Rudd didn’t resign over her office’s handling of the Windrush generation, nor did she resign because of the government’s deportation aims. Rather, she resigned because she had “inadvertently misled” lawmakers about the deportation targets—first by claiming they didn’t exist, and then by saying she wasn’t aware of their existence. Both apparently proved to be false—though Rudd claimed she did not see or approve targets for removal, a private letter she wrote to May about the targets in January 2017 refers to such targets directly.
As was the case with previous cabinet resignations, it wasn’t the scandal itself that proved to be the sackable offense—it was lying about it. Priti Patel, the former international-development secretary, resigned in November after making false claims that the U.K.’s Foreign Office was aware of her undisclosed visits with Israeli officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a family holiday (they weren’t). A month later, former first secretary of state Damien Green resigned because of “inaccurate and misleading”statements he made about the presence of pornography on his office computer. The remaining ministers to have left May’s cabinet include former Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, who resigned in November over allegations of sexual harassment, and former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who resigned in January for health reasons.
The circumstances of Rudd’s departure, as well as May’s confirmation Monday that she was also aware of the deportation targets, leave little doubt that the “hostile environment” strategy is here to stay, with or without Rudd at the Home Office. “There has not been anything at the moment to suggest that the government thinks that its policy is the wrong policy and that it wants to change it radically,” Simon Usherwood, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Surrey, told me, adding that this is “very much about Westminster politics rather than about changing the policy view of the government or the country at this stage.”
The Sunday resignation was just the start of a busy week for May. Not only are there expected to be crucial discussions on the U.K.’s post-Brexit customs plans and a vote on the EU Withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, but this week also features Thursday’s local elections in London, in which May’s ruling Conservative Party is projected to suffer substantial losses. Add to that Rudd’s exit, which will keep stoking the debate about the government’s immigration policies and how Sajid Javid, who was confirmed Monday to be Rudd’s successor, might influence them.
The son of Pakistani immigrants, Javid was vocal about the U.K.’s treatment of the Windrush generation, noting that “My parents came to this country from Pakistan, just like the Windrush generation. … That could be my mum ... it could be my dad ... it could be my uncle ... it could be me.” Still, it seems unlikely that Javid will pursue any radical changes to the U.K.’s existing immigration policies. He has a track record of supporting of May’s “hostile environment” policies and in a 2014 interview with the Sunday Telegraph appeared to sympathize with vocal Brexiteer Nigel Farage’s fervent opposition to immigration, noting that “many people throughout Britain are concerned about excessive immigration. And they should be.” When asked Monday whether he would put an end to the “hostile environment” policies, Javid said he would continue what he characterized as his predecessor’s aim of seeking an immigration policy that is “fair” and “treats people with respect.”