Sputnik discussed whether the term "institutionalized racism" could be applied to Mrs. May's policies with Sir John Curtice, senior fellow of The UK in a Changing Europe and Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University.
Sputnik: What is your take on Ms. Butler's words? Would you agree that the term "institutionalized racism" is applicable to Mrs. May's policies?
John Curtice: You can identify this is as institutionalized racism pursuing a policy that ends up having a greater impact on those of a certain racial background then you probably could sustain Ms. Butler's comments, so I think one should say that it is an indirect effect of the policy rather than any direct intent of the policy.
What is clear is that there are a group of people who were admitted readily into the UK in the 50s and 60s, they came here as Commonwealth citizens and as Commonwealth citizens they had the right not only to come here but also to come here with voting rights, and they really weren't expected to produce very much in the way of documentation, the truth is we had freedom of movement for people who were then members of the Commonwealth.
The damaging thing I think for the government perhaps though is the increasing evidence coming out that it was actually aware that at least some members of the so-called Windrush generation might be at risk of getting caught up in this policy, i.e., that there was an awareness that perhaps there were indeed Commonwealth citizens, particularly those who came here as children, who have the perfect right to be here, but who actually did not have the documentary evidence to prove that they had that right.
Sputnik: How has Theresa May responded to these allegations first of all and to the scandal overall? Has she made any promises as far as doing something about it?
John Curtice: Well the first thing to realize is, of course, it is Theresa May's reputation that is on the line here, because the trade legislation that was introduced in 2014 that's kind of led to this problem was done while Theresa May was the Home Secretary, and was the minister who was responsible for pushing it through, and we now know from various people who were inside the British Cabinet at that time, that that was a policy that met a degree of opposition from within government at the time, so the Home Secretary can't say that everybody agreed with her.
So her reputation is undoubtedly on the line. It is also true that the current Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who has long been a close colleague of Theresa May's is also on the line on the grounds that basically she's not been handling the operational side of this terribly well.
Theresa May has responded basically so far by saying sorry, saying sorry very often, admitting that these people are British, that this never should have happened, they're one of us, they came to this country to rebuild the country after the Second World War etc., etc., and more recently, as I've suggested, she's moved on to beginning to say, well hang on, maybe were going to have to offer some compensation, but there certainly has not been any flesh put on the bones for that idea.
We had examples, allegedly, of people, for example, who have been here for over 40 years, they have tax records for 40 years and they have managed to prove to the Home Office that they were here for the 40, let's say out of the 45 years they've been here, but there's always that odd year where there's a gap and the Home Office has therefore been saying no.
So certainly the Home Office is going to have to probably be much more liberal in accepting that people have really kind of pretty much proven that they were here all the time, and that there are plenty of lawyers and others who can testify to the fact they've been here all the time, and against that backdrop they're just going to have to accept that these people are going to have to be given the right to remain and perhaps now indeed British citizenship.
Sputnik: This has had significant implications for her (Theresa May's) political career and perhaps for a cabinet's as well?
Certainly it's come at a particularly an unwelcome time in the sense that all of that has been completely washed out of the British news, and the British news has been dominated for the last week by what looks like not just simply a mistake by the UK government, but to be honest, an implementational policy even though it was known that as proposed, the policy came with risks as they have indeed now been realized and become evident some years down the track.
The views and opinions expressed by John Curtice are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.