Greasy Pole: When it’s Amber it Means Caution
The Tory Party has recently devoted some time to congratulating itself on being so progressive as to select a woman as leader. But then Theresa May’s victory left her to make some entertaining changes. Like transforming Boris Johnson out of his mannered buffoonery into Foreign Secretary. But there were others whose claws had to be blunted by a spell in some lower but heavily taxing ministry, for example David Davis and Liam Fox with their Brexit planning. And Amber Rudd who became marooned in the Home Office, which is not exclusively concerned with the crises in domestic matters but needs also to dabble in some of the more intractably damaging outside events attuned to modern capitalism. Some consolation for this among the trappings of her office may be her access to the polished BMW motor car, overseen by some pointedly muscled attendants.
Rudd was schooled at the expensive Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Edinburgh University. Following the example of her father (who was once rated by an official enquiry as ‘totally unfit’ to be a director of any company) she began a career in banking and what is usually known as venture capital. This may have contributed to fitting her up to develop into ‘human resources counselling’ – which did not include therapy for anyone scraping by in zero-hours jobs or desperately unemployed existing in temporary housing. One of the companies she was involved in was the Lawnstone Group, in which her mother was a co-director and the fortunes of which can be described as ‘unpredictable’. In this Rudd’s work at finding some film ‘extras’ entitled her to be noted as something called an ‘aristocracy co-ordinator’. Many of the concerns Rudd was associated with seem to have been entangled in the devices of ‘tax evasion’ and one became notorious for share ramping – pushing baseless claims about the company’s outlook to provoke an upward effect on its share price. One member of the staff at Rudd’s Home Office was impressed – and perhaps ambitious – enough to needlessly remind us that ‘It is a matter of public record that Amber had a career in business before entering politics’.
This came to pass in 2005 when, as expected, she failed to win the Labour seat at Garston Liverpool. But it was not all failure; she was put on David Cameron’s controversial ‘A List’ which resulted in her being the Conservative candidate for the more promising Hastings and Rye in Sussex where she won in 2010 with a majority of 1,993. That was the beginning of something big for in 2012 the Chancellor George Osborne chose her as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and some three years afterwards she got onto the Front Bench as Minister for Energy and Climate Change. At some stage it emerged that a couple of years before her election she had won a £50 voucher from the Chlamydia Screening Clinic in Hastings for a sexual health poem entitled Loving You Is So Exciting which included lines such as… ’ Darling, let us spend the night, Sashay past St. Mary’s Castle …But why dear heart, did you not mention, What we’ll do for contraception?… How about bingo on the beach?’ But it could not all be meandering relaxation for a previous press secretary described Hastings as ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’, which encouraged Rudd to respond that she was keen to be the Tory candidate there because ‘I wanted to be within two hours of London’ as if to escape from a constituency where she said ‘You get people who are on benefits, who prefer to be on benefits by the seaside. They’re not moving down here to get a job, they’re moving down here to have easier access to friends and drugs and drink …’
For Hastings, with its history of the famous battle, its high Norman fort and its brand new pier, is one of the English seaside towns which suffered so grievously from the competition of package holidays in the foreign sun. And then there is the matter of the town’s recorded poverty. In November 2011 two of the housing estates there were among the worst affected by this problem, showing almost a third of the residents among the most deprived ten percent in the country. And so on: these figures might respond to a gentler interpretation, influenced by the emotions involved in Rudd’s 1990 marriage to A. A. Gill, who is now classified as a ‘recovering alcoholic’. Apart from that he is also a journalist – if this is an appropriate term for someone who receives generous pay from, among others, the Sunday Times for spouting assessments of restaurants which are little more than pretentious and irrelevant drivel. One fruit of Gill’s labours is that over a recent five year period he was the subject of 62 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission; a typical example of this and of his general opinion of others was that the TV presenter Clare Balding is ‘a big lesbian … a dyke on a bike’ and that in general English people are ‘an ugly race … lumpen and louty, coarse, unsubtle, beady-eyed, beefy-bummed’. He and Rudd were divorced in 1995.
But that turned out to be just one example of Rudd attracting stress-driven attention in a career which seems at times to be devoted to it. At this year’s Annual Conference of the Conservative Party – her first from the eminence of Home Secretary, which may have encouraged her to use any means available to make an impression – she advocated that every company employing what she called ‘foreign’ workers should enter them on a register, which presumably could be checked for deletions, adjustments, manipulation … Perhaps she did this as an example of crafty timing for it was the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when Oswald Mosley’s fascists on a racist march through London were fought on the streets. Her brother, who is the boss of a public relations company, spoke out to attack her on behalf of ‘Those of us … who want Britain to remain a beacon of tolerance and who find the denigration of non-British workers appalling …’ During the Tory leadership contest Rudd was briefly prominent for the forceful expression of her standpoint. It did not take her long to show us that in this she is not a novelty.