News broke today that Home Secretary Amber Rudd resigned, and is replaced by former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid. This is a huge move, and needs to be appropriately appreciated….
What’s the story?
After the large controversy at the Home Office over the Windrush generation scandal (see previous post), Amber Rudd became the fifth person to resign from cabinet in the last six months.
As questions appeared about whether or not Rudd knew about targets to remove illegal immigrants from the UK, the decision to step down seemed like an obvious one on her part. The shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said that it was the right move, as ‘someone had to take responsibility’.
The main attention in the news was given over to who would be her replacement. The BBC had a short list of Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Karen Bradley and James Brokenshire. The Guardian added David Lidington, Dominic Grieve and Nicky Morgan to the list. The competition was intense.
This morning, Sajid Javid was announced as Rudd’s successor. The Telegraph announced him as ‘Britain’s first Asian Home Secretary’, whereas The Daily Mail chose to focus on the fact that Javid is ‘a family man’, who has experienced a ‘meteoric rise’ through government.
Why is this important?
The varied headlines give us an idea of why this is so important for the UK government.
Firstly, it is yet another quick turn-around decision for Prime Minister May that will further mark her success or failure. Her last high-profile choice of Gavin Williamson has so far had mixed reviews.
Javid was an avid remainer, which again has the potential to change the balance of cabinet with regard to Brexit.
Most importantly, however, he is the first BAME (British English Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) Home Secretary, who spoke out furiously against the windrush scandal, claiming that it could have been his mum, dad, uncle, or even himself to fall victim to it (The Sunday Telegraph).
The son of a bus driver, who went to a comprehensive school and then Exeter University (BBC), Mr Javid will certainly be a breath of fresh air in comparison with a cabinet that has historically been a public school-Oxbridge majority. Mr Javid has also broken a long tradition of female Home Secretaries that had been running since 2010.
As someone who has personally felt the threat of the windrush scandal, Mr Javid is certainly well-placed to sort out the issue with empathy and understanding. He is by no means going to take the Conservatives on a complete U-turn in policy however, as he previously commented, ‘there is nothing racist about managed migration’ (The Daily Telegraph), demonstrating that he has no qualms about restricting migration.
His appointment will demonstrate two things to the Conservative’s opposition: firstly, that they are attempting to alter their stereotypical demographic of middle-aged white men; secondly, that quick-fire promotions are not impossible in cabinet, so change is perhaps, after all, possible.
Amelia Gentleman, who broke the Windrush generation story for the guardian, says that those members of the windrush generation that spoke to her are surprised by Amber Rudd’s resignation: their perception of the situation was that Theresa May was the architect of the problem (The Guardian).
Food for thought….
Second to the appointment of Sadiq Khan as the first Islamic Mayor of London, this appointment is a real marker of progress for the UK.
Gone are the days when elderly white men controlled the country from their drawing rooms whilst drinking brandy and smoking cigars. Some might say that this is not necessarily a good thing, but the progress in the higher levels of government demonstrates drastic change in the country as a whole which will hopefully result in a fairer and more equal British society.
One of the questions raised here will be what next for the conservatives…yet another resignation does not bode well for their reputation as a united government, but on the other hand the resignations so far have mostly resulted in a younger, more diverse government that surely can only be an improvement.
Perhaps the latest appointments are a desperate bid by the Tories to hang on to their voters before the next election, which could be much sooner than first thought, depending on how the next few months go….
Position changes in government might not always seem monumental news, but this is one that promises to have interesting consequences.