Sajid Javid Is Named U.K. Home Secretary, Replacing Amber Rudd
Posted April 30, 2018 1:16 p.m. EDT
LONDON — Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain moved swiftly to replace Amber Rudd as home secretary Monday, promoting Sajid Javid, a son of Pakistani immigrants, in a move that made him the first nonwhite politician to hold one of the most senior British Cabinet positions.
Rudd quit late Sunday, amid a growing chorus of criticism over her handling of a damaging immigration crisis involving migrants from the so-called Windrush generation, named for a passenger liner that carried many people from the Caribbean to Britain decades ago.
Javid, who moved from his job as secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, faces the urgent task of quelling the scandal affecting some of those who came from former colonies to help rebuild postwar Britain but were in recent years declared unauthorized immigrants, despite having lived in the country for decades.
Javid, 48, whose parents arrived in Britain in the 1960s, is the first black, Asian or ethnic minority person to hold the post of home secretary, and his appointment may reassure some of the department’s critics. In particular, Javid has spoken of his personal concerns about the swirling crisis over the Windrush migrants.
Mostly from the Caribbean, some of the Windrush generation have been threatened with deportation, lost their jobs and been refused access to medical treatment. “I thought that could be my mum ... my dad ... my uncle ... it could be me,” Javid told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
He has also spoken of how his family of seven lived in two bedrooms above a store. “I shared a room with my parents; there were two double beds, I was with one of my siblings, and there were two double beds in the other room,” Javid, whose father was a bus driver, told The Times of London this year.
During the 2016 referendum on European Union withdrawal, Javid argued for Britain to remain in the bloc, a fact that helps May maintain a political balance in her Cabinet over the issue, known as Brexit. Javid’s old job will be filled by James Brokenshire, who returns to the Cabinet after a recent departure for medical treatment.
Rudd, who had been under pressure for days because of the Windrush scandal, announced her resignation after admitting that she had “inadvertently misled” lawmakers about deportation targets for unauthorized immigrants, having initially denied that the targets existed.
Rudd’s resignation — the fourth such departure from the Cabinet in six months — is a significant setback for May and threatens to leave the prime minister more exposed to criticism about immigration policy, which she oversaw as home secretary from 2010 to 2016.
Rudd had resisted pressure to quit, but the onslaught intensified last week after she told a parliamentary committee that there were no targets for deporting unauthorized immigrants.
The statement proved to be incorrect and, although Rudd later insisted that she did not know about the targets, that defense crumbled, too. On Friday, she acknowledged in a Twitter post that she had been copied on an email that mentioned migrant deportation targets, but she said that she had not read it.
Another document leaked Sunday appeared to show that she had discussed deportation targets in a letter sent to May.
Having misled lawmakers, Rudd found her position increasingly untenable and ultimately opted to quit rather than suffer another ordeal Monday, when she was scheduled to appear again before Parliament.
In her resignation letter, Rudd acknowledged that she had “inadvertently misled” lawmakers over deportation targets.
“I should have been aware of this and I take full responsibility for the fact that I was not,” she wrote.
May said that Rudd had answered questions from the parliamentary committee “in good faith” and that she was “very sorry” to see her leave.
Some had predicted that Rudd would survive the scandal because she was acting as a political shield for May, the previous home secretary. During her lengthy tenure in the job, May tried, and failed, to bring net migration into Britain to below 100,000 people a year.
Though members of the Windrush generation had a right to be in the country, many struggled to prove it, in part because the home office under May had destroyed copies of the landing cards they were issued upon entry. Many became ensnared in a system that sought, under May, to make life hard for those in Britain illegally. The scandal has also raised concerns about whether EU citizens currently living in Britain might face similar bureaucratic problems after Brexit.
In the past, Javid has not always agreed with May on policy issues and, given his family background, some commentators believe that he may seek significant changes to immigration policies, perhaps abandoning targets to limit net immigration or excluding students from the numbers.
That could provoke tension with May, but Javid will have some bargaining power.
Unless the Windrush crisis can be calmed quickly, Rudd’s departure leaves May more exposed to criticism from the opposition Labour Party and others.
“After this scandal and its botched cover-up, Amber Rudd’s resignation was inevitable. It should have come sooner,” Diane Abbott, who speaks for Labour on domestic affairs, said in a statement.
“The architect of this crisis, Theresa May, must now step forward to give an immediate, full and honest account of how this inexcusable situation happened on her watch,” Abbott added.
Ed Davey, who speaks for the centrist Liberal Democrats on home affairs, said that it was “clear that Amber Rudd has ended up, at least partly, being the fall guy to protect the prime minister.”
“Theresa May must face questions now given these dreadful failures largely took place under her watch as home secretary,” Davey added in a statement. Rudd’s departure also removes from the Cabinet one of its strongest pro-European voices. But she will remain a lawmaker and might strengthen the number of Conservative Party backbenchers prepared to defy the government if it pursues a “hard” Brexit, or clean break with the European Union.
In recent weeks, May’s grip on power had been strengthened by her steady handling of the poisoning of Russian former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
Since May lost her parliamentary majority in elections last June, her leadership has often been under question, and she has already suffered three Cabinet resignations.
In December, Damian Green, who was effectively May’s deputy, quit after an investigation found that he had misled the public about pornography found on his parliamentary computer.
Priti Patel, the international development secretary, resigned from the Cabinet last year after breaching ministerial rules by holding a dozen unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials during a summer vacation. And a scandal over sexual harassment in Parliament prompted the departure of the defense secretary, Michael Fallon.