Lenny Henry slams Theresa May’s leadership while she’s forced to watch from the front row

Theresa May and Lenny Henry
Emily Apple

On 23 April, a memorial service was held to mark the 25th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s death. The service was attended by politicians including Theresa May, who had a front-row seat for the occasion. But she might wish she hadn’t. Because comedian Lenny Henry used the occasion to destroy her government’s record on Windrush and institutionalised racism.

“There is no finish line”

Henry started his speech speaking about the Windrush generation and asking:

Who’s got four pieces of documentation for every year they were alive?

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But he had a central message he wanted to impart with his speech:

When it comes to fighting racism, institutional or otherwise, there is no finish line.

You don’t get to an age when we can finally breathe out and say, ‘yes… no need to worry about racism anymore!’

And his next line was a direct attack on May and her policies:

Just ask the Windrush generation.

Henry then asked, looking like he was addressing the politicians:

We’ve got to sort that out, right? We going to do that?

He finished his speech with a powerful message of hope:

And I know it’s probably a cliché, but today feels like that, with this legacy, it is possible to make medicine from poison.

You can watch Henry here:

Reaction

Many people praised Henry’s speech on social media:

Others also lamented the lack of media coverage of the speech:

Institutionalised racism

Following Lawrence’s murder and the bungled police operation, the Macpherson report into his death found the police acted out of institutionalised racism. 25 years on, not only is that racism still evident in the Windrush scandal, it is evident in the fact Lawrence’s family is still having to fight for justice.

Not only did the police fail in their investigation, they sent undercover police officers to spy on his family. But family and friends are still having to fight just to get the names of the police officers who spied on them, and those that authorised the surveillance operation.

Just a day after the memorial, Neville Lawrence was part of a delegation delivering a letter to home secretary Amber Rudd to intervene in the inquiry into undercover policing:

May has apologised for the appalling treatment the Windrush generation has received. But this will never be enough. Because the blame for the scandal lies directly at her feet and the “really hostile environment” she wanted to create for immigrants in the UK.

But let’s hope that Henry is also right. Let’s hope that we do “make medicine from poison”. And let’s hope that medicine is also available to all those detained, deported and threatened under May’s “hostile environment”.

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