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All the times the Home Office’s PR completely failed to read the room

15 Aug 2019

Photography via @ukhomeoffice on Twitter

This year the Home Office deported 8,637 people, and detained 24,748. And today, it made headlines for bringing its most recent a knife crime campaign to the unlikely venue of Morley’s chicken shops. We know the move was not only a sloppy, racist overgeneralisation, but also, quite frankly, a waste of money, when Tory austerity has led to cuts to youth centres all across the country.  

From the Windrush Scandal, to deporting LGBT+ asylum seekers, we know the Home Office as an institution is racist, misogynistic and violently homophobic. But there’s one more thing we know for sure: they have really, really terrible PR strategy. Here are seven times they failed to read the room.

1. An unsettling scheme

The Government body’s likes-to-replies ratio went off the charts in December when they published a hauntingly upbeat stock footage video promoting the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme asks people already living in the UK to apply, and pay, to stay here. This came when tensions were running high three months before the UK was supposed to leave the EU. As Afua Hirsch put it, they really misjudged the public mood. 

2. Valentine’s day

Sometimes we forget this one’s real – after all it was six years back – but luckily the internet never forgets. The Home Office’s gross Valentine’s tweet in 2013 read:

#Rosesareredvioletsareblue, if your marriage is a sham we’ll be on to you: #happyvalentinesday

Yeah, they really said that. And there’s presumably some sort of excessively bureaucratic internal policy that means they literally can’t delete it. To add insult to injury – they’ve embedded a Flickr link rather than attaching an image to the actual tweet, which just further supports our point that whoever is running their PR operation needs to attend a training day. 

3. Campaign on forced marriage

Late last year, the Home Office cursed our screens with a campaign on forced marriage plagued by lazy tropes and stereotypes. Instead of dedicating the funds from their swanky advertising campaign to research on the ground or work within communities, the Home Office decided to throw some images of brown women on screen and call it a day. If you’re not convinced this campaign missed the mark, it’s worth having a look at how the Home Office deals with marriages IRL. One couple of colour was accused by the government body of being in sham marriage because they were wearing pyjamas in bed when their house was raided – whilst others have had their wedding vows interrupted for questioning on their sex lives.

4. Black Pride

Last month, a whole Home Office, which last year denied 1,464 asylum claims on the basis of sexual orientation, had the gall to book a stall at Black Pride thinking they’d be welcome. Many see the festival as a safe space, and as Jason Okundaye told gal-dem: “How could it ever be expected that black and brown queer activists and asylum seekers could party and protest alongside the very institution they’re railing against?” We don’t know, but it’s safe to say that when it comes to PoC communities, the Home Office is oblivious to how we’re feeling.

5. You wouldn’t start a government like this…

There was also the time when rather than digging into the roots of British drinking culture, the Home Office resorted to crass scare tactics to tell us that we should avoid binge drinking because it wasn’t sexy. It’s fair to say this isn’t the strongest look for the ad’s protagonist, but if they really believed this ad would address what leads many people to alcohol abuse as they went on to slash addiction services, they were sincerely wrong. 

6. Rainbows? In this economy?

In addition its tone deaf Black Pride fiasco, in June this year the Home Office decided to show its support of the LGBT+ community by carefully crafting a 10-second Microsoft Paint job of a rainbow logo. In case we haven’t made it abundantly clear already – the Home Office has not earned its stripes

7. They literally told us to go home

Theresa May’s “go home vans” don’t really need much explaining – they did exactly what they said on the tin. The vans, which were sent to tour areas with high immigrant populations, read: “Go home or face arrest”. Not the most tasteful PR move.

8. Wind-rushing to cover their tracks

In 2018, with the help of the half-incompetent, half-pure-evil former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the Home Office orchestrated the Windrush Scandal – which saw former Commonwealth citizens being denied legal rights, detained and deported from the UK. Although it emerged this year that many of those cases are still not resolved, the Home Office decided to take the lead on celebrating the Windrush Generation – with a largely tokenistic Windrush Day being announced, and a nice, shiny Twitter banner claiming Caribbeans are “part of Britain’s DNA”. Pity for them that actions speak louder than words.