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Westlake Legal Group > Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

Profile: Amber Rudd – moderation-preaching, whip-defying, No Deal-opposing. And sought by leadership contenders for support.

Amber Rudd this week downplayed reports that she will back Boris Johnson in the Tory leadership race. She is unlikely to make a public declaration of her preference until the race is under way and we can see who the candidates are.

But she makes no secret of the considerations which will guide her choice. Since her return in November to the Cabinet, its soft Brexiteer members have looked much better organised.

Rudd, David Gauke, Greg Clark and David Mundell together broke a three-line whip and refused to vote against a motion to take no deal off the table. They defied collective responsibility and got away with it.

Their refusal to vote with the Government upset a considerable number of colleagues, and almost certainly leaves Rudd out of contention as a figure who could reunite the party when Theresa May steps down.

But whoever does take over as leader will need a team that embraces both wings of the party. And as one of the leading figures in the One Nation group, whose formation was announced by Nicky Morgan in her piece on ConHome on Monday, Rudd has a representative value, even if, as is probable, she could not persuade its 40 or so members to vote as a bloc.

A week before Morgan’s piece appeared, Johnson wrote in his Daily Telegraph column that “we need to get back to explaining our One Nation Tory approach, and the vital symmetry between great public services and a dynamic free market economy….business can only flourish if the public sector creates the right seed-bed for growth: safe streets, high skills, good health care and the rest. One Nation Tories understand the need to satisfy both sides of the equation, and it is a profoundly moderate creed”.

He evidently proposes to unite the party by reaching out to One Nation Tories like Rudd. And she has indicated a certain receptivity to such an approach, for example in an interview for The Mail on Sunday last November, when she described herself and Johnson as “good friends”, and added that unlike Jacob Rees-Mogg, he is “not socially illiberal”.

She backed Johnson during his brief, ill-fated leadership bid in 2016 – having been deployed by the Remain campaign in the ITV television debate only a few weeks earlier, when she tried to derail Johnson by saying of him: “He’s the life and soul of the party, but he’s not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”.

Since the 2015 general election she had been Energy and Climate Change Secretary, her first Cabinet post, but she did not demand the promise of a job in some future Johnson administration.

She wanted a commitment on climate change, which Johnson was happy to give, though after her request was fed in to his chaotic campaign, nothing happened.

Some Conservative MPs, especially those who are likely to support other leadership contenders, regard the idea of a Johnson-Rudd alliance as a cynical ploy, comparable to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as one of them put it, and no more likely to work than the alliance between Ken Clarke and John Redwood in the leadership contest of 1997.

Once Redwood had been knocked out, most of his supporters refused to transfer to Clarke, whose views on Europe they found repugnant. They instead decided to back William Hague, who came through and won.

But while it was hard to imagine that Clarke and Redwood had ever enjoyed each other’s company, Johnson and Rudd are old friends.

This opens them to the accusation that they would form, as another observer with a deep knowledge of the party puts it, “a poshocracy”.

It is certainly true that like Johnson, Rudd possesses, through her family, a remarkable range of connections. But she also wins golden opinions from a considerable number of Conservative MPs.

As Keith Simpson, a Norfolk MP since 1997, says:

“I think she is a highly intelligent, feisty woman, with great courage, wonderful and classy, descended on her mother’s side from an illegitimate child of Charles II. One can imagine casting her as the headmistress in a 1950s St Trinians film. She was very much part of the Cameron/Osborne group, but that didn’t really damage her with Mrs May. A lot of them were put to the sword, but she impressed by her command of detail, and was very good at baiting Boris during the referendum campaign. She’s like Michael Gove – she’ll happily stop and chat to you, ask you what are you doing, what are you reading. She passes the dinner party test – would you want to go to a dinner party with them – because it wouldn’t just be about her. She has a genuine interest in other people.”

Poshness, as long as it is progressive, can still work in the Conservative Party, as David Cameron demonstrated.

In January 1957, Harold Macmillan, a businessman by profession, a member of the ruling class by education and marriage, a progressive and an Anglican by conviction, an opportunist when required, seized the Conservative leadership from under the nose of Rab Butler.

Tory MPs of an imperialist outlook wanted to believe that the Suez debacle of late 1956 had not been a fatal blow to British prestige, and Macmillan managed to give them the impression that some kind of victory had occurred, and that they could still win the next general election.

