Updated: Apr 17
They call them the Windrush generation. This is a generation of people who left the Carribean countries of the British Commonwealth, these self same countries, former British Colonies, these self same people, former British subjects. That is as it was. They were responding to a call, not to arms, though many of them had only a few years before answered that call too, fighting alongside their fellow Allied servicemen in the Second World War. The call in the latter 1940s and through the fifties, and into the sixties, was, to do what the posters had called for before, " now let us win the peace." It was a call to public service. In an era of the rebuilding of Britain, the country that had suffered so much, so stoically, in the war years, the post war years were years of hope, of possibilities, and, increasingly, of opportunities. Thus they came to the land seen and known as "the mother country." The US had its Ellis Island image as the undeniable focus as the immigration capital of the modern world, yet the UK was a good close second and is. The originator of the English language as well as the founder of the British Empire was the obvious choice of settlement in Europe, for those seeking a more prosperous, life.
So the buses and trains and factories and shops and hospitals and schools, ran on time more, or had more people trying to make them efficient and work better, or well, for the increasingly empowered citizen in the brave new world of the planned economy and the good society. Such things as efficiency by government departments though, were judged not by the looming presence of national scandals but by the ongoing contentment of the general populace. Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told the British people, "You have never had it so good!" He had meant the British Commonwealth citizens in the UK also. For it was he who in a major speech referred to the "winds of change" blowing across the former Empire. His own more positive version of the Churchill notion of an "iron curtain" spreading accross the continent. What the winds of change meant, was the acceptance of the loss of empire and that subsequent transition to the creation of the Commonwealth. The organisation of countries, together in an international group to nurture them in independence yet maintain them in connection. The head is the Queen and at the heart of it is her genuine ethos of tradition, harmony, dignity. It is with good reason that progressive and humanitarian people in public life, rate and have warmth towards the Royal family. And this is the case with many amongst our population of immigrant origin.Those such as the terrific, Baroness Floella Benjamin, who arrived in Britain as a girl of ten, from that same Windrush generation, experienced both racism and opportunities, became a performer, a campaigner and a presenter for children, a career that led to the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat Peer, and being Patron of the Windrush Foundation. No wonder she and most of us who share her views and admire her achievements, look to our Monarchy at times for unity. Government, of the people, by the people and for the people, on these issues, let down the people and trampled on their civil liberties.
Pretty soon governments of harsher outlook and supposedly realistic notions, were tampering with the rights of the Commonwealth subjects, who were all considered to have rights of real citizenship in the UK. The rules got stricter, as the demand for settlement in Britain grew stronger. It was constantly proposed that there would be consequences of overpopulation, but the inference and point, was it would be detrimental to have too many of, other, races. The year 1968, fifty years ago, was that of the infamous, "rivers of blood " speech by the then Government minister and darling of the British Conservative right, Enoch Powell. His proposition was that there would be bloodshed in Britain from the changes, going beyond the "winds of change," to the elements being blown in and throughout the land. Incendiary, petty, vitriolic, nasty, in tone, that the speech maker couched it in ways meant to show understanding for communities changing, rather than loathing for immigration itself, did little to avoid the inevtiable dismissal of that maverick minister.
So the British Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned, in the aftermath of the scandal, that preciptated both this article and her departure. What has happened?!
A statism that is senseless leads to a fascism that is faceless. That is what has happened. Here is no Duce, no Generalissimo, only the power of the placemen and women, the pettiness of the pretentious. They know their place and they expect you to know yours. And if yours is as an immigrant, they are in charge and you are subordinate in the hierarchy they have made their own. It has taken hold at the UK Home Office. For some considerable time the media and Conservative narrative has been for lower immigration. This has been a part of a necessary debate not necessarily properly having taken place. But it has turned into Orwell and Kafka written by penpushers . For some years and increasingly for many months, people who were the children of the Windrush generation, so called because of the name of that first major ship that travelled from the Carribean of their birth, to the country of their settlement, have been targetted by "officials." This has seen them hounded, for paperwork they do not have, nor were ever given, and interrogated, arrested, or deported. So determined were these "officials," so draconian were the methods and bureaucratic their system, normal rules of engagement, and means of arbitration, seem to have vanished and left the scene. People who had lived in the UK all their life, married and brought up children there, and now even had grandchildren, were treated like criminals, because they did not have the necessary paperwork, or did not provide the possible proof, to satisfy the powerfully placed. And yet much of the problem has been the mistakes that the same department of government had made.
Of course the government, the party in power, the people it promotes, gets the bulk of the blame. But nearly nowhere is the cry of utter outrage heard, at the people who have power but are not politicians. Yes the narrative is written and the story told, by the parties and their policies, by the ministers implementing their manifesto, but all this depends on a machine that is more than that.
The once great British Civil Service has become a travesty at the Home Office. I am not ashamed of my country because it is one of the most open hearted and minded on the planet. I am not ashamed of Her Majesty's Government, because I did not vote for it's party in power. I am not ashamed of Her Majesty, because she is probably as appalled as many of us are, and has reigned as a Constituitional Monarch, entirely without an ounce of prejudice and with a dedication to Her Commonwealth. I am not ashamed of the Home Office because I do not work there.
It is staff at the Home Office, aswell as it's Home Secretary previously, Amber Rudd, and the one before her especially, Theresa May, now Prime Minister, who should be ashamed of themselves. May is the architect of the officially described " hostile environment," at the Home Office under her leadership of it. It has emerged that a target previously denied, for the speedy enoforced deportation of ten per cent more people, was being actively pursued. This is playing politics with people. Previous governments and their Home Secrataries, are responsible also, for that sort of irresponsible attitude.
This article is appearing on the site of a forum that was founded by Igor Ustinov. It is one that does considerable good, in attempting to combat prejudice, by greater awareness and that continues the legacy of Sir Peter Ustinov, his father, who was himself, the son of immigrants to the United Kingdom. I am the son of an immigrant to the United Kingdom. My father was part of the next wave of immigration after the Commonwealth immigrants. Unlike them, he was from Italy, like them he had a connection with Britain, having served in the British military led police in the years after the end of the Second World War, in Trieste, his city, where they were based, as agreed in the immediate post war reorganisation in Europe. I am not powerful but I am appalled at this scandal . The new Home Secretary, Sajid Javit, the same sort of generation as me, is powerful. He is the first Home Secretary who is the son of Commonwealth immigrants. He had better do more than let in the hot air politicians are too known for, to deal with the cold wind that has blown through his department .
Author : LORENZO CHERIN