PMQs review: Corbyn forces May to endorse her hostile environment policy

In another week of Windrush Generation questions, Jeremy Corbyn put the Prime Minister in the uncomfortable position of both apologising for and defending her attitude towards migrants.


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In this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Jeremy Corbyn seized yet another opportunity to devote his questions to government failings over the immigration status of the Windrush Generation.

Having already apologised along with the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Theresa May was reduced to answering every question with the confirmation that the Windrush Generation immigrants (those who came from Commonwealth countries before 1971) are “British and a part of us”.

It was an assertion that rang hollower each time, when the whole House knew her own policy towards migrants as Home Secretary created the difficulties and deportations of these citizens.

Corbyn called on her to end the “hostile environment” she created, by reviewing the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, reversing cuts to legal aid, and scrapping the immigration target she’s been aiming for since Home Secretary in the last government.

“Can the Prime Minster send a clear message today to tell us the hostile environment is over, and the bogus immigration target will be scrapped?” he asked, as well as urging her to sack her successor: “Isn’t it time she [Amber Rudd] took responsibility and resigned?”

By attacking May’s own policies and colleagues, Corbyn put the Prime Minister in the uncomfortable position of having to endorse the very environment that caused the scandal for which she now apologises.

She had to double down, or she’d be slamming over a decade of her own work. So she was forced repeatedly to defend “the action the government has taken in relation to those here illegally” – not a good look during a time when she is trying to sound softer towards UK’s migrants.

And forcing her into this corner made it clear she hasn’t changed her stance. After reiterating that the Windrush Generation will get free citizenship status, she admitted that the compensation scheme for those affected by the government’s failings will have its “details set out in due course”.

For all the apologies and proclamations that they are “part of us”, the Windrush Generation still live in uncertainty – and the hostile environment remains.

Anoosh Chakelian is the New Statesman’s Britain editor.