The Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman has won the Private Eye Paul Foot Award for her investigation into the Windrush scandal.
Gentleman exposed Commonwealth migrants who faced being deported and in some cases had been refused NHS healthcare as a result of a “hostile environment” policy from the UK Government, despite them having lived in the UK for some 50 years but with no papers to prove it.
Her coverage led to the resignation of home secretary Amber Rudd and a pledge that members of the Windrush generation – named after the ship on which they came to Britain – would no longer face deportation threats.
She told Press Gazette it was a “real honour” to win the award, adding: “I’m really pleased because I think it’s really good to show that it’s worth newspapers letting reporters spend a long time digging away at stories when it’s not always obvious right from the beginning where it’s going to go. I’m really grateful to the Guardian for letting me do that.
“The people who were judging said that the pictures really were important as well and the Guardian really made sure that everybody we interviewed had a great picture taken of them and I think that’s really true because it helps show the people I was talking to were real people who you really could empathise with.”
She added: “If you’ve been told you’re an illegal immigrant the last thing you’d want to do is have your picture in the paper under the headline ‘I’ve been told I’m an illegal immigrant’. So they were all really incredibly brave and I’m really glad that it made a difference on their behalf.”
Gentleman said the investigation had made such an impact because the issue was “so shocking right from the first person I interviewed”.
Gentleman won out over five other finalists to take home the Paul Foot Award, they were:
- Carole Cadwalladr of The Observer for her work on Cambridge Analytica
- Madison Marriage of the Financial Times for her undercover report from the President’s Club dinner
- Buzzfeed investigations team for revealing 14 suspected Russian hits on British soil
- Sean O’Neill at The Times for his work on the Oxfam sex scandal cover-up
- Gordon Blackstock of the Sunday Post for his report on hundreds of orphans being buried in a mass grave
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop said Gentleman’s reporting was “revelatory, important and amazingly effective” covering a scandal “where a cabinet minister was thrown overboard and the ship of state nearly sank”.
The awards, held last night, also included a young journalist prize. Recipients this year were London Student duo Ben Van Der Merwe and Emma Yeomans for their story, jointly published in Private Eye, about Toby Young attending a secret conference on eugenics at UCL.
Padraig Reidy, chairman of the judges, said: “It was difficult to pick a winner out of so many extremely high-quality entries for this year’s award.
“The judges were impressed by the tenacity of Amelia Gentleman’s work, her determination to tell the stories of the victims of the government’s hostile environment policy, and the enormous impact her work had, proving that good reporting really can make a difference.
“Congratulations to Amelia and all the shortlisted reporters. Journalism is in safe hands, not least those of the team at London Student, who made national news with their excellent reporting on dubious conferences at UCL.”
The judging panel comprised Julia Langdon, political journalist and broadcaster, Simon Jenkins of The Guardian, Helen Lewis of the New Statesman, Francis Wheen of Private Eye, Matt Foot, criminal defence solicitor and Emma Youle of the Archant Investigations Unit (and last year’s winner).
Gentleman wins £5,000 and her fellow finalists win £1,000 each.
The Paul Foot Award for Investigative and Campaigning Journalism was first launched in 2004 to commemorate campaigning journalist Paul Foot. It was relaunched last year by Private Eye.
Picture: Linda Nylind/The Guardian