Theresa May’s parliamentary private secretary, George Hollingbery – her private intelligence officer in the Commons – sat in a distant corner of the Chamber when Home Secretary Amber Rudd opened a session about the Windrush generation deportations row.
Mr Hollingbery did not say anything. Didn’t have to. He’s good at silent menace, George. Remember: His boss was home secretary before Miss Rudd.
Miss Rudd issued another apology for British bureaucracy’s goofs in demanding paperwork from West Indian immigrants who have lived here for decades
From that far corner he just monitored a delicate matter. Miss Rudd will have been aware of him, as a motorist tends to be aware of speed cops. Initially, she had her ears pinned back.
Her voice was echoey, the jaw more prominent than normal. She looked a bit pop-eyed. ‘The state has let these people down,’ she said of the Windrush-era migrants. Labour MPs shouted: ‘YOU have let these people down!’ The good ship Rudd juddered as the wave hit her. Her normal bravado was reduced yet she did not sink.
The House was not full. That helped her. So did the fact that it was by now late afternoon, Speaker Bercow having wasted almost an hour on some minor to-do about voting checks.
Miss Rudd issued another apology for British bureaucracy’s goofs in demanding paperwork from West Indian immigrants who have lived here for decades. She promised measures to alleviate the problem.
The house was not full, which helped. Her voice was echoey, the jaw more prominent than normal. She looked a bit pop-eyed as she spoke about the Windrush-era migrants
These included that most British of things, a ‘customer contacts centre’. Dear heavens, imagine the telephone-trees that place will have. It will be a rival to the Forest of Arden. Imagine the piped music and the over-coached, infuriatingly sing-song, matey tones of the assistants as they address their ‘customers’ (ie complainers).
Miss Rudd may have seemed unhappy. Yet after the speech from her shadow, Diane Abbott, she relaxed a little. Miss Abbott spoke off small cue cards rather than from a formal script. It was an admirable ambition to speak semi-extempore but it proved a mistake. She was trembling and her voice became a little faint. She did not demand Miss Rudd’s resignation.
The Home Secretary seemed to relax a little after a speech from Dianne Abbot who read off small cue cards rather than from a formal script.She did not demand Miss Rudd’s resignation
The SNP’s Joanna Cherry did, but then she would. Odd to think cherries are summery and sweet. Ms Cherry is ungenerous and voluble. The House switches off. Miss Rudd said she intended to stay and put the problems right. She used the word ‘proactive’ more than a yoghurt advert.
Not much of a Rudd support crowd was in attendance (it does not help her popularity with Tory MPs that her main backer is George Osborne, editor of London’s Evening Standard) but the posher end of the Tory shires was in attendance to prop up the former Cheltenham Ladies’ College bluestocking.
Sir Nicholas Soames (Con, Mid Sussex), gallant knight, shouted ‘well done’ at her. East Devon’s Sir Hugo Swire (Con) said ‘any attempt to lay blame at the door of the current Home Secretary is plainly absurd’. Laughter. Some took Sir Hugo’s remark for an attack on Mrs May. Hollingbery alert! Miss Rudd, in reply, hurriedly said the Windrush problem went back to 2005, when Labour was in power.
Injustice: The 14,651 ton British troopship the ‘Empire Windrush’, pictured here at a dock in Southhampton
David Lammy (Tottenham) – brisk, audible, beefy – was best of the Labour backbenchers. Some Opposition voices were more interested in financial compensation than anything else. Rupa Huq (Ealing C) wanted lawyers’ bills to be paid by the Government. Miss Huq read partly Law at university. Miss Rudd said there was no need for members of the public to use lawyers, thank you.
Philip Hollobone (Con, Kettering) was shouted down when he said he hoped this row would not deter Miss Rudd from pursuing illegal immigration.
Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts (Dwyfor Meirionnydd) won the over-statement prize by accusing the authorities of ‘textbook institutional racism’. Institutional jobsworthiness is more likely.
It is found throughout British office life, even in the private sector. I was driven nuts recently by some telephone company called Chess. There is just an awful, robotic, sullen, money-grabbing proceduralism to our paper-shufflers.
It has been that way since 2005 and for all yesterday’s noble talk of ‘culture change’ it will probably be impossible to alter.