The departure of Amber Rudd over the Windrush scandal should also mean the end of the government’s “hostile environment”, a baton the former home secretary picked up from her predecessor – and the architect of the policy – Theresa May. But this is something that is not just confined to the Home Office.
The murder of Stephen Lawrence 25 years ago, and the watershed Macpherson report that followed, brought to public attention the fact that racism does not just manifest itself as physical violence or personal abuse, but can also be institutional. William Macpherson defined it as the “collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”.
Such failures on Windrush are stark. Commonwealth citizens – who have lived and worked in this country for decades – losing their jobs, prevented from coming home after travelling overseas, denied NHS treatment, threatened with deportation, held in detention centres or even deported. To borrow a phrase from the prime minister’s inaugural speech, these are burning injustices – black people being “treated more harshly by the criminal justice system”. And these injustices flow directly from the government’s hostile environment policy and its decision in 2014 to remove protection for Commonwealth citizens. They are institutional. The Windrush scandal has exposed the very worst of this government.
This government may have reported on its race disparity audit but, in truth, this just brings together data we already knew – that people from diverse communities face multiple layers of disadvantage. We are still waiting for the government to act on its findings.
Wherever you look, black, Asian and minority-ethnic people are disproportionately affected by government policies, and have to jump additional hurdles to succeed. It’s the same hostile environment.
Recent reports have exposed the profoundly shocking fact that in 2016, May’s first year as prime minister, not a single one of the 339 black Caribbean applicants to the government’s civil service fast stream scheme – which identifies and trains up the next generation of senior civil servants – was successful
The ex-home secretary’s rise and fall is typical of an inexperienced elite that regards ordinary people with contempt.
At least one consolation remains for Amber Rudd. Drummed out of the Home Office, she can now spend more time in her constituency of Hastings: the same seaside resort she found irresistible because “I wanted to be within two hours of London, and I could see we were going to win it”. Yet Rudd loves her electorate, rhapsodising about some of them as people “who prefer to be on benefits by the seaside … they’re moving down here to have easier access to friends and drugs and drink”.
Relax. I come neither to praise nor to bury Rudd, but to analyse her. Or, rather, to place her in context. What stands out about this latest crash-and-burn is how well it represents the current Westminster elite, even down to the contempt for the poor sods who vote for them.
Rudd exemplifies a political class light on expertise and principle, yet heavy on careerism and happy to ruin lives. All the key traits are here. In a dizzying ascent, she went from rookie MP in 2010 to secretary of state for energy in 2015, before being put in charge of the Home Office the very next year. Lewis Hamilton would kill for such an accelerant, yet it leaves no time to master detail, such as your own department’s targets. Since 2014 Sajid Javid, Rudd’s replacement, has hopped from culture to business to local government, rarely staying in any post for more than a year. Margaret Thatcher kept her cabinet ministers at one department for most of a parliamentary term, but this stepping-stone culture turns urgent national problems – such as police funding and knife crime – into PR firefighting.
Another hallmark of this set is the disposability of its values. Cameron hugs Arctic huskies, then orders aides to “get rid of all the green crap”. As for Rudd, the May cabinet’s big liberal vowed to force companies to reveal the numbers of their foreign staff, stoking the embers of racism in a tawdry bid to boost her standing with Tory activists. Praised by Osborne for her “human” touch, she was revealed this week privately moaning about “bed-blocking” in British detention centres.
And when things get sticky, you put your officials in the line of fire. During the Brexit referendum, Osborne revved up the Treasury to generate apocalyptic scenarios about the cost of leaving. While doomsday never came, his tactic caused incalculable damage both to the standing of economists and to the civil service’s reputation for impartiality. Rudd settled for trashing her own officials for their “appalling” treatment of Windrush-era migrants.
None of these traits are entirely new, nor are they the sole preserve of the blue team. At the fag end of Gordon Brown’s government, the sociologist Aeron Davis studied the 49 politicians on both frontbenches. They split readily into two types. An older lot had spent an average of 15 years in business or law or campaigning before going into parliament – then debated and amended and sat on select committees for another nine years before reaching the cabinet.
The younger bunch had pre-Westminster careers that typically came to little more than seven years, often spent at thinktanks or as ministerial advisers. They took a mere three years to vault into cabinet ranks. This isn’t “professionalisation”. It is nothing less than the creation of a new Westminster caste: a group of self-styled leaders with no proof of prowess and nothing in common with their voters. May’s team is stuffed full of them. After conducting more than 350 interviews with frontbench politicians, civil servants, FTSE chief executives and top financiers, Davis has collected his insights in a book. The argument is summed up in its title: Reckless Opportunists.
Journalists defy dangers because they understand that their role is a necessary check on the ambition and vanity of the rich and powerful. Protecting reporters has never been so necessary.
Ten journalists were killed in two attacks in Afghanistan on Monday along with 26 other people who seem to have been collateral damage. All of these deaths were tragedies for everyone who loved the victims. But attacks on journalists, like attacks on doctors or judges, are not just attacks on individuals and their families: they aim to tear the connective tissue of society. Not all journalists are singled out for killing, of course. Those who never attack the powerful or do not put themselves in harm’s way are unlikely to be victims.
Yet neither is it necessary to display the extraordinary determination of the Maltese investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia, killed in a car bomb near her home last year, in order to be at risk. Often it is enough to be doing the unglamorous work of reporting what happens in plain sight, to ensure that no one turns away from what should be in front of their noses. There are times and places when the simple truth is in itself a provocation to thugs and criminals. In Afghanistan, as in Pakistan, in Mexico, and above all in Syria, journalists are killed simply for recording the atrocities around them.
