Theresa May was confronted with her own tough measures on immigrationduring her time as home secretary after she criticised US President Donald Trump for telling a group of congresswomen to “go home.”
The SNP’s Westminister leader, Ian Blackford, asked outgoing Mrs May during Prime Minister’s Questions if she would also admit the now-infamous “go home” vans were also racist.
The SNP MP was referring to Operation Vaken, a failed attempt, using large adverts on the back of vans, by the Home Office in 2013 to encourage illegal immigrants in parts of London to “go home” by warning them they were at risk of arrest.
Mr Blackford said: “This week, the Prime Minister finally did the right thing. When Donald Trump told women that they should go home, she called it out as unacceptable.”
“Let me be clear, Donald Trump’s actions are textbook racism. They are repugnant and diplomatic politeness should never stop us from sayings so.”
“Will the Prime Minister now on reflection, also take the opportunity to call out and condemn the racism of the ‘go home’ vans that she created in coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.”
She hit back that she had not approved of the vans at the time, but defended a tough immigration system.
“I said at the time that that was too blunt an instrument but there is an important issue here, which is the public expect us to have a fair immigration system, which deals with those who are here illegally, and that is what we need to do.
“And he refers to the comments made by President Trump as he has himself alluded to, I have strongly condemned those comments made by President Trump.”
Mr Trump sent a series of tweets about a group of Democrat politicians, telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” He did not name them but Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are believed to be his suspected targets.
Mr Blackford challenged her again on her time in the Home Office between 2010 and 2016 that saw a significant tightening of immigration laws, as she sought to deliver on David Cameron’s promise to bring down immigration to the “tens of thousands.”
He said: “When the Prime Minister implemented the hostile environment policy her party stayed silent. When she delivered the racist go home vans the Tories remained silent. When asylum seekers are deported to places where their lives are at risk, the Tories stay silent and when faced with the racist columns written by the former foreign secretary, they stay silent.
“Isn’t the member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb) correct Prime Minister when he warns that the Tories are appealing to the type of nationalism that has seen Ukip grow, while the Tory party shares more with the extremes of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. Isn’t it any wonder that Scotland looks on in horror?”
She hit back once more challenging the Scottish nationalist politician, saying: “The Conservative Party is a party for the whole of the United Kingdom and the only party in this house which is appealing to blatant nationalism is the party that wants to break up the UK.”
The issue of the vans was also raised by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, after Mrs May criticised him for the party’s issues with anti-Semitism.
He told her that he did not accept the criticism “coming from a Prime Minister who encouraged the hostile environment, sent go home vans around London and deported British citizens, which she now had to compensate them for. I think she might look to her own party and her own record as well”.
She had raised the advert taken out in The Guardian newspaper by 60 Labour peers that criticised the Labour leader’s handling of anti-Semitism.
Paraphrasing the advert she said: “Sixty distinguished members of the Labour Party have written in the newspapers, the Labour Party welcomes everyone except it seems Jews. This is your legacy Mr Corbyn, you still haven’t even opened your eyes, you still haven’t told the whole truth, you still haven’t accepted your responsibility, you have failed the test of leadership, apologise now.”
But Mr Corbyn hit back, pointing to the issue of Islamophobia in the Tory Party. He said: “Anti-Semitism has no place in our society, no place in any of our parties, and no place in any of our dialogue, neither does any other form of racism, and 60 per cent of Tory Party members think Islam is a threat to western civilisation.
“The Prime Minister has said she will act on Islamophobia within her own party, I hope she does. I look forward to that being dealt with, as we will deal with any racism that occurs within our own party as well.”