Thursday 26 April 2018

Finchley deserve better - If Amber Rudd can apologise for Windrush scandal why can't Mike Freer

This morning, I was surprised to see that Amber Rudd has made a public act of contrition for her mismanagement of the Windrush Scandal. As my father was a Commonwealth citizen, who came to the UK to fly warplanes for the RAF in WWII, I can understand how it must feel to be told you or your parents are not wanted in the UK. If someone had wanted to send my Dad back because his paperwork had been destroyed in a bureacratic blunder, I would have been outraged, and I would have not sat back and would have been on the streets demanding the sacking of those responsible.

I have a friend who is caught up in all this. He has been posting on Facebook detailing his feelings. Here is just one of his comments
"As I sit here in the Caribbean I find myself still in shock at the injustice of a practice that has been on-going for years. I ask again, why didn’t the church leaders speak up before now, same question to the MPs and other civil leaders. Why too have the heads of the commonwealth countries been quiet about a practice that must have been known to them before now!!! My anger and disappointment is showing no signs of abating"

He is absolutely livid that hard working people who have lived here for decades have been demonised by an official policy. That even the Daily Express has realised that it is unacceptable shows just how disgusting the whole matter is.

Sadly, Finchley MP Mike Freer takes a different view. To quote the Times
The Windrush scandal “is absolutely nothing to do with immigration reforms introduced under the Cameron government”. Mike Freer made the claim, at odds with public apologies from Amber Rudd and Theresa May, in an email to a constituent yesterday. 
The home secretary and prime minister have acknowledged that recently introduced policies to tighten entitlements have had unintended consequences for Caribbean-born long-term British residents. Replying to a constituent’s complaint about the “impact of the hostile environment policy introduced by Theresa May”, Mr Freer, the MP for Finchley and Golders Green, wrote: “The policy was to make it harder for ILLEGAL immigrants to settle in the UK. The Windrush people were and are legal. Wholly separate and unconnected. So it really is the height of opportunism and hypocrisy for the opposition to take some moral high ground”
Why can't Mike Freer stand up for hard working residents, rather than trying to spin his way out of the situation. If Amber Rudd, who is clearly a more successful, clever and competent politician than Freer,  can own up and apologise for the appalling behaviour of her government, why is Freer unable to show the same humility?

When it comes to morality and treating people fairly, you cannot pick and choose. I joined the Lib Dems as I believe they are the party most committed to fairness and equality. As a grown up, I recognise that our party is not perfect, has issues and has made bad decisions. Having said that, I passionately believe that we need a strong third party in UK politics. What has happened in the country since 2015 has shown this. In Barnet the Lib Dem/Lab coalition 1994/2002 was a stable period of administration, where decency was the norm in the council chamber. Since then, we've seen numerous cases of councillors being reported to the standards committee for breaches of the councils code of conduct. We've seen Conservative councillors banned from driving and even one found gulity of assaulting a member of the public. Mike Freer has form in the lack of respect, in many way his adminstration set the sorry tone. Whilst leader of the Council, he described both myself and David Miller, who had been the Chair of the Chipping Barnet Conservatives as "One Handed Bloggers", He said:
“I have a group of followers what I call the ‘one handed bloggers’. I’ll leave it to your own imagination what the other hand is doing."
I am not surprised by Mike Freer's response to Windrush. His reaction to David Miller is indicative of his attitude to criticism. He is thin skinned and gets nasty. For those of you who don't know David Miller, he was a long standing Tory stalwart. His mother was Baroness Hendon, a highly respected Conservative peer. Despite all of the insults, David never stopped being a Conservative. 

I could never really understand why Freer was allowed to get away with such rudeness by his party. I was even more shocked when he was selected as a Parliamentary candidate. As I'm not a member of the Conservative Party, I cannot answer why they didn't seem bothered.  But what I can say is that Mike Freer's behaviour towards the Windrush scandal is likely to have exactly the same impact on all decent people as the prevarification in the Labour Party in regards to anti semitism. When it comes to equality and anti racism, you cannot pick and choose. 

My views on Racism have not changed, it is wrong full stop. 41 years ago, I bought a Rock Against Racism badge. The first gig I ever organised was at Harwood Hall. It breaks my heart that Racism is still rife in society. After the gig, I received a letter from the council stating that I'd organised an illegal event and it was packed with undesirables  (I wonder why) and I would be prosecuted if I arranged another one.

It seems that the attitude of the Finchley MP towards certain members of our community has not moved on in 38 years. In fact, Mr Freer's attitude is at odds in some ways with that of his predecessor Lady Thatcher. One of the more amusing anecdotes I tell is that when we received the letter, my mum (bearing in mind I was 16 at the time), rang Thatcher, who she knew from the Hendon Overseas Friendship Association. She explained that the Council were trying to stop young people from organising events to keep kids off the street. She explained that "my son and his friends, who he met as Alter Servers at The Sacred Heart (true! but not the whole story), were organising a music night at the Church Hall and the Council were trying to ban it". Thatcher called the then leader of the Council, who clearly scared by a call from the Prime Minister, immediately wrote a letter of apology to my mother and stated the Council were more than happy for the gigs to continue. Maybe Theresa May should take a leaf out of Lady Thatchers book and ring Mike Freer to explain why he's got this totally wrong.  We organised three more there.

In a fair and just society, both Amber Rudd and Theresa May would be sacked for this. As for Mike Freer, I sincerely hope the people of his constituency in Finchley and Golders Green send him a strong message in the local elections next week.