It really does speak volumes when the Royals show that they can do diversity, openness and inclusivity better than the government. If there’s one good thing to emerge from the disgraceful Windrush scandal, it’s that the Commonwealth nationals who came to Britain in the 1940s will be in no doubt now about the deep affection the public has for them.
The displays of solidarity and the widespread public anger at their callous treatment by the Home Office demonstrate that they are treasured and are integral to the fabric of modern British society. This outraged public reaction is in sharp contrast to the hostility and racism many Windrushers endured when they arrived in Britain – at the invitation of the UK government – to help rebuild the economy in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The furious public backlash also illustrates that the Conservatives, with their toxic anti-immigrant sentiments – evidenced in their inhumane hostile environment policies – have misjudged the public’s willingness to tolerate injustice and discrimination. The UK, for all its faults, is a multi-faith, multi-racial and multi-cultural society that values hard work, fair treatment and justice.
Yes, the public want the immigration rules to be enforced. But not via an immigration system that impoverishes and then threatens to detain and deport tax paying British citizens and settled migrants simply because they cannot comply with the Home Office’s Kafkaesque demands for documentation.
If the UK is wrestling with a housing affordability crisis, stagnant and falling wages and a soaring benefits bill, then that’s due to years of underinvestment in housebuilding and other key public services, a banking crisis and eight years of austerity. It has nothing to do with the hardworking migrants who’ve contributed immensely to this country.
From the fact that there’s nowhere in the world like London – a city which celebrates difference and is a paean to multiculturalism – to the NHS, which would not exist without migrant labour, Windrushers have enriched traditional British culture and paved the way for us all to lead the lives that we choose. That is something we should cherish.