The fallout of the Windrush scandal has continued from the previous week, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd still in the firing line and facing calls to resign. Rudd has been criticised after telling the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday that the Home Office did not set targets for removals of illegal migrants to the UK. However, a memorandum leaked to the Guardian states that the Home Office had actually exceeded a quota of '12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18', which Rudd later apologised for not having been aware of. Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis, who was the minister responsible for immigration at the time, took to the Andrew Marr Show to defend his former boss:
AM: You had these figures, you knew about the memo... Did you discuss any of this with Amber Rudd as Immigration Minister?
BL: I was working with her on a weekly basis to make sure that we were doing everything we could - working with the police, working with local government to help vulnerable people, to crack down on criminals, and to remove more people who are here illegally. And yes, I did talk to the Home Secretary about that, and the overall work that we were doing and the overall ambition to see [a 10%] increase in numbers, but not on the detailed numbers and targets.
AM: So she knew there were targets therefore?
BL: No, what the Home Secretary was very aware of was her ambition to see an increase in the [removals] of people who were here illegally, particularly those foreign national offenders... but those internal targets were not in the memo and not figures that she was aware of.
Lewis went on to say that there was 'a big difference' between an ambition and a target. He added 'I am confident that she didn't have that memo. When Amber Rudd says she didn't see something, I know she didn't see it.' When asked about the customs union, Lewis stated firmly that 'we will be coming out of the customs union', but argued in favour of the so-called 'customs partnership' with the EU which he stated would be a scenario where the UK was 'negotiating [our trading] agreements as we go forward'.
Sadiq Khan - Rudd must go
The Mayor of London has become the latest opposition figure to join the calls for the Home Secretary to resign. Writing in the Observer, Khan has decried the 'inhumane treatment' of immigrants and said that the whole affair 'beggars belief'. Rudd is due to address the House of Commons on Monday. However, Khan told Robert Peston why he believed that Rudd should fall on her sword:
RP: You are calling, unambiguously I think, for the Home Secretary to go. Why do that before she makes her statement?
SK: Up until now, I've deliberately not, and actually specifically said, it's not appropriate for me to talk about the resignations of senior members of the government.
RP: So why have you changed your position?
SK: Let me tell you why. I think this is a question not just of competence, but also a question of conduct. But also, I think there needs to be an acceptance that what’s happened to the Windrush generation isn’t an anomaly. It's not due to an administrative error, it’s a consequence of the hostile environment created by this government.
Despite their differences over the years, Khan said that he would not be joining the protests planned for Donald Trump's visit to the UK in July, telling Peston 'As the Mayor of London it’s probably inappropriate for me to join a protest when foreign leaders come into the U.K.' Khan also clarified his top three priorities for his term, which were 'challenging air quality in London', 'fixing the housing crisis', and 'making progress on transport infrastructure'.
Andrew Gwynne - Labour has not done enough to tackle anti-Semitism
Labour's Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne has told Andrew Marr that Labour has not acted quickly enough to combat anti-Semitism within the party, and that Labour members had to recognise that anti-Semitism was an issue that was not confined to right-wing politics. Gwynne's remarks come after a meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and representatives of the Jewish community on Tuesday, where Corbyn was accused of being ineffective at tackling a problem that has blighted his leadership:
AG: Let’s be clear. We have to make progress on this. We’ve not done nearly enough quickly enough, and that is recognised across the Labour party. It’s recognised by our new general secretary, Jennie Formby. We are determined not just to call out anti-Semitism, but to root out anti-Semitism. It has no place in the Labour party...
AM: Do you think that the issue of anti-Semitism is being used by Labour MPs to attack Jeremy Corbyn?
AG: No, and Jeremy's made that very clear. That the notion that these are smears against the Labour party - he does not accept that... It is perfectly acceptable for Labour MPs to call out anti-Semitism in our party and in our movement, and it is incumbent on our party and on our movement to then act and root it out... There is an issue of anti-Semitism on the left of British politics. It’s not just something that affects the right of British politics. There is an element in the left. It is a small element. We have to root it out.
Gwynne defended criticism of the Israeli government, arguing that this was 'acceptable in a democracy [but] criticising the people of Israel or Jewish people across the world is not. That is the fine line and it is absolutely clear'.
Nigel Dodds - We cannot tolerate a border 'down the Irish Sea'
The DUP's Westminster leader has rejected the idea of an internal border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK as unacceptable and has told Sarah Smith the proposal would be 'economically catastrophic' due to the volume of internal trade overwhelming the amount undertaken with other countries:
SS: You say that you feel the EU is trying to bully the UK into staying in the customs union because they say there would need to be full alignment for the border to work in Ireland. But it's your absolute insistence that there's no divergence between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland that's creating the situation where the UK has to even consider staying in the customs union...
ND: That's a rather perverse reading of the situation!... Of course we're prepared to consider pragmatic sensible areas of cooperation... on an all-Ireland basis. That is the current position. But not British government, never mind the unionists of Northern Ireland could possibly tolerate a situation where 60% of all our sales are going to the UK market... that you would have this border down the Irish Sea, which would not only be constitutionally breaking up the UK at the behest of the EU but would also be economically catastrophic, because as the years would go by, our economy would diverge more and more from our main sales market.
When asked if the DUP would be content for the entire UK to remain within the customs union, Dodds replied that 'we're happy to engage in that argument', but that they didn't believe that 'delivered on the verdict of the British people'.
John McDonnell - Russian bot story is 'ludicrous'
And finally, the Shadow Chancellor has told Niall Paterson that a story from the Sunday Times which claims that Russia tried to utilise fake Twitter accounts (or 'bots') in order to manipulate the 2017 election in favour of Labour is 'ludicrous'. Instead, McDonnell dismissed the story as part of a smear campaign to undermine Labour's performance in the local elections being held this Thursday:
NP: Of course, the existence of Russian bots doesn't necessarily mean that they had an effect on voters, but would you participate in an investigation into whether or not Russia did interfere in our electoral process?
JM: This is ludicrous... If I remember rightly, the Russian embassy was putting out supportive noises towards the Tory party. If there’s an issue here about anything [regarding] Russian influence within our society, it’s about Russian oligarchs funding the Tory party. Let’s have an inquiry into that. And if they're serious about tackling that, why don't they support... Labour party amendments to the money laundering bill on Tuesday, which would tackle dirty money coming though the City of London and winding up in our economy? This Sunday Times story - a Conservative supporting newspaper - farcical. They tried it in 1992 under Neil Kinnock. They're doing it again just before an election this time. It's a classic Sunday Times smear campaign.
On his expectations for Labour's performance in the elections next week, McDonnell said 'I think we’ll have a good night but it’s difficult to predict'. He also opined that a potential merger between rival supermarkets Asda and Sainsbury's should be 'looked at by the monopolies commission'.