Harold Wilson, who within a few years would become Labour leader, watched the new Prime Minister’s performance with admiration: “Macmillan is a genius. He is holding up the banner of Suez for the party to follow and is leading the party away from Suez. That’s what I’d like to do with the Labour Party.”

It is possible that the next Conservative leader will need, after the humiliations of Brexit, to do something similar. Macmillan led the party to a great general election victory in 1959, when it won almost 50 per cent of the vote by appearing more modern, and more efficiently devoted to the people’s welfare, than Labour did.

Rudd belongs in that progressive Conservative tradition, and is acutely aware of the need for an election victory, her majority in Hastings and Rye having shrunk in 2017 from 4,796 to 346.

Momentum activists from all over the south coast see the chance to turf her out by converging on Hastings.

In an earlier profile for ConservativeHome, I sketched Rudd’s early life, but omitted to mention that like her parents, she is an Anglican, who worships at St Mary Abbots in Kensington.

Her marriage to A.A.Gill, which ended in divorce but not acrimony, suggests she would not be deterred by the challenge of managing a highly gifted but not entirely reliable man.

Rudd is now, as Work and Pensions Secretary, in charge of the implementation of Universal Credit, a task to which she seems to be bringing a certain realism.

As Home Secretary, the post she occupied from July 2016 to April 2018, she was unseated by the Windrush scandal, during which it looked culpably naive of her not to have realised that her department would set targets for the removal of immigrants, and would try to meet these by picking on people who in no way deserved to be treated harshly, having lived peaceably and lawfully in this country for  half a century.

She said she was unaware of any targets, after which a memorandum surfaced which had been copied to her office and which set “a target of achieving 12,800 enforced returns in 2017-18”.

The Guardian also published a letter from Rudd to the Prime Minister in which she spoke of an “ambitious but deliverable” target for deporting migrants. As soon as this came out, Rudd resigned.

Her defenders observe that the Home Office is an exceptionally difficult department to get any sort of control over, as shown by the large number of ministerial resignations from it over the years.

They add that it was her predecessor, May, who in 2010 established the “hostile environment” policy for immigrants, in the expectation that they would find it very difficult to prove that they had the right to remain, and could be pressured into leaving of their own accord.

Rudd’s critics say that because of her privileged background, she failed to understand the horrible predicament in which members of the Windrush generation had been placed, and the quite unreasonable demands for documentary evidence being made by the Home Office. Certainly the Home Secretary’s inexperience had been exposed.

It is by no means certain who Rudd will end up backing in the leadership contest. She could start by backing a member of the One Nation group, and switch in a later round to one of the other candidates.

But her endorsement will be eagerly sought, for she is respected beyond the circle of those who agree with her views on Brexit. Rees-Mogg told Sophy Ridge at the weekend: “I’ve always thought highly of Amber Rudd. She’s a long-standing friend of my sister’s as it happens and a person of first-class capabilities. I happen to disagree with her on the European issue.”

Not all Tory MPs are as charitable as Rees-Mogg about colleagues with whom they disagree. Rudd has deeply annoyed some on both the Remain and the Leave sides by that recent refusal, while a Cabinet minister, to vote with the Government.

Nor will some of her One Nation allies regard the prospect of Johnson as the next leader as in any way tolerable. And she herself might in the end decide to support Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt or some other contender.

Tory leadership contests are very seldom predictable, and a relatively untried and unknown figure such as Matt Hancock could come through, in a John Majorish way, as the stop Johnson candidate.

But Rudd is one of the few members of the present Cabinet who does not give the impression of having had her personality flattened by the sacrifices demanded by a ministerial career. Her support is worth having because she is her own woman.

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WATCH: Johnson could “unite the party” declares Rees-Mogg

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WATCH: Rees-Mogg – “The PM is in difficulties of her own creation”

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Tim Bale: Johnson and Rees-Mogg are still in with a shout in the race to succeed May

Tim Bale is Professor of Politics at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron, and co-runs the ESRC Party Members Project (PMP), which aims to study party membership in the six largest British parties.

In order to stay in office, the Prime Minister had to promise her party that she would be gone before the next election.  But there’s little agreement among Conservative members – and even less agreement among Conservative voters – as to who should replace her.

The ESRC-funded Party Members Project, run out of Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University, surveyed 1215 Conservative Party members between 17th and 22nd December, and a total of 1675 voters between 18-19 December, including 473 individuals who were intending to vote Conservative. The fieldwork was conducted by YouGov.

