From 14 April – 07 May, 2018, Impact Social analysed over 140,000 social media discussions relating to the Windrush issue amongst UK citizens.
Clearly a difficult period for the government with 68% of all comments attacking them in some form
However take out left wing ideologues and the government isn’t under as much attack as it may feel
In fact 32% are either happy to defend the government and/or think pragmatically about how the UK’s immigration policy might be improved
This conversation is what the government might expect given the subject matter. Driven by the left people link the Windrush fiasco to other perceived government failures; deaths caused by austerity, housing crisis, rising crime, NHS disaster, increased homelessness etc.
For some this proves the level of racism within the Conservative Party of which they have always been convinced. For these people the Windrush issue is driven by prejudice pure and simple. Anger aside, the word most prominent in these discussions is ‘shameful’.
Defending Gov (21%)
It appears that a lot of people, particularly on the right are more than happy to defend the government during this difficult period. Overall they too are appalled by the situation. However they are also angry at the suggestion that it is a consequence of in-built racism. Their position is straightforward, ‘nothing wrong with the policy, it has just been badly implemented’. They also feel that Labour is using the issue to distract from race issues of their own. Typical posts include:
‘gov taking swift action unlike Labour over anti-Semitism’
‘racist? The massive outrage shows exactly the opposite!’
‘an immigration policy is not racist. Windrush is a travesty, but it has been quickly acted upon.’
In addition some accuse the BBC of biased reporting, suggesting that they are happy to let the ‘racist Tories’ narrative play out.
Aside from politically charged conversation and rush to judge/blame there is a significant focus on the impact and feelings of the people affected by the policy. Here people express solidarity with those who have suffered.
‘I can’t believe this has happened to them’, ‘they are as British as I am’
‘how can this have been going on and no one knew?’ ‘they should get serious compo’
‘what the hell’s goin’ on? Brits are kicking out Brits!’
‘they are not just British. They are Britain’
Labour complicit (4%)
Similarly some are quick to point out (angrily), that the issue began under a Labour government in the 50’s and any documentation was destroyed in 2009 under Labour.
David Lammy also gets aggressively attacked for his intervention. The main complaint is that Lammy’s comments are divisive. People suggest that his only motivation is to stir up hatred and create a ‘them and us’.
Existing within the data are some very considered thoughts on next steps/way forward. Away from the anger, name calling and blame game is a small yet significant conversation which hints of balance and reasonableness.
Some discuss among themselves that the policy was based on an express desire from the people to stop people entering Britain when they are not entitled. However, they reason, the policy itself needs fresh thinking and a different approach. The current policy, they suggest, ‘protects the terrorists and kicks out the Brits’.
Others pick up on the related topic of the time that now may be the opportunity to revisit the issue of identity cards – thereby giving confidence to all UK citizens and access to its services.