We have steered clear of the Ghurka Veterans campaign thus far, on the grounds that there is little to add to the clear injustice of refusing to grant permanent resident status, and indeed, full army pensions, to serving and ex-members of the Nepalese Brigade of Ghurkas. Last week, the UK government, probably the only people in the country at odds with this clear abuse of moral sentiment, was voted down by its own side when it tried to force the unjust legislation past Parliament. The leader of the campaign for Gurkha rights, actress Joanna Lumley, whose father was a Major in the Gurkhas, met with the saturnine Gordon Brown two days ago and professed herself reassured by his declaration that he would give the matter his ‘personal attention’ and ‘do the right thing.’ That’s why five Gurkha veterans, two wounded in the Falklands War, received form letters today informing them that their application for leave to remain in the UK had been rejected. There are 1500 in the same position.
This prompted a bizarre confrontation in the BBC Westminster studios, where the oligenous Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas (Thus passim – most recently yesterday), there on other business, happened upon Joanna Lumley by chance. The ex-Avengers heroine demanded an explanation of the latest government perfidy, breathtaking even by the standards of Brown/Mandelson. She forced Woolas into a joint press conference, where he weaseled an explanation that since the government was considering new guidelines in the case of the Gurkhas, and that as part of the process, they had agreed that all rejected applications were to be ’subject to review,’ his department was ‘obeying the law’ in sending rejection letters to the five. He neglected to mention that their previous appeal for leave to remain had also been rejected and equally clearly has no interest in, nor knowledge of, the anguish and anxiety this was bound to cause, much less the intimation of treachery on the part of the government. Under pressure, Woolas was forced into an impromptu agreement to consult and accept help from Joanna Lumley’s campaigning group in drawing up the new guidelines.
Yesterday Thus helpfully suggested that if the 10 Pakistani student alleged ‘terrorists’ were deported on the grounds that their immigration papers were incorrectly completed or bogus, this would be proof that Woolas and his madcap department were incompetent or worse, and that he should resign. Today’s glaring example of the right hand clearly being unaware of what the left hand is doing (one look and you can guess what at least one of those hands is doing) emphasises both the need to replace power-drunk nincompoops with real ministers – if any are available. Add Woolas to your reshuffle bonfire of the vanities, Gordon. And pop another log on for yourself while you’re at it.