The handling of Windrush is so bad, you wonder if Chris Grayling accidentally spent a morning at the Home Office

Taking almost a year over one claimant clearly means they must be making absolutely sure they give them exactly the right amount

Mark Steel
Thursday 07 March 2019 15:55
David Lammy accuses government of ‘pandering to far right’ after three more Windrush deaths revealed

One of the tragedies of the current turmoil is that it would be extremely unfair if this government ended up being judged entirely on its chaotic handling of Brexit. Because they’ve been shite about everything else as well, and it would be unkind and discourteous if all the other shite areas were overlooked.

For example, 10 months ago they apologised for humiliating the Windrush citizens, and promised to investigate how it could possibly have happened, that a policy they boasted would create a “hostile environment” somehow managed to create an environment that was hostile in any way.

Many of the Windrush families had their papers removed, so couldn’t work, or were threatened with eviction and deportation, but luckily a fund was set up to provide compensation. So far this has been highly effective, because payment has made to one person.

This proves how meticulous the government is being, spending almost a year on one claimant, which means they must be making absolutely sure they give them exactly the right amount, then in 2020 they can start on the second person.

The Home Office explained that they “can not and will not announce the compensation scheme until we’re able to fund it”.

That might seem slightly mean, but to be fair, we don’t know all the circumstances. It’s possible Chris Grayling spent a morning at the Home Office and bankrupted the entire department with a scheme to replace the police force with men made out of Lego, or giving the job of chief commissioner to an iguana.

But it’s a tone that tells you the government meant it, when they made all those humble speeches saying “we are truly, truly utterly immensely sorry for the hardship caused accidentally, when certain agencies interpreted our instructions to eagerly find as many people as possible to deport, by acting a little eagerly while finding as many people as possible to deport”.

This could be a way the law can work in every area. Instead of expensive court cases, bank robbers can say they’re really truly sorry, and have no idea how their policy of robbing a bank somehow resulted in the robbery of a bank, and they’ll set up a fund very soon to pay the money back. Then 10 months later, when they’ve given back three quid, they can state, “We can not and will not announce the repayment scheme until we can fund it.”

In any case, the Windrush families aren’t the only victims here. Amber Rudd had to resign from her job as a result of these immigrants, and she was only allowed back into the cabinet when all the dust had settled 25 minutes later. But you don’t hear her whinging about needing compensation.

The parliamentary report that came out this week, to assess how the compensation scheme is getting along, discovered there are still Windrush citizens being threatened with eviction by landlords, as their papers haven’t been returned. So it seems reasonable that a Home Office spokesperson said in response: “We are resolute and determined to right the wrongs.”

It’s lucky the government didn’t give an inadequate knee-jerk response by giving them back their papers and some of the compensation they were promised. Because life’s about much more than having somewhere to live and something to eat, and the people whose lives were disrupted will appreciate such heartfelt poetry, of “resolution” and “determination”, far more than any fleeting enjoyment they’d get from being able to carry on living in their house.

The Home Office spokesperson went even further, explaining they’d set up a “lessons learned” review. Exactly, and how is the government ever going to get the time to learn lessons if these ungrateful bastards are forever pestering them to allow them to carry on living in the country as they have been legally entitled to for 50 years?

This could be the future of insurance. Adverts will tell us: “At Direct Line we don’t wait until your house catches fire and then compensate you with troublesome ‘money’. We set fire to your house ourselves, then launch a lessons-learned review to see if we can work out how to not do it again.”

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One group that contributed to the report said there were cases where the Home Office refused to accept someone was of the Windrush generation “because they didn’t arrive on the Windrush but on a different boat”. That’s how to make sense of it all. I expect the Home Office would say to a history lecturer, “You’ve made a mistake, that person can’t have lived in Edwardian times, as he wasn’t King Edward.”

As this story has a tinge of racism about it, at a time when political parties appear to be under great scrutiny for racism, you would think the findings of this report would be major news on every channel, with constant demands that a series of Conservatives were suspended, so I’m sure that will happen any day soon.

Similarly, ex-Tory cabinet minister Baroness Warsi repeated this week there was “institutional racism” in the party against Muslims.

It’s true that marginal figures have made comments such as Muslim women looking like letter boxes, but that was only the foreign secretary, and one of them said an election campaign shouldn’t concentrate on “winning votes from f****** Muslims”, but that was only the campaign manager, who they paid £4m to. No one can police every minor figure can they?

But unlike in the Labour Party, the Tory chairman Brandon Lewis took the allegations of racism extremely seriously, saying he “didn’t think they were true”, and dismissing them. If only Jeremy Corbyn could be as thorough. Look and learn, Mr Corbyn, look and learn.

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