ALL political careers end in failure. But not Theresa May’s. She will be remembered for the success of her hostile environment policy.
Successful in creating an atmosphere of suspicion, in poisoning the public conversation about migration, in creating anxiety, even terror, in the minds of thousands of citizens, in mobilising a substantial portion of the state’s repressive apparatus in a task of mind-boggling inconsequence for the economic wellbeing and security of the British people. Successful in making the universal search for secure housing a road to ruin.
Theresa May will be remembered as the minister who sent vehicles decorated with “Go Home” slogans to terrify people who had lived and worked in Britain for decades.
That telling phrase: “to create, here in Britain, a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants” will follow May to her grave.
When Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary says a government policy cannot be reformed so that is not racist or inhumane that policy cannot endure.
But anyone tuned to the Tory leadership contest which, ipso facto, is the mechanism for deciding the next prime minister will be alarmed by the rhetoric of the two contending Tories. These revolve around messaging — some subliminal and some explicit — which replicates the same impulses which drove May to frame her signature policy in terms which distill into Civil Service language the anti-human attitudes of those who rule over us.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has put the government on the spot echoing the call that the hostile environment must end and the Home Office (foreigners should note this quaint term is what we call the Ministry of the Interior) be subject to root-and-branch reform.
The totalitarian Right to Rent scheme which turned landlords into agents of the border police and institutionalised racial discrimination in the housing rental market must go.
The hostile environment must be abolished and replaced with an open, fair, and human system that welcomes migrants and ensures all ethnic minorities in the UK are treated with respect.
The independent review must be published as soon as possible and all political parties must commit to implementing its recommendations in full with a view to creating an immigration system that places fairness, evidence-based policy-making and welcome at its heart.
Perhaps the one positive outcome from the tragic Windrush mess is a clearer understanding of the reality behind the ruling-class rhetoric about migration.
Empire immigrants came here because Britain ruled their countries as colonies. Moreover they came here at the explicit request of the government to provide the person power for post-war recovery.
They came here to participate in a labour market in which payment into a contributory national insurance system and a personal taxation regime was one side of a bargain in which a lifetime of labour would be transmuted in a secure retirement, secure housing and access to the welfare state system which that personal contribution made possible for all of us.
To deny people who have spent their productive years in Britain the just recompense for that contribution, to put them through the torture of detention, deportation and degradation, to deny them benefits, exclude them from healthcare and tear them away from family and friends is of a piece with the mentality of the colonial oppressor.
If people find themselves in our country, no matter what route brought them here they must have the right to live in security, to work, to contribute to our shared society, to share the same benefits, obligations and duties of us all. It is justice.
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