Joanna Lumley stands up for the Gurkhas – again
Furious actress corners immigration minister Phil Woolas in BBC offices and demands justice for the Nepalese soldiers
Actress Joanna Lumley's championship of the Ghurkas' cause took an extraordinary turn yesterday when she nobbled the immigration minister Phil Woolas at the BBC's offices in Westminster and demanded to talk to him in front of the news cameras.
The Absolutely Fabulous star was in explosive form after having discovered that within hours of a personal assurance from the prime minister that the Gurkhas' rights to live in Britain would get his personal attention, and that justice would be done, five of the former soldiers, including badly wounded Falklands veterans, had received letters from the Home Office apparently telling them they did not qualify to settle in Britain.
Cornered by the actress and fellow campaigners, a sheepish Woolas was forced to nod in agreement as Lumley dictated that campaign lawyers would help in drawing up new guidelines on Gurkhas' rights to settle, that the review would be completed by June, and that the cases of the 1,500 outstanding Gurkha applicants would all be looked at "most sympathetically".
In short, Lumley did everything but take out a kukri - the curved Nepalese knife carried by every Ghurka - and drive it into Woolas's stomach.
"There is so little to be reviewed, so little to be looked at, except all these men, all these applicants should be received with open arms," Lumley said.
Although Woolas kept falling back on the government line that the Home Office had to be careful not to open the floodgates to other foreigners, by the time the confrontation was over Lumley had extracted enough promises from the minister to be able to say that she was once again "reassured".
However, this was exactly what she had said after her personal meeting with Gordon Brown the previous day. The hard-nosed lawyers from the Gurkha campaign were clearly not reassured, complaining that it was ridiculous of Woolas to suggest that by the letting a few ex-soldiers who fought for Britain to settle here, somehow the floodgates might be opened. ·
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