Amber Rudd's Inertia, Lack of Drive and Inability to Grasp a Problem Make Her a Perfect Fit for the May Cabinet

By Heffer, Simon | New Statesman (1996), April 13, 2018 | Go to article overview

Amber Rudd's Inertia, Lack of Drive and Inability to Grasp a Problem Make Her a Perfect Fit for the May Cabinet


Heffer, Simon, New Statesman (1996)


It would be a grotesque exaggeration to say Amber Rudd has ever been wildly popular among her fellow Tory MPs. Her constituents in Hastings and Rye appear to have cooled, too. Her majority of 4,796 in 2015 verged on the marginal, but not so much as the 346 to which it crashed in 2017. The recent rise in violent crime in urban England--notably a rash of murders and stabbings in London--presented Rudd with an opportunity to assert her authority, both personally and on behalf of the government of which, as Home Secretary, she is a prominent member. It was an opportunity that, to the dismay of her colleagues, she chose to ignore, and then to botch.

Tories are painfully aware that their reputation as "the party of law and order" has been consigned to history. Theresa May used her incumbency of the Home Office from 2010 to 2016 to build her unenviable reputation for indecisiveness; and she certainly proved no obstacle to the George Osborne cuts that greatly reduced the number of police officers on Britain's streets. Rudd has been largely invisible, and (like May before her) largely the uncomprehending mouthpiece of her officials and advisers. She has done nothing to inspire the confidence of backbenchers who like Tory home secretaries to speak up for the rule of law and to identify fundamental differences between right and wrong.

A story has done the rounds for years that when Rudd decided to enter politics her only hesitation was over which party to join. Colleagues detect that Rudd is an incipient liberal who detests having to advocate policies that might result in such apparently illiberal outcomes as more criminals going to prison, or stricter controls being placed on immigration. So, like her predecessor, she keeps quiet. And, as with May's tin ear on emoting or connecting with the public, she had failed to meet any of those bereaved in the recent spate of murders.

Yet she could not avoid confronting the surge in knife crime. Sensing public unease, Tory MPs wanted a clear lead on tackling the problem: not least because the stabbings proliferated among young people from communities about which Tories are reputed not to care. Days passed and nothing happened. And then last Sunday Rudd gave a demoralising television interview in which she denied that the 14 per cent fall in police numbers since 2010 had fed the rise in crime. Unfortunately for her, a report by her own department (that she said she had not seen) reached the opposite conclusion. Then she launched a violent crime strategy with a public performance that suggested she was a casual passer-by of the problem rather than the person with whom that particular buck stopped. Her new strategy does not even mention police cuts.

The Home Office has been a graveyard for ambitious politicians, and Rudd appears to have reached the cemetery gates. The impression she has given since she took the job --that she is entirely disengaged from it and the unpleasant realities it entails--has been confirmed by the blistering incompetence of her handling of this question. …

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