Respondents were asked the following question: Theresa May has said she will stand down as Conservative Party leader before the next scheduled general election in 2022.  Who would you most like to see replace her as Conservative Leader?  Neither group was presented with a pre-determined list of candidates but was instead asked to write in a name, and they were of course free to say that they didn’t know or weren’t sure, et cetera.

The table below gives the results, leaving out all those names that received only a handful or so of mentions – a group of people which included some relatively high-profile figures who are sometimes mentioned as potential candidates: Esther McVey is one example, since her name was suggested by only four Tory members (out of the 1162 who answered the leadership question) and no Tory voters. The table also contains a column allowing comparison with the results published by ConservativeHome on 31 December 2018, although their survey, unlike ours, gives respondents a list of names to choose from.

Tory Voters

(per cent)

Tory Members

(per cent)

ConHome

(per cent)

Boris Johnson 15 20 27
Jacob Rees-Mogg 7 15 4
Don’t Know 38 12 N/A
David Davis 4 8 7
Sajid Javid 2 8 13
Dominic Raab 3 7 12
Jeremy Hunt 2 6 9
Amber Rudd 4 5 5
Michael Gove 2 4 3
Penny Mordaunt 0 1 4

 

The results of the survey provide an insight into why Theresa May survived the confidence vote she was subjected to by some of her MPs just before Christmas. Right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who might replace her – and that very uncertainty is bound to have worked to the PM’s advantage.

Clearly, Johnson and Rees-Mogg, both of them Brexiteers with high name-recognition, currently have the edge over other potential candidates to succeed May. Indeed, all the other candidates are beaten by ‘Don’t know’, even among Tory members. That said, when it comes to Tory voters, the same is true even of Johnson and Rees-Mogg.

Importantly, neither Johnson nor Rees-Mogg is so far ahead of the rest of the field as to be impossible to catch.  In any case, both are likely to find it hard to make it through the parliamentary round of voting that, according to the party’s rules, narrows the field to two candidates before grassroots members are given the final say.

Also striking is the dominance of men over women: at the moment it looks unlikely that the Conservatives will replace their second female leader with a third. Amber Rudd is almost certainly too much of a Remainer for a membership dominated not just by Brexiteers but by hard Brexiteers. Meanwhile Penny Mordaunt (mentioned by just 14 out of 1162 Tory members and by no Tory voters) clearly still has an awful lot to do.

The same looks to be true, however, of the three or four men likely to throw their hats into the ring – Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, and Jeremy Hunt, whose recent trip to Singapore has been widely interpreted as part of his ongoing leadership bid. And Michael Gove is not so far behind as to make a second crack at the top job a complete fool’s errand, in spite of the mess he made of the last leadership contest.

Perhaps the bookies are right in marking Gove at 10/1. This isn’t far off the 9/1 you’d get if you put your money on Hunt and the 8/1 you’d get on Raab, but still some way off the 6/1 offered for Johnson and, interestingly, Javid – who, like Hunt, many claim has been very much ‘on manoeuvres’ recently.

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Testing our survey against the latest polling of Party members. New evidence on Next Tory Leader.

Today’s Observer contains a brief summary of more polling of Conservative Party members for the ESCR Party Members Project.  It is squeezed into a larger story on Labour and Brexit, and the paper’s account doesn’t come with a table and full details.  None the less, it provides another opportunity to test Conservative Home’s monthly survey against a properly weighted opinion poll.  Mark Wallace looked at other recent evidence from the Project late last week.

Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Davis are “top of the party’s grassroots list” as preferred candidates to replace Theresa May, the Observer reports.  It says that Johnson “topped the poll” with 20 per cent, that Rees-Mogg “trailed in second on 15 per cent” and that  Davis “scored 8 per cent”.  We therefore presume that he came third.  Twelve per cent “said they did not know who should be the next leader”.  The paper adds that “Sajid Javid was the only figure who originally backed staying in the EU, among the top five names in the members’ wishlist”.

So if the Observer‘s summary is correct, the ESCR Project’s top five are –

  • Johnson – 20 per cent.
  • Rees-Mogg – 15 per cent.
  • Davis – 8 per cent.
  • Javid or a Conservative MP who backed Leave in the EU referendum.
  • Javid or a Conservative MP who backed Leave in the EU referendum.

And the top five candidates in our last Next Tory Leader survey were –

  • Johnson – 27 per cent.
  • Javid – 13 per cent.
  • Dominic Raab – 12 per cent.
  • Jeremy Hunt – 9 per cent.
  • Davis – 7 per cent.

