Just as things were starting to look a little brighter for our long suffering Prime Minister, the Windrush Scandal has put Theresa May and the Government on the backfoot again. It emerged this week that many people living in the UK have been receiving letters stating that they need to provide evidence that they are here legally or risk deportation. This is a result of a change in the law from 2012 which tightened rules on the need for migrants to have documentation. The problem is, documentation was not always well preserved by the Government, and many of the so called ‘windrush’ migrants simply cannot provide any.
Damage limitation mode has been entered as a result, with the Prime Minister apologising for ‘any anxiety’ that has been caused and promising that no Windrush citizens will be deported (although some already have been…). This is a real headache for the Government. The notion that migrants who have served this country for decades are being told they are not welcome fits perfectly with the narrative that Corbyn has been trying to paint since he became the Leader of the Opposition. That the Conservatives are still the ‘nasty’ Party and do not want a society that works for everyone. In this era of Brexit, it is crucial for the Government that they avoid giving the impression that they are in any way embracing the far-right. They need to appeal to moderate MPs and voters and this week has not been helpful for the cause
In truth, the reality is that this is most likely a genuine mistake rather than a conspiracy. The policy simply wasn’t properly thought through and this is a significant but probably unintended consequence of that. But perception is key, and Theresa May already has a reputation from some quarters as being ‘tough’ on issues like immigration, dating back to her time as Home Secretary. Cameron did a lot of work on detoxifying the Tory brand. May now needs to avoid re-toxifying it.