With Theresa May set to leave office this year, the race is on to find her successor. Cabinet ministers are at pains to emphasise their leadership credentials. On Tuesday evening, Amber Rudd used a speech at think tank Onward’s first birthday party to share her views on the current situation. The Work and Pensions Secretary joked – to a crowd that included Rory Stewart, James Brokenshire and Geoffrey Cox – that the current Tory leadership was male dominated before going on to lay out her view on the European elections and what the Tory tactic ought to be:
‘Over the past year my own circumstances have changed so much.
For example, getting in a cab is now a more personal experience.
“Yes that’s me.”
“Is the Bodyguard real?”
“Oh yes, very real my friend.”
“So are we gonna get a Hard Brexit then?”
“If I say yes will you take me home?”
People often ask me does I miss my bodyguards…..
….. In truth I do.
A year or so ago I was surrounded by a big group of male bodyguards responsible for securing my safety.
Now I am surrounded by a big group of male leadership candidates, responsible for securing my endorsement.
So actually, the Tory leadership campaign is very similar to having around the clock protection……
Now on a more serious note. There has never been a more important time for an organisation such as Onward to exist.
Two years ago we laughed at the notion of ‘alternative facts’ in the US.
Now we are fighting them here.
The old consensus of fact based debate is slipping away from us.
Instead extremist politics is dividing the country and bringing forward simple answers to complex questions.
These forces deal in emotion, rather than facts.
Extremism, on the left and right, are now the pincer movement against those of us who want a pragmatic, compassionate centre right government.
The old consensus of the past where debate had a baseline of truth underpinning arguments is over.
And while we did have a different view on how to make this country work for families and communities to that of Labour, we used to be able to have that argument in a respectful and honest way.
In the last few years the baseline by which we used to debate, made up of an agreed lexicon of facts, has been ground to dust.
Politicians are taking on major challenges with difficult choices required and we would do well to remember the old phrase that to every complex question there is a simple, clear and wrong answer.
The respectful approach of governance by compromise is now considered betrayal.
The extremists use this language of betrayal, which betrayal leads to outrage and outrage has led to violence.
The fact the public has become more interested in the passion and fire, rather than the facts should worry us all.
It’s worrying that politics is recalibrating to a low expectation.
But we need to stand up and reject this, and call out the attacks. We should expect a higher level of debate.
We must be bold and be courageous, take on the falsehoods and take on the haters.
Stand your ground, campaign in the European Elections.
We must make the case for our beliefs at every Election and 23 May is no different.
Thank you, Onward, for hosting us tonight.’