Theresa May once believed in ministers’ accountability... That was before becoming Minister and Prime Minister.
In a BBC Question Time back in March 2004, the then-Immigration Minister Beverley Hughes was defending her decision not to resign over a policy to admit some immigrants to Britain without key checks.
The minister, who claimed she had not been made aware of the policy, blamed a backlog of applications instead for the decision taken by officials in Sheffield.
“If I felt I was responsible, I would resign because my own integrity is more important to me than any job,” the Minister said.
Never mind, the then-Tory shadow environment minister — a certain Theresa May — called on her to resign live on air:
“I think the government has lost control of its immigration and asylum policy. Frankly, I think we see a degree of chaos in what is happening and, what is perfectly clear from what has taken place and been admitted by the Government and by Beverley Hughes in particular at the beginning of this week, is that we have in this Government Ministers who simply don’t know what is going on in their Department, we have Departments that deny the truth and have to have it dragged out of them.”
“I think there are two things. I do think Beverley should resign as Minister on this particular issue. And I find it absolutely extraordinary that she has said in front of the Select Committee and in the House of Commons she blamed officials in her Department for this particular decision having been taken.”
“I find it extraordinary that a Minister isn’t willing just to step up to the plate and take responsibility and it seems to me that you don’t have to take a Ministerial job, you don’t have to take the care and the extra pay and so forth. But when you do there is responsibility that has to be taken with it. And I’m actually sick and tired of Government Ministers in this Labour government who simply blame other people when something goes wrong and are not willing to take responsibility for what is happening under this government and their decisions.”
Beverley Hughes responded: “As a politician, you are not there to manage staff - this is an organisation of 12,000 people. I could not possibly know unless I was told by my advisers that something has happened that is untoward... It is not right for ministers to take on personnel matters... it would be quite wrong.”
Theresa May finally replied: “But Beverley, you are the minister who is responsible for what happens in your department.”
The video of the exchange was released by David Lammy MP on his Twitter account today.
Watch Theresa May demanding the Immigration Minister’s resignation:
In 2004 Theresa May said "I find it extraordinary that a Minister isn’t willing just to step up to the plate and take responsibility... I’m actually sick and tired of Government Ministers who simply blame other people when something goes wrong".— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) April 19, 2018
I agree. pic.twitter.com/zv2Dlx6Q8B
It is quite ironic that from being the Conservatives Shadow Environment Minister, Theresa May went on to become the Home Secretary who created the Hostile Environment that hurts the Windrush generation today.
Sadly, it seems that Theresa May’s words on ministers’ accountability don’t apply to her own Government or to herself.🔷
(Cover: Theresa May in BBC Question Time.)