Monday, 30 April 2018
Rudd has resigned - so that's all right then?
Our Homes Secretary, Ms Amber Rudd, has resigned. Her wording suggest that it's all over a technicality - she "inadvertently" (which means "unintentionally") "misled" (which means "lied to" )a parliamentary committee by claiming that the Home Office did not have targets for deporting immigrants.
So that's all right then. A minister has made a mistake and taken the blame, high standards have been maintained , our constitution has worked and our government can resume its course, proud that the the niceties have been maintained.
It is not all right.
What is needed is not just a change of minister (though there may be advantages in the appointment of Sajid Javid as replacement) but a change of policy and a change of the culture, not just in the Home Office but in Parliament, the parties and the country as a whole.
Our treatment of "immigrants," legal or not, Commonwealth, coloured, Irish, Eastern European or whatever, is not something of which our country, which likes to think of itself as tolerant, liberal and with a Christian heritage, can be proud.
There is a populist antipathy to "foreigners" and, sadly, both the Labour and Conservative parties have pandered to it. Both Jack Straw and David Blunkett were highly illiberal Home Secretaries.
I think I can claim an exemption for the Liberal party. We were the only party to want to welcome the Kenyan Asians in the 1960s. This tradition was maintained in In the first Leader' Debate for the 2010 election,(the one which which led to a brief period of Cleggmania,) when Nick Clegg proposed that an amnesty for all illegal immigrants who and been here for ten years, provided they had committed no crimes. This was derided by both the Labour and Conservative parties (though, oddly, Boris Johnson has just floated an identical proposal - presumably for his own mysterious purposes)
By contrast Mrs May is the one who proclaimed the need for a "hostile environment" to immigrants, which , of course, automatically extended to anyone who looked like or sounded like they might be immigrants.
The Home Office, of which Mrs May was in charge for five years, appears to have taken her at her word and people who have lived here since childhood, confident in their perfectly legitimate assumption that they were British, have been refused medial attention, lost their jobs, refused re-entry and even deported.
Amber Rudd was merely the latest to be in charge of implementing the policy, and she seems to have done it with some enthusiasm.
We need a change of culture. First, we should stop talking about "immigrants" and instead talk about "people." People who have lives to live, aspirations, friendships and families to sustain, dignity to be maintained and contributions to be made, be they to our economy or our culture.
Except in the case of notorious criminals, these people, are welcome.
Turning public opinion to sch a culture will be rather like changing the course of the Queen Mary. It will take time. Maybe a BAME Home Secretary is a start. It will need all the political parties to do their job, which is to lead rather than cravenly bow to populism. Much of the press will be no help. The religious establishments of all faiths will need to speak out.
But we can get there, and be a healthier and happier society for it.