When the news broke around 10pm yesterday that Hastings and Rye MP Amber Rudd had decided to call time on her tenure at the Home Office it was inevitable that there would be a polarisation of views.
Peter Chowney, the man who almost snatched the Hastings and Rye seat for Labour at last year’s general elections said: “So Amber Rudd has resigned as Home Secretary. It was inevitable when Theresa May said she had full confidence in her – it’s always a sure sign when the PM expresses ‘full confidence’ in a minister during times of crisis that they’ll be gone within the week.
“She’s been replaced by Sajid Javid, significantly further to the right of the party than Amber Rudd, and a hard Brexiteer, even though he tried to hedge his bets by campaigning to remain. As Communities Secretary, he was universally despised by councils throughout the country, of all political colours, especially after he tried to blame all councils for the Grenfell Tower fire, and shifted all responsibility away from government. His unapologetic support for austerity and huge cuts to local government and adult social care in particular has made him few friends, and local government generally will be glad to see the back of him.
“So whatever you think of Amber Rudd, this is a shift to the right in the Tory cabinet and is going to be bad news for anyone looking for a more compassionate approach from the Home Office. This is the rise of the Borisonians – in the words of Neil Kinnock, ‘I warn you not to be ordinary, I warn you not to be young, I warn you not to fall ill, and I warn you not to grow old.’ The Tory Party that’s now emerging is not a pretty sight, unless you’re rich, British, and don’t care about anyone less fortunate.
“As for the impact Amber Rudd’s resignation will have here in Hastings and Rye, it’s difficult to say. Her reputation is now damaged, more because of her admitted lack of ‘competence’ rather than for not telling the truth or for her attitude to immigration. I’m sure I remember the existence of immigration removal targets being in the news a few years ago, so not being on top of whether they still existed was a bit of a slip-up, to say the least, for a Home Secretary. However, she will have more time to campaign back here, so we could well be seeing more of her.
“But will she stand for parliament again at all? My guess is that will rather depend of whether she’s rehabilitated quickly and ends up back in the Cabinet after a pause for reflection on the back benches. She won’t want to be out of the limelight forever, she’s too ambitious, and clever – she’d rather develop her career elsewhere. It will also depend on what happens to Theresa May, and whether she survives the Brexit deal that, inevitably, no-one will wholeheartedly support. But neither Theresa May nor Amber Rudd really fit with the hard-right ideology that’s emerging in the Tory Party. There are interesting times ahead.”
Nick Perry of Hastings’ Liberal Democrats said today: “Amber Rudd has resigned. As an opposing candidate to her for the last three general elections, I am surprised that this matter of honour, and responsibility to the Windrush generation, did not result in her going much sooner.
“But as an ardent pro-European, I understand that there will have been pressure from many in her own party for Amber still to have ‘remained’ around the Cabinet table.
Sadly, the government’s cack-handed appoach to Brexit and immigration policy has given the institutional racism that still exists in British society a shot in the arm.
“Even the Hastings and St Leonards Observer preferred, on Friday, to cover the local MP singing wartime songs at a nursing home rather than stand up for the British Caribbeans living in our constituency. Windrush wasn’t a local story as far as their news editor was concerned… What a disgrace.”
This morning’s national TV and radio has been full of the reaction to Ms Rudd’s departure from the cabinet with representatives from the opposition parties lining up to hurl brickbats while spokesmen from the Conservative party have thrown bouquets in tribute to what they see as the outgoing Home Secretary’s achievements.
But while you can pick up the reaction nationally in any daily newspaper or TV and radio broadcast we thought we would try and reflect some of what is being said here in Hastings, in Ms Rudd’s parliamentary constituency, a seat she holds with a wafer thin majority of just 346 votes.
We’ll be updating this story throughout the day as furthers comment on the subject of Ms Rudd’s resignation are published.
One of the first local people to take to Twitter was Brett McLean, who said: “Very sad to hear that Amber Rudd has resigned as Home Secretary. It’s difficult to believe she inadvertently misled the home affairs committee knowing how hard working, precise and specific to detail she is. A great loss to the Home Office!”
