Philip Rutman chooses this moment to make a principled stand and yet he has managed the hostile environment that created the Windrush scandal and more.
Sir Philip Rutnam’s resignation made headlines last Saturday with a mournful, three-minute speech given in the rain. “I have been the target of a vicious and orchestrated briefing campaign,” he stated, looking visibly distressed and shocked – like a startled bunny rabbit captured by full beam headlights; as folorn as it is possible for a career civil servant to be. “My experience has been extreme!” Indeed the home secretary Priti Patel has been accused of aggressive and bullying behavior more apt to the school playground creating an atmosphere fear in the office, behavior indeed that needed some bravery to call out we are told.
At first as we read the details coming out we were orified and felt as if we could stand shoulder to shoulder with the man himself, so easy it was to view Rutnam’s resignation as an honourable gesture. And yet his decision to choose this moment to make a principled stand is very revealing. Set against his department’s recent dismal record, the sacrifice of his 33-year career in response to a minister’s bullying behaviour feels problematic if we consider the facts.
When questioned why so many people had been treated so poorly by the home office he stated that he did not know, which given Rutland was in post for a full year before Theresa May apologized for the behavior in April 2018 – needs to prompt more questioning surely.
The Windrush scandal may not be the worry of many Tory voters at the last election but let us spare a moment to consider those wrongly deported from the UK on false claims – those poor people were given no hope of reprieve or any voice to make a complaint so silenced and ignored by the mainstream press they were for so long.
It was he as the most senior civil servant in a department that had been extremely slow to react to the emerging evidence of wrong doing with catastrophic consequences. Many lost their jobs and were subsequently told they were ineligible for unemployment benefits, some were made homeless! Others were denied life-saving NHS treatment, and some were detained in immigration removal centres, or sent back to distant countries they had left as children half a century earlier. Some died in Home Office-enforced exile. These were policies that truly created fear and required bravery to call out.
Our thoughts are no with Sir Philip Rutland then; our thoughts are with the many, many victims who have been denied their human rights because of a cold blooded governments attitude to those unheard voices.
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