How the Tories could find a sensible immigration policy
FT editor Lionel Barber and political columnist Janan Ganesh discuss the crisis in the Conservative party over immigration policy after the revelations of mistreatment of Windrush immigrants from the Caribbean.
Studio filmed by Rod Fitzgerald. Produced by Josh de la Mare.
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Immigration is the hottest topic in British politics today. In particular, there is controversy over the way immigrants from the Caribbean were treated who came to Britain more than 50 years ago. This is the so-called Windrush scandal. And Janan Ganesh, our political commentator, the Windrush scandal itself - it's not over, and it may even be threatening the position of Amber Rudd, the home secretary.
Yeah, this is not a transient scandal. The sword is still hanging over the home secretary. The labour opposition have invited her to consider her position. And it's a subject that retoxifies a party image, the Conservative party image, that Theresa May's predecessor, David Cameron, spent years trying to soften. And we've got these upcoming local elections in places like London and Manchester, where the Tories had previously made some gains under Mr Cameron and are now expected to lose some of those gains. And lots of things contribute to that, but the perception of the Tories being unhospitable to ethnic minorities or to immigrants is a big part of it.
And let's go back to this Windrush scandal, so-called. It belongs to the name of a ship that brought these immigrants from the Caribbean to British shores. Now, what is the precise controversy? I mean, why is this so neuralgic?
Well, these immigrants, who are often the children of the adults who came over on the Windrush -
Invited by the British government.
Yeah, they're not just here legally. They are here at the invitation of the British state, which needed rebuilding after World War Two. And a lot of them now lack paperwork to show that they are here legally. Some of that paperwork was destroyed by the home office. Some of them never applied for passports and don't have the documentation. And therefore, they're being pressed by the home office to prove that they're here legally. Some of them have had to spend time in holding centres. Some of them have been threatened with deportation. And as a result, it's a human scandal as much as a legal one and has aroused the sympathies of a nation who regard these people, quite rightly, as entirely British.
And this is entirely separate from what one might consider to be the controversy, or at least the debate, about the immigration from the EU, which is linked to the freedom of movement that is implied by British membership.
It is completely separate, although interestingly there's a political link, which is that, if you're the European Union and you're negotiating Brexit and you see the home office struggling to treat the Windrush generation fairly, what do you think about what the home office might do to the EU migrants who were here in the UK and arrived under free movement? And that's a snag in the Brexit talks.
Yeah, that's for future Brexit. So is Amber Rudd going to go? Or does she stay, because if she goes, Theresa May, former home secretary, of course, for six years - she'd be exposed?
That's what might save Amber Rudd, the fact that it would damn, implicitly, the six years of work that Theresa May did at the home office. And Amber Rudd's in a difficult position, because she's got the ultimate backseat driver who knows the department inside out. And it's a tough job for her to do, but I think the linkage between Theresa May's time as home secretary and Amber Rudd's time as home secretary might be what keeps her in the job.
And Amber Rudd, so you're saying, is not going. But of course, Arsene Wenger has gone. Are you pleased about that? Is that good for Arsenal? Or is it good for Tottenham?
Well, there is a manager available to them the other end of the Seven Sisters Road. I'm glad the change has -
Not in my view, but there we are.
No, I'm glad the change has been made. And it turns out that what Churchill said of the Americans is also true of Arsenal Football Club. You can count on them to do the right thing having exhausted all other options.
Janan Ganesh, thank you for that wisdom.