Tuesday, Nov 20, 2018 | Last Update : 06:01 AM IST
British home secretary Amber Rudd resigned one of the premier ministries of the British state this week.
“I would twerk
For any jerk
For us dancing girls, it’s just work
Men adore a shaking bottom
I can’t for the life of me see what’s got ‘em
So excited by wiggling spheres!
Egyptian dancers train for years
To turn their bellies
Animated flesh is all
A primitive male’s mating call.”
— From The Ballad of Meethu by Bachchoo
A resignation: the resolve of decency. An appointment: the indication of broad-minded policy as well as a determination to right the wrongs that were inadvertently done. British politics at its finest!
Or at its sometimes-perfidious worst?
British home secretary Amber Rudd resigned one of the premier ministries of the British state this week. Prime Minister Theresa May immediately appointed one Sajid Javid in her place.
Rudd said it was the decent thing to do as she had inadvertently misled Parliament. Sajid Javid stepped into the breach announcing a plan to deal with the injustices that had been exposed, leading to the upheaval.
What the hell is all this about? Decency? Honour?
Gentle reader judge for yourself. Here’s what happened:
In the 1950s a ship called the Empire Windrush brought Jamaicans to settle in England and take up the less savoury employment that the British working class was reluctant to do. That good ship and a hundred others brought immigrants from the islands, which were still part of the British Empire.
Among them were several families with children who are today in their 60s and 70s having lived, worked and paid taxes in Britain all their lives. Those who were born in the 1950s and 1960s to the “Windrush generation” also inherited this name. Being from the then Empire they needed no visas and their entry at the ports of disembarkation was recorded and filed in the home office.
In 2010, Theresa May was home secretary in David Cameron’s government. There was a hoo-haa at the time on immigrants from the European Union burdening with their presence, Britain’s housing, social services and even British culture.
Ms May’s home ministry set targets for the denial of services to, the detention and even deportation of illegal immigrants. Under her dispensation the records of entry of the Windrushers at British ports were destroyed – in a malicious or simply bureaucratic act.
In 2016, Britain voted in the European Union (EU) referendum. To stay or not to stay, was the question. Though no statistic can reveal the precise motivation of any voter, surveys and the Brexit campaign’s propaganda point to the possibility that the majority of leavers voted to keep “Johnny foreigner” out. There is no denying that the referendum brought out a wave of expressed xenophobia.
Ms May, who voted to remain, promptly changed sides and stood for the Prime Ministership of the government to steer Brexit. We must believe she was not motivated by naked opportunism, but purely by the compulsion to serve the democratic will of the people.
Ms May appointed Amber Rudd, who comes from a background of failed financial-fund directorships. Ms Rudd also failed in 2016 to disclose, as required of all MPs, two directorships in companies in the Bahamas that enable British citizens to dodge paying tax. Do-number paisey ki dalaal as we would say in Mumbai.
Then the “Windrush revelations” hit the press and emerged through the Opposition in Parliament. British citizens of the Windrush generation couldn’t prove their citizenship as the records of entry had been destroyed and they were consequently being denied access to the National Health Service and welfare benefits. Some were being treated as illegal immigrants, detained and even deported.
Ms Rudd was asked questions in Parliament about this “un-British” policy. Elderly British citizens were being victimised to fulfil a numerical target for the apprehension and deportation of illegal immigrants. Ms Rudd was asked plainly if she knew about the targets set by Ms May for deportation etc. and denied in Parliament knowing about them.
The Guardian newspaper then published a leaked memo proving that her civil servants had put papers alluding to the targets before her. She said she hadn’t seen them. A bout of temporary blindness?
Then a memo written by her to the PM promising a general rate of deportations was also leaked. She desperately tried to hold on to the office by apologising for “not knowing” and promised the nation she would instruct the home office to stop persecuting black British citizens in this way.
Then on the weekend, threatened with further questioning and further revelations, she resigned.
Was she pushed to do this in the hope that the questioning would stop and not get to Ms May, the initiator of the targets and the treatment and deportation which no properly democratic government could condone?
Ms May immediately elevated Sajid Javid, the banker son of a Pakistani immigrant and the Asian equivalent of the “Windrush generation”, to the home office ministry — a bit of not-so-astute image manipulation — an Asian Brit to clear up the racial mess?
Nevertheless sections of the press are asking whether the country should tolerate as PM the architect of a policy that has treated British citizens in this way? Should Theresa May resign?
A subsequent public survey did conclude that a vast majority of Brits thought the Windrush scandal was unfair, un-British and intolerable.
To be fair the British public has, apart from a small number in each generation, shunned open racism. In 1968 Enoch Powell made a bid for the leadership of the Tory Party with his “Rivers of Blood” speech which predicted that the “Black man would gain the whip-hand over the White man!” He didn’t find much support. A union of meat-porters and a faction of London dockers demonstrated in his support. No one else. The whip remains in the White man’s hand.
I joined a demonstration of 15,000 Asian workers and we marched down Birmingham’s streets denouncing the speech. I don’t know if the on-lookers understood what we were demonstrating against, because the Punjabi accents rendered the demonstrating slogan as “Eee-nuk-a-pole Hai Hai!” Still, it felt good.