James Dee, one of the Conservative candidates in Ore at the week’s Hastings Borough Council elections said: “Devastated to see Amber Rudd resign last night. She was an excellent Home Secretary and continues to be a superb MP for Hastings and Rye, and a great friend. She is a devoted public servant who I have no doubt will be in front line politics again before we know it!”
Cori Burns says: “Theresa May set Amber Rudd up. May must have been aware of the errors she made while still in the job as home secretary… May manipulated Rudd. Therefore, when the Windrush scandal broke, Rudd would be seen to take the full brunt of the blame.”
Mandy Brook says she was “gutted” going on to say that she had “huge respect” for Ms Rudd, “she’s taken so much stick from so many. People forget they aren’t super human! If this sparks a general election I’m leaving the UK if Jeremy Corbyn gets in!”
Hastings’ own Godfrey Daniel, an East Sussex County Councillor told his social media followers: “So Amber Rudd has resigned as Home Secretary. Time for a Labour MP for Hastings and Rye!” while Josie Lawson wrote in reply, “I don’t know too much about politics but do know Teresa May should be considering the same as she was the instigator re Windrush…”
Chrissy Brand wrote: “Rudd resigning is great news. Hastings People’s Assembly Against Austerity and other local groups and parties will now push harder still for her to be ousted as local MP (a tiny 346 majority!). May must go too and a general election should be called.” While Mike Lillington said: “Now we need someone in there to sort it out, someone strong enough that won’t hesitate to chuck out those who continue to mess up, a real programme to stop all the silly mistakes, and show a bit of common sense and decency.”
Moving slightly away from the main topic but commenting on Ms Rudd’s departure Kevin Underhill says: “Trouble is half the council in Hastings from both parties have no idea what direction to take Hastings.”
Claire Carr wrote: “Yes, she had lost control of her department and clearly had no clue what was going on. Teresa May started these awful policies though and should be held accountable. The Windrush Scandal should lead to a national enquiry.”
Graham Wickens believes Ms Rudd was the victim of a witch hunt: “Very sad she was the victim of a witch hunt. Did it make a difference to the Windrush scandal that government had a policy and target to get rid of illegal immigrants? That’s one of the reasons I voted for the Conservative party. Labour is always soft on illegal immigrants.”
On the ‘Support Amber’ Twitter page @voteforrudd a list of the great and good of the Conservative party and Conservative government line up to give their fullsome praise of the former Home secretary’s abilities and achievements. While elsewhere on Twitter a search using #amberrudd reveals just as many comments from her political enemies.
Here is the letter Ms Rudd sent to the Prime Minister, tendering her resignation…
Dear Prime Minister,
“It is with great regret that I am resigning as home secretary. I feel it is necessary to do so because I inadvertently misled the Home Affairs Select Committee over targets for removal of illegal immigrants during their questions on Windrush.
“Since appearing before the select committee, I have reviewed the advice I was given on this issue and become aware of information provided to my office which makes mention of targets. I should have been aware of this, and I take full responsibility for the fact that I was not.
“The Windrush scandal has rightly shone a light on an important issue for our country. As so often, the instincts of the British people are right. They want people who have a right to live here to be treated fairly and humanely, which has sometimes not been the case. But they also want the government to remove those who don’t have the right to be here. I had hoped in coming months to devise a policy that would allow the government to meet both these vital objectives – including bringing forward urgent legislation to ensure the rights of the Windrush generation are protected. The task force is working well, the residence cards are being issued well within the two weeks promised, and the design of the compensation scheme is making good progress.
“The Home Office is one of the great offices of state and its job is to keep people safe. It comes with the responsibility to fight terrorism, support and challenge the police and protect people against the abuse, as well as manage migration.
“It has been a great privilege to serve as your home secretary. I have seen first-hand the second to none commitment and bravery of our police, fire and intelligence services, they truly are the best in the world and we should rightly be extremely proud of them.
