Rudd takes the fall for May’s incompetence

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Rudd takes the fall for May’s incompetence

Amber Rudd has taken the fall for the Prime Minister’s previous incompetence at the Home Office, says Bruce Newsome. He believes that the fundamental shortcomings undermining the stewardship of government will not improve so long as Theresa May is Prime Minister. 

The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has resigned, after weeks pretending that she didn’t know that her ministry had deportation targets and was targeting legitimate immigrants in order to reach those deportation targets. She “inadvertently misled” Parliament, her resignation letter claims” “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.” She thought that she could ride out the storm. In this the Prime Minister (Theresa May) was complicit, refusing to sack Rudd – why? May was rewarding Rudd for not drawing attention to the fact that these misdeeds started when May was leading the ministry (2010-2016).

This long sorry episode of incompetence and denial betrays more about May than Rudd.

Rudd’s resignation letter is long, containing many excuses and deflections for the record, of which one seems to have been written by Rudd to draw attention to the Home Office’s failures under May’s leadership. Rudd wrote: “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 abuse, as well as manage migration.” In all these areas the Home Office has overseen decline through both May’s and Rudd’s leadership: terrorism has increased, the police have been cut and demoralized, violent crime has risen, more organized sexual abuse of under-age white girls has emerged while the Crown Prosecution Service miscarried malicious claims of rape, and the government still claims to lack a policy on immigration.

Terrorism has increased because both May and Rudd focused on terrorist use of the internet rather than terrorism in the real world. Perversely, Rudd’s resignation letter includes a paragraph stating the is “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”. The “we” there must be another ironic dig at May – yes, both May and Rudd shared that focus. After a spate of mass-casualty terrorist attacks in London in spring 2017, May and Rudd confirmed that their solution was to counter terrorist use of the internet, even though the internet was neither sufficient nor necessary to any of those attacks, as I pointed out at the time.  Nothing has changed since then: the Global Internet Forum is insignificant: social media companies have barely changed their long-standing position that they are not responsible for content (and the government has not attempted to legislate to make them responsible); their increased efforts to take down extremist context are driven by consumers more than the governments.

Rudd’s reference to keeping people safe and supporting the police also reveals May’s culpability: she was the Home Secretary who cut police personnel and budgets and banned stop-and-search (on the fashionable but bogus claim that stop-and-search is racist), leading to the current explosion in violent crime. Rudd moved belatedly back to stop-and-search last month, without blaming her predecessor. Indeed, Rudd’s resignation letter states that she had hoped to specify “new laws to tackle the scourge of knife crime and acid attacks”: this is the same spin that May gave as Home Secretary: pretending that the government needs new powers when, in fact, all it needs to do is back up the police in enforcing existing powers.

In the same period, British justice declined into Orwellian farce, with the appointment by May in 2013 of a Director of Public Prosecution (Alison Saunders) with an explicit agenda to prosecute more men for sexual assault whatever the evidence. She was unconcerned with the mass abuse of under-age white girls by men of Asian descent, but prosecuted white men who were victims of malicious accusations from vengeful former lovers – four rape trials collapsed within two months this year when the Crown Prosecution Service disclosed exonerating evidence that it had held all along but did not release to the defence until days before final hearings.

Finally, Rudd’s letter states that the Home Office should “manage migration,” yet the Home Office has repeatedly missed a target to reduce net immigrants to 100,000. The most revealing statement in the letter is that Rudd “had hoped in coming months to devise a policy that would allow the government to meet both” legitimate immigration and removal of illegal migrants. Think about that: how could the Home Office not have such a policy already?! For more than a decade the Conservative Party’s manifesto has promised to reduce net immigration to 100,000. Amber Rudd’s letter perversely turns her failings on immigration into achievements, such as “to bring over thousands of refugees, including child refugees from both Calais and the Middle East region,” despite the evidence that most claims to be refugees or child migrants are bogus. Rudd never entertained a policy to introduce national identity cards, which May had ruled out back in 2010, even though such cards are the only means to prevent the abuse of welfare, employment, and healthcare that pull most migrants.

Rudd’s letter goes on to claim her “honour to work on a new security treaty with the EU” – this is another of May’s red herrings: Britain and the EU did not need a new security treaty; May herself invented a need for such a treaty in order to divert attention from her failure to reach agreements on urgent issues.

These issues keep piling up: the border, the customs union, trade, the free movement of people, the divorce bill, and even who leads the negotiations with the EU. With characteristic duplication of effort and contradiction of policy, May is now employing two effective lead negotiators – David Davis (a minister) and Olly Robbins (an adviser), to Davis’ dismay, with utterly contradictory policies on the customs union.

Thus, Rudd’s letter ironically reveals more about May’s failings. Indeed, it hints at May’s failings without explicitly drawing attention to May’s prior leadership of the ministry. May’s reply to Rudd effectively rewards Rudd for this loyalty: “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.”

There you have it: eight years of incompetence and denial at the Home Office, from 2010 to 2018, from May to Rudd, same failings, same spin. This government by adhocracy will not improve under the next Home Secretary, as long as May remains prime minister.

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    Bruce Newsome
    Bruce Newsome, Ph.D. is a lecturer in International Relations at the University of California Berkeley
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