Late Sunday, Amber Rudd resigned as Britain’s home secretary following accusations that she lied to Parliament last week about deportation targets for illegal immigrants.
Rudd first told Parliament that there were no national quotas, then amended her remarks and said that maybe there were some. Finally, the Guardian produced a private letter Rudd sent to May outlining her commitment to increase deportations by 10 percent, which included numbers and targets.
In her resignation letter, Rudd acknowledged that she had “inadvertently misled” lawmakers and had “become aware of information provided to my office which makes mention of targets. I should have been aware of this, and I take full responsibility that I was not.”
On Monday, her replacement was named: Sajid Javid, a successful investor, experienced government minister and the first member of an ethnic minority to hold the position of home secretary.
Javid is the son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver and is one of the most outspoken members of May’s cabinet to confront President Trump over his tweets about Muslims.
After Trump in November retweeted misleading anti-Muslim videos by an extremist fringe group called Britain First, Javid tweeted: “So POTUS has endorsed the views of a vile, hate-filled racist organisation that hates me and people like me. He is wrong and I refuse to let it go and say nothing.”
But the departure of Rudd — the fourth member of May’s top leadership team to resign in the past six months — and the appointment of Javid have not subdued the scandal.
The prime minister’s critics note that it was May — not Rudd — who as home secretary was responsible for the changes in immigration rules that led to doctors, landlords and employers checking people’s immigration statuses.
Because they haven’t been able to gather the extensive paperwork required to prove that they are allowed to live here, some of those in what is known as the Windrush generation, named after the ship that brought the first wave of Caribbean immigrants to Britain after World War II, have been threatened with deportation, have been denied health benefits or have lost jobs.
Britons, overall, probably would not be too upset with a government that pushed illegal immigrants out. But the Windrush stories, first reported in the Guardian, drew widespread condemnation. Even May’s own Tories said the shabby treatment was an affront to British decency.
The Windrush scandal, said Rob Ford, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester, “highlights that, even with all of the toxic politics we’ve had around immigration in the country for well over a decade, there is a basic kind of gut-level sense of fair treatment and fair play.”
“This is very much a government that built their approach to immigration on the idea that there is no such thing as a policy that is too anti-immigration. And, actually, it turns out there is,” he said.
May has repeatedly apologized in recent days for her government’s treatment of people from the Caribbean and other Commonwealth citizens living in Britain.
But the opposition Labour Party has continued to train its fire on her.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted pictures of his meetings with members of the Windrush generation on Monday, writing: “With @AmberRuddHR’s departure, @Theresa_May has lost her human shield. The Prime Minister should end the ‘hostile environment’ she created.”
Tom Watson, deputy of the party, tweeted: “I see Amber Rudd is carrying the can for the person originally responsible for this scandal — Theresa May.”
The timing is a huge headache for May, coming amid tricky Brexit negotiations and just days ahead of local elections Thursday, with polls suggesting that the Conservative Party could face big losses.
The scandal also has raised eyebrows across the English Channel, with European Union officials worried about the post-Brexit immigration status of the 3 million E.U. citizens who live in Britain.
Brexiteers didn’t shed tears over the departure of Rudd, who was once considered a leading candidate for the Conservative Party leadership and was a prominent pro-E.U. voice during the June 2016 referendum over Britain’s future in the bloc.
May has tried to keep a delicate balance of “remainers” and “leavers” in her cabinet. Javid was a remainer, but a tepid one, at least publicly.
Javid on Monday said that his “most urgent” task is to help those unfairly caught up in the Windrush fiasco. His parents moved to Britain from Pakistan in the 1960s, and he said the Windrush crisis hit home for him.
He told the Telegraph: “I thought, that could be my mum . . . my dad . . . my uncle . . . it could be me.”