Mark Steel in The Independent
Amber Rudd says she finds the cases of families who were threatened with deportation, and harangued for documents they never had, “heartbreaking”. So she deserves respect for having the strength to carry on, while she suffers from a broken heart like that.
She also denies there was ever a “target” for removing immigrants, so we can only imagine how poignant a moment it must have been, when she was told “home secretary, you know when your government boasted before the 2015 (actually 2010 election) election it would ‘cut net migration to tens of thousands’? And an Inspection Report stated there was a ‘target of removing 12,000 immigrants?’ It turns out some people in the immigration office interpreted that as implying there was some sort of target.”
She must have cried and cried and howled, sniffing, “I know it sounds silly, but I can’t help feeling that makes this government partly responsible.”
Hopefully she’ll have had plenty of friends consoling her, saying reassuringly: “Oh home secretary, you mustn’t blame yourself. All of us set targets for removing people, regardless of the fact we’ve been told by an array of institutions this will cause appalling hardship to innocent people. You’re a good person. Stay strong, Amber, stay strong.”
So she’s proved her leadership qualities and overcome the heartbreak she feels so deeply, to explain: “We are deeply bountifully humongously sorry, but I would remind the country that three years ago, we thought it was popular to scream about chucking out piles of immigrants, so we can hardly be blamed if that has turned out not to be true after all. Now if you’ll forgive me, I must take some more antidepressants. I’m heartbroken you see.”
Theresa May must be even more heartbroken, because she was home secretary at the time. Some people suggest this means she had some knowledge of the targets, but that would be unfair, as she was busy sending out vans with signs on the side saying “illegal immigrants, go home”, so she can’t have had time to write down lots of numbers as well.
But now they love Caribbean people so it’s worked out fine in the end. Soon Amber Rudd will feature on a dancehall track with Shaggy, about the Windrush families, that starts “Dem tell I sad tale dat send chill trew I blood, Me weep so many tear dey call I Heartbreak Rudd.”
And the prime minister will end her apology by saying “I would now like to repeat my message for my Caribbean bredren. Listen up rude boy, me send out one love for me have pain in I ‘eart. But blame be upon dem raasclat immigration official, for me is vexed upon why dey carry out act what I tell dem do, Selasie I.”
She must feel even worse than Amber Rudd, because last year she made speeches such as “Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain. And that is what we will deliver.”
It would be ridiculous to imagine this was designed to create the impression she was in a rush to cut immigration, which was why Conservative Party spokespeople sometimes mentioned cutting immigration as few as 46 times in a three-minute interview.
Sometimes, if a minister was asked for a statement about the standards of maths in schools, or whether England would ever win the World Cup, they wouldn’t even mention their pledge to be tough on immigration until the ninth word.
So it’s a puzzle how anyone in the immigration office got the impression they were required to be a little bit zealous in the area of immigration.
It’s possible a pattern could emerge here, in which Conservatives start to feel sorry about other matters that they get unfairly blamed for just because they caused them.
For example, they’re dreadfully shocked about the lack of health and safety regulations in housing, even though David Cameron can’t possibly have predicted that his pledge to create a “bonfire of regulations” might lead to a reduction of regulations.
Iain Duncan-Smith will declare he’s appalled by stories of disabled people having their benefits stopped after being declared “fit for work”, when he can’t possibly have known this was going on, which is why he’s “truly awfully shocked and immeasurably saddened and exploding with volcanic sadness”.
Then they’ll announce they are devastated by the revelation that cutting benefits for the poorest people while asking the wealthiest people for less in tax made the poor poorer and the rich richer.
But they will add that cutting the top rate of tax was in no way designed to lower the top rate of tax, and they certainly don’t ever remember setting a target to cut the top rate of tax. It was probably down to some heartless tax official, and he’ll be in right trouble when they catch him.
But much of the Labour Party must be on Valium as well. Because throughout the years of the coalition, they went along with many of these measures. They were so concerned to appear tough on immigration that they had special mugs made, saying “I’m voting Labour, for controls on immigration.”
If they’d had the money, they would probably have made other household goods with the same message, such as toilet rolls and Ventolin inhalers. The Labour leaders from that time must be heartbroken.
So they should make one joint statement together, to cover all their heartbreak, that goes: “We’re really sorry, we had no idea our policy of being proudly, relentlessly foul would lead to any foulness.
“When one lot screamed, ‘Vote for us because we’re really foul’ and the other lot shouted, ‘That’s not fair, we’re quite capable of being disgustingly foul’, we didn’t know we’d misjudged the situation and foulness wouldn’t always be popular. So we’re all really really sorry, even though it’s not in any way in the slightest tiddly bit our fault.”