminating documents from the Home Office from when May was Home Secretary?
I imagine there are some Tory MPs who are dissatisfied with May’s handling of the Brexit negotiations and other matters. Will they take the opportunity to get rid her over this scandal? Not completely unlikely, I think. An opinion poll for Sky Data indicates that almost eight times as many Britons blame May than Ruud for the Windrush scandal. Even the Spectator has a comment piece saying May is to blame.
May is on pretty thin ice and it would not take a great deal to bring her down. The curse of the Home Office, which she managed to dodge when she was Home Secretary, might finally catch up with her.