By Morak Babajide-Alabi
For Amber Rudd, the former United Kingdom Home Secretary, the past one week had been an agonising period in her political career. The days certainly got longer for her while the nights were pretty short for any meaningful rest. She was continually in the spotlight and harassed until she finally took the plunge, by resigning her position last night.
The resignation came as a surprise as observers had thought she would toughen it through, especially considering the fact that senior ministers did media rounds on Sunday morning trying to justify her position. All these could not save the career of a tough-talking and mean-looking Minister who presided over a department that takes joy in destabilising established families. Outside the ruling Conservative Party, there are little or no sympathies for Rudd, especially after the revelations of the shambolic and disgraceful handling of the Windrush immigrants came to public knowledge.
It could have been business as usual for Rudd with just a smack on the back of her hand had she pleaded “officialese”. But it got far beyond hiding behind official process as she was caught out in a lie. More damaging was that she had the opportunity to redeem the lie in the first instance, but choose to “consolidate” them as facts to Parliamentarians.
Now that Rudd has resigned the question now is, who will save her equally embattled predecessor, Prime Minister Theresa May? May had been her greatest supporter in the Windrush scandal. Well, until the lying bit came out. Rudd, accused of acting as a human shield for May, could well have taken this fall for her. The PM is accused of being the main perpetrator of the inhuman treatment of hundreds of Windrush generation immigrants while she was the Home Secretary.
The opposition Labour Party seized the opportunity of the Windrush scandal to drown the noises of anti-Semitism charges against its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. The party has been the loudest in keeping the scandal in the public court. They took the fight straight to Rudd, May and the Tories for what Corbyn called inhuman immigration laws.
The Windrush immigrants were from Commonwealth Caribbean countries such as Jamaica who arrived in the U.K. between 1948 and 1971. The tag Windrush was in reference to the first generation that arrived at Tilbury Docks, Essex on 22 June 1948 on the ship MV Empire Windrush. As a result of the change in immigration policy, some of them are out of status because they could not provide papers supporting their claims to residency in the country.
It has also emerged that the landing papers of these immigrants had been destroyed by the Home Office. As a result of this official error, many of the hitherto settled and regularised “citizens” have been harassed out of their jobs, benefits, houses, while some have been deported to countries they have no connections with.
May had initially tried to pass the blame for the embarrassing decision to destroy the landing documents of the immigrants on the opposition party. May said, “the decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 under a Labour government.”
Whichever government took the decision does not matter anymore as the mess was left for Rudd to clear up. It was an embarrassing development that shocked the world and got May apologising to Caribbean leaders who were in Downing Street for a meeting on the back of the Commonwealth summit in London last week.
May had to openly apologise at the House of Commons when she said: “These people are British. They are part of us and I want to be absolutely clear that we have no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here. For those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them, I want to apologise to them and I want to say sorry to anyone who has been caused confusion and anxiety as a result of this.”
The Prime Minister probably thought to own up to the mess and promise to make amends would calm frayed nerves. It was a mistake, as Labour Party continuously ramped up support for the condemnation of the PM and the resignation of Rudd.
At the back of the Windrush scandal, the Home Secretary was asked if she was aware of her department’s deportation targets. She confidently denied there was any national target, a claim which was controverted by union members. When this was unearthed as lie number one, Rudd pleaded “ignorance” but was left red-faced when The Guardian published a memo that was sent to her about the removal targets. This proved she was, in fact, aware.
How many times did the face of the shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott keep Rudd awake in the night? It must have been numerous, as she was the loudest critic, at every opportunity calling for her resignation. Abbott was on Rudd’s case ensuring the public was aware that she had committed a “resignation offence” by lying to the parliament. As at the weekend, the stress was showing on Rudd, as the eye bags got bigger while the lashes had started shifting places.
Observers, mostly Tory sympathisers, warned that the Labour Party were taking the resignation call out of context and too far. They argued that focus was being shifted from the original issue at hand of knowing why the Home Office had denied some of the Windrush immigrants their basic rights. This is too late to comment on now, as Rudd knew the calls for her resignation were sensible and just.
No matter the promises of the Prime Minister or the Tories on the Windrush immigrants, the Home Office has been exposed as an institution that systematically alienates a particular section of the British population. Some people have been bold enough to accuse the officials, including May, of racism, because laws are made to deliberately keep people of colour out of the system they rightly belong in.
As Rudd falls on her own sword, there has been clamours on the embattled Prime Minister to ensure the promises to the Windrush immigrants are made into law. This will be the first step towards ensuring justice is delivered to all involved.
Now that Rudd has walked, who will jump next? May? Let’s see what the month of May will bring.