The Windrush scandal has revealed many things about our current government; crucially, that compassionate conservatism has died like its oxymoronic origins foreboded. Today we are left with an alt-right Conservative party conveying the wishes of every Brexiteer’s wet dream, hidden by the incompetence of the May-bot. Windrush has confirmed that this government’s heartlessness has ruined lives, and with local elections on the horizon, I challenge liberal Conservatives to abandon this illiberal sinking ship.
Many liberals have recently found themselves swooning over figures such as Ken Clark and Anna Soubry, heralding them as ‘good Tories’, whether this be in their defence of the constitution or of liberal immigration policy. Yet today, these individuals are expressing the views not of the Conservative party in its current form, but of a bygone age of socially and economically liberal conservatism. This is a form of one-nation conservatism that I and many other economic liberals both understand and accept. Yet many liberal Tories must face the reality that it no longer exists and that MPs like Clark and Soubry are now seen as a small cult within the conservative party, which is at best an irritant, and at worse dangerous to the Brexit crusade. If these individuals are the reason liberal voters are clinging onto the Conservative corpse, then for heaven’s sake they should let go.
Windrush has confirmed that this government’s heartlessness has ruined lives, and with local elections on the horizon, I challenge liberal Conservatives to abandon this illiberal sinking ship.
Many would argue that they cling to the Tories due to the lack of alternatives; the Labour party has veered to the left, whilst the Liberal Democrats sabre-rattle about a second referendum. Yet if the recent Windrush saga has proven anything, it is that through backing the Conservatives due to the most well-meaning liberal intentions, you are legitimising true unadulterated bile. Windrush has shown the bigoted life-destroying intentions of our Prime Minister whilst she was home secretary. She undertook the creation of a ‘hostile environment’ not only to illegal immigrants like she would have you believe, but created a hostile environment for all immigrants. Her black and white outlook on the cause and effect of the hostile environment, suggesting that deportation targets are justified and would not force legitimate Britons into an area of legal ambiguity is exactly the attitude that caused Windrush. Indeed, as Laura Kuenssberg has suggested, the government’s own impact assessments “suggested there might be some older people who’d been in the UK for a long time who might have a hard time trying to prove that they were here legally”. Through May’s illiberal stance on immigration — and the culture she created within the Home office — immigrants faced stringent, irrational and immoral questioning of their legitimacy, such as having to provide four pieces of documentation for each year of residence since 1984. Therefore, Windrush was not the result of innocence and ignorance, but of incompetence and illiberalism. Our government’s treatment of a generation who were meant to rebuild postwar Britain has reminded us that they stand not by liberal conservatism, but by callous conservatism.
Yet, Windrush is not an isolated example of liberal conservatism’s cremation: it is just one example in a long chain of the Conservative party’s peddling of anti-immigration sentiment. Whether it be Michael Howard’s “are you thinking what we’re thinking” slogan from 2005, or Zac Goldsmith’s vile dog-whistling campaign against Sadiq Khan suggesting London was not safe in the hands of a Muslim mayor, the Conservative party has created this hostile environment in every element of our political sphere.
Our government’s treatment of a generation who were meant to rebuild postwar Britain has reminded us that they stand not by liberal conservatism, but by callous conservatism.
I am sure many Conservative MPs are sincere in their shock and horror over the suffering inflicted by the Windrush scandal, but the Conservative party should not only be apologising for the culture they have created within the Home Office, but the culture they have legitimised nationally. Of course, there are still some Conservatives of a liberal nature, but they are a small minority which neither represents nor enforces policy on their party.
I would, therefore, like to convey that local elections are not going to hand the keys of government to Comrade Corbyn, nor change the Liberal Democrats’ path to irrelevance. But what they can do is pass a clear and simple message to Theresa May from liberal voters: we will not, and will never, vote for a Conservative party that echoes the death wish of Enoch Powell through acts like the Windrush Saga. I implore voters like myself, who are outward looking internationalists, who believe in fiscal responsibility, and, above all, who believe in a tolerant and multicultural United Kingdom, to abandon the Conservative party on Thursday 3 May. Because, in truth, you will not be abandoning your party; your party has abandoned you.
Featured image: The Week