“I have been particularly pleased that we were able to set up the first Global Internet Forum for Counter Terrorism which has led the way with encouraging social media sites to go further and faster in taking down radicalising and terrorist material, which plays such a dangerous part in increasing extremism.
“Setting out new laws to tackle the scourge of knife crime and acid attacks and helping to steer our young people away from a life of crime and violence by providing them with credible alternatives have been particularly important to me.
“Opportunities to work on issues that safeguard the vulnerable, champions women and make a lasting impact on people’s lives particularly stand out for me. New policies to fight domestic violence and abuse against women are out to consultation, and will lead this country to taking a new approach. Helping to bring thousands of refugees, including child refugees from both Calais and the Middle East region, and meeting some of the families who fled the terrible situation in Syria and have now been given a chance to rebuild their lives here in the UK in safety and security is something we can be proud of.
“It has been an honour to work on a new security treaty with the EU as part of our new partnership going forward and to participate in your Brexit sub-committee helping to ensure that we have the best possible EU deal for our economy, businesses, jobs and people across the UK.
“The new Economic Crime Centre that i launched with the first use of unexplained wealth orders will be important to the confidence of London as a financial centre.
“I will continue to support the Home Office ministerial team whenever possible on all these important subjects, supporting the government from the back benches and continuing to work hard for my constituents of Hastings and Rye.”
Here is the prime minister’s response:
“Thank you for your letter of this evening tendering your resignation as home secretary. I was very sorry to receive it, but understand your reasons for doing so.
“When you addressed the House of Commons and the Home Affairs Select Committee last week on the issue of illegal immigration, you answered the questions put to you in good faith. People who have entered the United Kingdom illegally or overstayed here should expect to face the full force of the law and know that they will be removed if they will not leave this country voluntarily. Just as importantly, people who have come here legally and enriched the life of our country should not expect the state unreasonably to challenge their presence here; rather, it should help them prove their right to continue living here and contributing to the life of our nation.
“Under your tenure, the Home Office has been working to enforce a firm but fair immigration policy – working to increase the number of illegal migrants we remove, while ensuring that we continue to recognise the huge contribution of everyone who has come to the UK legally, and remain open to the brightest and best from across the globe.
“When you spoke in the House of Commons, you said that you had not agreed specific removal targets, but that the Home Office’s Immigration Enforcement command had been using local targets for internal performance management. You also said that you were not aware that those operational targets had been set.
“I understand why, now that you have had chance to review the advice that you have received on this issue, you have made the decision you have made and taken responsibility for inadvertently misleading the Home Affairs Select Committee.
“I am very sorry to see you leaving the Home Office, but you should take great pride in what you have achieved there – working with internet service providers to set up the first Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism and take extremist and terrorist content offline; countering the cyber threat to British families and businesses; standing up for the victims of crime, abuse and domestic violence; offering shelter to refugees from Syria and elsewhere; and advancing the cause of equality as minister for women and equalities.
“This comes on top of the considerable contribution you have made to Government since 2012 – first as a whip, then as minister and subsequently secretary of state at the department for energy and climate change – as well as the devoted service you have always given, and will continue to give, to your constituents in Hastings and Rye.
“As a former home secretary myself, I appreciate the particular demands of that great office of state. You should take great pride in the way you have led the Home Office and its dedicated public servants through a number of serious challenges, including five terrorist incidents and other complex national events. You have done so with great integrity, compassion, and selflessness – notwithstanding the personal and political challenges you have faced during this period.
“I know that you have a great contribution still to make to national life, and look forward to seeing you do so.”
We’ll be updating this story throughout the day and having a look at the possible impact that Ms Rudd’s return to the back benches might have for her tenure as MP for Hastings and Rye, does the fact that she will have more time to deal with constituency matters make it more likely she will retain her seat and does the fact that she can now move around her constituency without the security issues that were essential for a serving Home Secretary mean she will be more accessible to her electorate?