Despite Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s decision to voluntarily fall on her sword, the Windrush scandal doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.
I suspect that on this occasion, as on many others, the wrong person may have resigned, Rudd having “taken a bullet” for her boss Theresa May. I am surely not alone in thinking it is a bit unjust that the First Mate is having to walk the plank of the Empire Windrush when the Captain of the Ship should be getting ceremoniously keel-hauled, if not hung-drawn-and-quartered, or whatever other horrific punishments were meted out on the high seas back in the day when Britannia ruled the waves.
It is difficult not to feel a slight pang of sympathy for the former Home Secretary, although only an exceedingly small pang. Over the past 12 months, she appears to be the person who has been delegated to clean up whatever foul-smelling mess the Prime Minister may have created.
Last June, you may remember, she had to stand in for May when the PM refused to take part in the televised election debates with Jeremy Corbyn. Amber Rudd played an absolute blinder that night, if I remember correctly. She gave such a stilted performance, most of which involved endlessly repeating the phrase “there is no magic money tree” that I personally – and I suspect most other viewers – was convinced that May had changed her mind and turned up for the broadcast at the last minute.
Now, Rudd is willingly taking responsibility for a policy hatched in 2010, by a Home Secretary who had vowed to create a “hostile environment” around the issue of immigration. No prizes for guessing who that Home Secretary was, but Google it if you don’t know.
The Windrush scandal may go down in history as one of the most shameful episodes of Britain’s post-colonial history. Being a 60-year-old who grew up in Britain in the 1960s at the same time as the Windrush generation, it is impossible for me not to have an emotional connection to this issue.
Not only did Commonwealth citizens come to this country in the post-war years to do the jobs that indigenous Britons would not do, they and their offspring have made the UK a more exciting and cosmopolitan country to live in.
Without them, there would be no reggae, no chicken tikka masala and no ethnic diversity in this nation, never mind enough people to run the NHS or our public transport. Without them, we would still be listening to Matt Monroe on the Home Service, eating steak-and-kidney pie and wondering when the next bus was going to turn up. I find it utterly unforgivable that the rights of a generation of people who contributed so much to the betterment of the fabric of this nation, and to the enrichment of its culture, should be treated in such a cavalier fashion.
May is roughly the same age as I am, and grew up in a similar time, albeit in a very different part of the UK. While she may have spent large periods of her childhood running through fields of wheat, she surely paid some heed to the world outside. As a vicar’s daughter, she was presumably taught the virtues of compassion and of love for strangers.
If she merely accepts Rudd’s head on a plate as a solution to this crisis, history will view her as the shabbiest Prime Minister of the 21st century. The fact that two of the three other PM’s of the 21st century happened to be Tony Blair and David Cameron should give an idea of the true depth of that shabbiness.
She should either sort this mess out once and for all, or do the decent thing and resign.