The right-leaning part of our free and fearless press is looking anywhere but at the continuing scandal of the Windrush Generation today. Even Theresa May’s mooted U-Turn on remaining in the EU Customs Union gets an airing, although papers like the Mail have dredged up other stuff to keep even that away from the sensitivities of their readers. Because the whiff of institutionalised racism now hangs over the affair.
And that is a difficult subject for the Fourth Estate, especially after they have expended so much effort telling everyone that anti-Semitism is evil and must be stamped out. How do they then shoo away other kinds of racism? How do they ignore the likes of Sayeeda Warsi, who has once again reminded the media class that Islamophobia is being given a free pass? How do they excuse kicking people like Diane Abbott for the hell of it?
The Guardian has continued to lift the lid on this worm can, now telling “A letter from a Home Office minister dated May 2016 and obtained by the Guardian shows that the government has known for years about the impact of its ‘hostile environment’ policy on the Windrush generation.” There is more.
“As the government struggles to contain mounting pressure on both Theresa May and the home secretary, Amber Rudd, Home Office sources indicate that legislation could be rushed through parliament to give citizenship to those affected”. But the Windrush Generation were already citizens, so this is an effective admission that some of their number were stripped of their British citizenship. Hello Theresa May.
Theresa May “had also been asking ministers from other departments to insert the phrase ‘hostile environment’ into speeches and documents”. That negates last week’s attempt to dump the whole exercise on to the previous Labour Government. And the 2014 legislation “required people to produce documents that the Home Office itself knew no longer existed, or which it was highly unlikely that anyone, whether living here illegally or legally, would have kept for several decades”. Deliberate targeting. Not a good look.
So when Dawn Butler appeared on Niall Paterson’s Sky News show yesterday it should have surprised no-one that the resultant report told “A senior Labour frontbencher has personally accused Theresa May of racism and leading an ‘institutionally racist’ government … Asked on Sky's Sunday with Niall Paterson whether Mrs May could personally be accused of racism, Ms Butler said: ‘Yes’”.
Ms Butler did not hold back. “She is the leader that's presiding over legislation that's discriminating against a whole group of people who came from the Commonwealth, who suffered racism when they came over, the 'no blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ … And now they're having to relive that trauma all over again because of Theresa May … She's not going to get let off the hook on this. And this has to be redressed as quickly as possible … Just saying stuff isn't good enough. I need to see action and I need to see action quickly”.
Dawn Butler ... a brave call, and the right one
The wriggle room for the right-wing press to indulge in a little nudge-nudge racism of their own has been shut down. As a result, their preferred choice as Prime Minister has no choice but to actually address the issue, and do so swiftly and effectively.
If that means ministers, including Theresa May, have to resign, so be it. It’s her fault.