Crisis for Theresa May as Amber Rudd resigns
Is the prime minister’s position in danger? She has lost her home secretary to the bitter Windrush row amidst new tensions over Brexit. Many today are predicting she will be the next to go.
She had been forced to issue five apologies in the past week — four of them over her department’s handling of the Windrush crisis and immigration targets.
And last night came the final straw for Amber Rudd, publication of new claims that she misled Parliament over targets for removing illegal migrants.
Rudd’s resignation is the fifth of this 10 month old Parliament. Nearly a quarter of May’s second Cabinet have now quit since June 2017.
Within minutes of her going, the spotlight had turned to Prime Minister Theresa May.
“It’s clear that Amber Rudd has ended up, at least partly, being the fall guy to protect the prime minister. Theresa May must face questions now given these dreadful failures largely took place under her watch as home secretary.” tweeted Liberal Democrat spokesman Ed Davey.
What were those failures?
On June 21, 1948, the HMT Empire Windrush docked at the port of Tilbury, near London, with a few hundred Jamaicans on board. The age of mass immigration had begun.
There are now around 600,000 people of Afro-Caribbean descent in the UK. And in the last two weeks, many of the very first newcomers have been at the centre of a huge immigration scandal in which it has emerged that the Home Office wrongly deported some of the Windrush generation and denied public services to many others.
While she was home secretary, Theresa May promised to create a “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants, preventing them access to public services.
A recent Ipsos Mori poll found that 54% want immigration reduced. Polls also show that concerns over immigration were the main driver of the Brexit vote.
But many others are content with Britain’s diverse society.
Historically, Britain has had a very stable population. In 1951 only 4.2% of people in Britain were born abroad. That figure had trebled 60 years later, and the percentage of immigrants and their descendants is projected to increase in future decades.
Can May survive?
Of course, say some commentators. There are three main arguments. First the underlying policy of being tough on immigration has widespread popular support and ordinary people are less upset than the liberal media. Second Theresa May has done nothing wrong. Third there is no strong candidate to replace her.
“How superficial!” say her enemies. She who promised strong and stable government is running one of the most unstable regimes of modern times. Ministers are toppling like dominoes. After a full year of Brexit negotiations nobody knows what is happening. Her party is seething with plots and whispers. And the local government elections this week will be disastrous. She will be out by autumn.
- Will Theresa May be prime minister this time next year?
- Should Britain be welcoming to immigrants?
- Prepare a list of questions you would ask someone who has migrated to the UK. Find out why they wanted to move to the UK, and what challenges they have faced.
- Research a crisis that has brought down a previous British government. Write 500 words comparing it with the Windrush scandal.
Some People Say...
“Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery.”Jack Paar
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- 70 years ago, a group of Jamaicans migrated to the UK. They were the first of many new immigrants from the Commonwealth. In the last two weeks, it has emerged that some of these immigrants never officially took British citizenship. This has led to them being treated very badly, with some being deported and others being denied access to vital public services. We know that Britain has seen huge amounts of immigration since the war, and that the public are bitterly divided on its benefits.
- What do we not know?
- How the government will respond. For a long time, the Conservative government has aimed to reduce inward migration to the “tens of thousands”, and has failed. Many are now calling for a new, more welcoming attitude to both legal and illegal immigrants.
- Amber Rudd
- Rudd had been home secretary since Theresa May became prime minister in July 2016. She was a vocal advocate for the Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum.
- First newcomers
- Many of the earliest Caribbean immigrants came to address post-war labour shortages, especially in the transport industry.
- Very stable population
- Previously, the two largest waves of migration to the UK were French Huguenots and Eastern European Jews. But both of these groups arrived much more slowly and in comparatively lower numbers than the Commonwealth immigrants of the post-war era.
- Projected to increase
- London, for example, is already minority white British, while some estimates suggest that Britain will become majority non-white within the next 60 years.