Even if most journalists are killed by gangsters and mafiosi, these are not the only threats. In surprisingly few countries can they rely on the impartial protection of an effective state. Last year there were 42 outstanding unsolved killings of journalists in the Philippines, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists; in Mexico and Pakistan there were 21 each; in Somalia, after a long civil war, there are 26 outstanding cases. In some countries like Russia, where 38 journalists have been murdered since 1992 and many of those cases remain unsolved, it is extremely difficult to disentangle the gangsters from the government. Just as with hacking gangs in cyberspace, the use of tame criminals can supply a government with a faint shimmer of deniability, however implausible.
His advice for governments and to Trump ahead of his expected meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un: Don’t bully him, and promise prosperity in exchange for concessions on nuclear. “I know these North Korean people. They are very proud, they will not yield under threat and bullying. You just smile and talk and sit down and they will come through,” says Egyptian billionaire and Orascom Telecom Chairman Naguib Sawiris.
Some big investors see warning signs ahead for markets but are holding their positions. Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is taking action: He’s put half of his $5.7 billion net worth into gold.
He said in an interview Monday that he believes gold prices will rally further, reaching $1,800 per ounce from just above $1,300 now, while “overvalued” stock markets crash.
President Donald Trump is aiding Sawiris in one way, though: If a North Korean peace deal can be reached, the Egyptian’s investments there may finally pay off. After 10 years of waiting to repatriate all his profits easily and control his mobile-phone company, Egypt’s second-richest man says an accord would let him reap some of his returns.
“I am taking all the hits, I am being paid in a currency that doesn’t get exchanged very easily, I have put a lot of money and built a hotel and did a lot of good stuff there,” said Sawiris, who founded North Korea’s first telecom operator, Koryolink.
Sawiris over the years has been pressured by “every single Western government in the world” for his presence in the country hit by international sanctions for its nuclear threats, he said, but he considered himself a “goodwill investor.”
For a time, the land around the village of Longa Mali in eastern Cameroon was one of the most prized in Africa, and powerful machines gnawed greedily into its soil to extract precious gold.
Today, abandoned with almost the same speed as it was coveted, the landscape is as dangerous as it is damaged, say campaigners.
Around a hundred deep holes lie around the village. Many of them are filled with water, making them a deadly risk for frolicking youngsters. In other locations, subsistence miners run the risk of being buried alive as they delve in deep, narrow holes for a few flecks of gold.
Longa Mali is one of dozens of places in Cameroon that are grappling with “open tombs” — the legacy left by mining companies.
Last year, at least 47 people died on former mining sites in Cameroon’s East Region, according to an NGO called Foder, a French acronym for Forests and Rural Development.
Eugene Phausard, an official for the district of Betare Oya, graphically described the peril from “death lakes” — gaping holes that swiftly fill with water after the mining pumps are switched off and hauled away.
“Children regularly go to swim there,” ignoring the danger of playing in water that is up to 30 metres (100 feet) deep, he said.
“These holes have become open tombs,” added parish priest Patrice Baktala.
Police in Istanbul detained more than a dozen demonstrators who tried to march towards Istanbul’s symbolic main square in defiance of a ban.
Turkey declared Taksim Square off-limits to May Day celebrations citing security concerns. Roads leading to the square were blocked and police allowed only small groups of labour union representatives to lay wreaths at a monument there.
Still, a group of some 25 people chanting “Taksim cannot be off limits on May 1” tried to push their way into the square but were rounded up by riot police.
Taksim holds a symbolic value for Turkey’s labour movement. In 1977, 34 people were killed there during a May Day event when shots were fired into the crowd from a nearby building.
“They are real people … I think it really says a lot about the kinship that this very select group of people has for each other,” he says. “They’ve all served. It’s not so much about the politics at that time. It’s about honoring a very select member of that club,” says Paul Morse, the official photographer who took the picture.
So how did that scene come together?
“Just be ready, technically” he says of these kinds of shoots. That means plenty of memory cards and batteries that can be seamlessly popped in and out of cameras — without missing the action — “because things can’t stop for me,” he adds. “Things happen relatively quickly and fluidly in that environment. I knew a lot of the personalities already, and I knew they’d come and want to say hello to ’41,’ as they call him, so I just put myself near him for most of that morning.”
“I was just trying to keep an eye behind me to see who was arriving and watch people greet 41. I’m always looking around, always observing, to anticipate who may come up to him and try to think about each story behind the person who’s greeting him,” Morse says. “I was particularly interested in seeing President Clinton because I know they have a very special relationship since they’ve left office.”
“What I find is you have to shoot as many frames as there are people in the photo to make sure you have everyone’s eyes open and they’re looking at you,” he says. “All those presidents and first ladies are professional. It wasn’t too hard.” By that rule, with eight people in the picture, he estimates that he only had time for about four pictures before the group headed into the service.
He checked the back of his camera immediately to make sure he got something that worked. Later, he downloaded the images from his memory card and touched up a little of the color before sending it to McGrath, who would release the image.
Morse only “glanced a little bit” at some of the commentary that followed. Asked what he hoped viewers would take away, he was succinct: “They are real people … I think it really says a lot about the kinship that this very select group of people has for each other,” he says. “They’ve all served. It’s not so much about the politics at that time. It’s about honoring a very select member of that club.”