As we write, we don’t know how many names, if any, the ESCR put to their sample of Party members – or which ones.  We currently offer no fewer than 19 names, all of whom have been spoken of as potential leadership candidates  None have asked us to remove them from the survey.  Without knowing more, it is impossible to draw precise conclusions, and the findings referred to in the Observer aren’t covered, as we write, in the latest relevant blog on the Project’s site.

None the less, a few points are obvious.  First, three of the ESCR’s top five overlap with three of our top five: Johnson, Davis, and Javid.  Jeremy Hunt was in our top five; if the Observer is correct, he isn’t in the ESCR’s.  Jacob-Rees Mogg is in the ESCR’s top five; he wasn’t in ours (he was seventh).  It is sometimes claimed that the ConHome panel is more Eurosceptic than Party membership as a whole.  That may be correct – but as matters stand this ESCR result actually finds the reverse, though it is of course only a single piece of evidence.

The ESCR Project is run out of Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University.  Its last blog on its latest polling of Party members says that it surveyed 1215 ordinary Conservative Party members.  YouGov conducted the polling.  More when we have it.

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Our survey. Next Tory leader. Johnson is top again. Javid second, Raab third. Hunt is now fourth.

Westlake Legal Group Screen-Shot-2018-12-30-at-15.36.39 Our survey. Next Tory leader. Johnson is top again. Javid second, Raab third. Hunt is now fourth. ToryDiary Tom Tugendhat MP Sajid Javid MP Rory Stewart MP Priti Patel MP Philip Hammond MP Penny Mordaunt MP Next Tory leader Michael Gove MP Liz Truss MP Jeremy Hunt MP James Cleverly MP Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Highlights Gavin Williamson MP Esther McVey MP Elizabeth Truss MP Dominic Raab MP David Lidington MP David Davis MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brandon Lewis MP Boris Johnson MP Amber Rudd MP

It’s much the same story in our final Next Tory Leader survey of 2018.  Boris Johnson is top with more than double the score of the man who stays second – Sajid Javid.  The Home Secretary continues narrowly to fend off Dominic Raab, who stays third.

Last month, Johnson was on 24 per cent.  He moves up a bit to 27 per cent.  Javid puts on a point to come in at 13 per cent.  Raab does likewise and is now on 12 per cent.

David Davis drops from ten per cent to seven per cent.  Jeremy Hunt is up from seven per cent to nine per cent, and displaces Davis in fourth place.

But the snapshot picture is that there are three contenders in double figures, one well ahead of the other two – and a very long tail of names in single figures, to which we must add Esther McVey, new in the table this month.

Footnote: Theresa May can’t now be challenged via a confidence ballot for the best part of a year, so as a courtesy we’ve suspended a question we’ve asked since July last year – namely, if she should resign as Party leader and when.

However, it would be foolhardy to assume that she will necessarily be in place in twelve months’ time or earlier.  So the Next Tory Leader question stays pertinent.

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ConservativeHome Awards: Rees-Mogg wins Brexiteer of the Year

Continuing our short series on the results of our ConservativeHome awards – as voted on by our very own Members’ Panel – today we unveil the winner of the coveted ‘Brexiteer of the Year’.

This goes to the pro-Leave politician deemed by our readers to have been most effective in service to the cause over the past twelve months. The candidates were:

Boris Johnson: The former Foreign Secretary resigned over Chequers and champions ‘no deal’

David Davis: The one-time Brexit Secretary also resigned over Chequers

Dominic Raab: Davis’ successor led a walkout of several Cabinet Brexiteers over the Withdrawal Agreement

Jacob Rees-Mogg: The Chairman of the European Research Group has led backbench Brexiteer resistance to soft Brexit

The winner, and by a very comfortable margin, is Jacob Rees-Mogg. Just a shade under half of all respondents deemed him the most effective pro-Leave politician of 2018. Perhaps not a great surprise, as the MP for North East Somerset is a grassroots favourite.

Of the rest, another quarter backed Raab, who tried to make the Prime Minister’s vision work before walking out over last-minute alterations to the Withdrawal Agreement, with Johnson and Davis bringing up the rear.

Here are the results in full:

Westlake Legal Group ConHome-Awards-2018-Brexiteer-1024x774 ConservativeHome Awards: Rees-Mogg wins Brexiteer of the Year ToryDiary Jacob Rees-Mogg MP Dominic Raab MP David Davis MP ConservativeHome Members' Panel Brexit Boris Johnson MP   Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com