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Former Tory Mayoral Hopeful Says Government Needs A "Realistic Conversation" About Immigration

Former Tory Mayoral Hopeful Says Government Needs A 'Realistic Conversation' About Immigration

Shaun Bailey said the government needs to have a "realistic conversation" about immigration.

5 min read

On this week’s episode of The Rundown, PoliticsHome’s Seun Matiluko is joined by London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey, co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism For Equality Siobhan Aarons, and co-chair of Hackney’s Young Futures Commission Jermain Jackman to discuss what Black life in Britain is like in 2022.

At the recent Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced that it was her “dream” to see a newspaper front page featuring a plane boarded by migrants taking off for Rwanda as part of the government's controversial deportation scheme. 

Former Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has warned that the current political debate is poisoned amid reports that Braverman is “freelancing” on immigration policy.

“We’re not having a realistic conversation about immigration, what we’re having is an argy bargy where people are trying to create political positions to shore up their vote base” he told PoliticsHome's podcast, The Rundown

But Bailey was not wholly critical of the government's record on immigration, and argued that they had “moved heaven and Earth” to compensate Commonwealth citizens who were negatively impacted by the Windrush Scandal with a “financially generous” scheme. 

The Windrush Scandal was brought to national attention in 2018, when it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens who had arrived in Britain decades ago, and had indefinite leave to remain, were acutely harmed by hostile environment immigration policy which saw some detained and deported.

In response to the scandal, government launched the Windrush Compensation Scheme in 2019 to compensate individuals negatively impacted.

But last year, the Home Affairs Committee said their inquiry “found that the vast majority of people who have applied for compensation have yet to receive a penny”. In September of this year, data commissioned by Kate Osamor MP indicates that only 1% of the Windrush Compensation Scheme appeals have been successful.

Jermain Jackman, a founding member of the Baobab foundation, who appears alongside Bailey on the podcast, told PoliticsHome he believed that the ongoing fallout of the Windrush Scandal shows that the government is not taking it “as serious as they should be taking it”.

The special Black History Month episode of The Rundown, also explored the ongoing culture war, diversity among Black Britons and, in the wake of the most diverse Conservative leadership race ever, whether the election of a Black Prime Minister would radically change Black life in Britain.

Siobhan Aarons, a founding trustee of the Black Equity Organisation said that she hasn’t “got time” for the culture war that appeared to dominate much of political discourse during the premiership of Boris Johnson.

Jackman said that he “always finds it funny that the only people talking about the culture war are people on the right or the far right”. 

But Bailey disagreed, arguing that the culture war exists, "if you like it or not", but that he doesn’t “believe it has to be a war".

He added: "I think we should be able to have a conversation about everything. Any society that wants to continue to exist must be able to debate any problem.”

On diversity among Black Britons, Aarons said that while Black identity is important “one size fits all doesn’t work” when government and policymakers are trying to understand “where the gaps are, where the issues are, and where the solutions should be”.

Last year, the controversial Commission on Ethnic Disparities Report recommended that government moves away from the use of the term BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) “to better focus on understanding disparities and outcomes”.  This year, the Inclusive Britain strategy, the government’s response to the report confirmed that government will stop using BAME in its communications.

The Ministerial foreword to Inclusive Britain was written by Kemi Badenoch MP, then Minister for Equalities in prime minister Boris Johnson’s government and now Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade in Prime Minister Liz Truss’ Cabinet.

During the Conservative leadership contest this summer, Badenoch was at one point leading the ConservativeHome poll on who the next leader of the Conservative Party, and thus next Prime Minister, should be. However, YouGov polling this summer indicated that 44% of Black Britons thought that an ethnic minority Prime Minister would make “no real difference” for ethnic minorities in Britain, while 18% said that it would make things “slightly better” and only 12% said that it would make things “a lot” better.

Jackman said that having a Black Prime Minister would be of little significance “if they are unable to place the issues that our community faces on the public agenda”. 

Meanwhile Bailey said he believed that “most Black people thought it [having a Black Prime Minister] would be a good thing,” but argued that “what’s more important is ordinary success” among Black British people.

“You need to walk down the road and the manager of Tescos is Black," he said.  

"You need to bump into your GP and they’re Black. Your MP could be Black. Your teacher could be Black. We just need Black people everywhere like anybody else.”

Aarons agreed with this point, “across the piece we need more people like us. One person doesn’t make the difference.”

Subscribe to The Rundown to listen to the full conversation.

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