Thatcher may have been a grocer’s daughter. But Sajid Javid is the first-ever BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic; that is, non-white) Home Secretary. Welcome to twenty-first century multicultural Britain. And just like London Mayor Sadiq Khan, he is the Muslim son of a bus driver. That both men have risen to the top of national politics is testament to determination.
Yet Javid will likely not have time to bask in this achievement. That he has taken over the reins in the wake of his predecessor’s resignation over the so-called Windrush scandal means that he must hit the ground running. The latter refers to the arrival of those arriving in Britain from Caribbean countries between 1948-1971. This group of Britons has, under the Theresa May government, been threatened with deportation.
Thus the task now falls to Javid to get to the bottom of whether or not senior officials were paid bonuses in exchange for deporting illegal immigrants. Indeed, Labour is now demanding the publishing of all government documentation pertaining to Windrush since 2010; when May herself was Home secretary.
Pundits have had a mixed response to Javid’s appointment. Some suggest that his ethnic background puts a human face to the anti-immigration agenda. A modern twist of sorts that goes a little like this: the Conservatives cannot be racist — after all, one of their ministers is brown. Others, however, have underscored how his personal investment in the Windrush affair — he has been quoted in mainstream British media as saying that he had thought it could be his mum or even he himself who suddenly faced deportation — might signal a softening of Tory policy on “illegals”. Javid, for his part, has signalled it is the business of managed immigration as usual. Though he has done away with May’s unfavourable rhetoric of how those who should not be in Britain would confront a “hostile environment”. Because the public demands it.
Then again, the Brits had hoped for an honest debate on Brexit; which of course never happened.
The point is that the prevailing toxicity surrounding immigration in modern day Britain is nothing new. It has, in one way or another, been at the electoral forefront for the last 50 years; beginning with Enoch Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech. And this is not simply a Conservative problem. Labour, most recently under Tony Blair, played along.
Of course, what is missing from the official Windrush narrative is Britain’s colonial rule over the Caribbean. Which is another way of reminding the establishment of all the looting and plundering that was done in Empire’s name. But the latter must not be allowed to strike back and kick out those whom it once welcomed on the less than equitable terms that demanded cheap labour to re-build a war-ravaged nation that maintains, against all odds, the charade that it is Great.
Given the rot runs so deep, it would be unfair to cast Javid as the fall guy. That being said, the onus is on him to ensure that justice is done. At least until a Corbyn government comes to power.