QUENTIN LETTS: Amber Rudd looked drawn, but she wasn’t quartered

Amber Rudd looked a bit drawn, but she wasn’t quartered… QUENTIN LETTS on yesterday in Parliament

Here in Gotcha City, the smallest inaccuracy by a minister leads to clamorous calls for resignation (which in a fevered trice can trigger predictions of the Government being toppled, Corbyn in No 10, Brexit being overturned, etc).

Such is the way of our daft politics. One spark can ignite an Amazonian forest fire. Yet the blaze can abate just as fast.

We had something of that yesterday morning when, at breakfast-time, Speaker’s House granted an Urgent Question on some alleged hoodwinkery by Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Talking to a Commons select committee on Wednesday, she said there were no targets for deporting illegal immigrants. Several people were quick to point out that, er, such targets have existed for years.

Amber Rudd (pictured in the Commons) admitted she did not know the Home Office sets targets for the deportation of illegal immigrants – and does not sport the policy

The Home Secretary said that ‘unfortunately’ she was not aware of the policy and will be looking at it again 

Yesterday’s Urgent Question brought Miss Rudd to the Commons despatch box at 10.30am. In the preceding two hours, received wisdom had gone from 0 to 60. The hanging judges of the lobbies put it about that we were ‘in resignation territory’.

Miss Rudd certainly looked a bit drawn, if not quartered. One of the likeable things about her is that she is not much good at the poker face. You can tell when she is knackered or worried or upset.

The Urgent Question was asked by her shadow, Diane Abbott. A good opponent to have. Miss Abbott opened with ‘another day, another revelation’. She then over-stated her case by comparing Miss Rudd to Lord Carrington, the foreign secretary who quit after the Falkland Islands were invaded.

By the time she reached her peroration, calling on Miss Rudd to do the honourable thing and resign, she thus had to shout over Tory mockery. The resignation demand would have been more effective had she been able to say it with cold sorrow.

Several ministers were present to show support for Miss Rudd. Among them: the Foreign Office’s Sir Alan Duncan, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, the Attorney General, the International Aid Secretary, and Defra’s Michael Gove. On the Tory backbenches were members of the Rudd party.

Sir Nicholas Soames (Con, Mid Sussex) said twice that Miss Rudd had ‘the total support of this side of the House’ (indignant hear-hears) and ‘was trying to resolve a very difficult, very difficult legacy issue’. 

Did he mean it was her legacy from the last home secretary? 

From the Tory Right, Philip Davies (Con, Shipley) urged Miss Rudd to keep deporting illegal immigrants. Apart from ‘the metropolitan Labour elite’, most people wanted illegals to be removed, said Mr Davies. 

It just showed ‘how out of touch they are with working-class communities’ if they used the Windrush saga to block fair deportations. 

Miss Rudd was probably never happier to listen to ardent Brexiteer Mr Davies.

Ms Rudd said she had become aware of the scandal ‘months earlier’ but had failed to grasp the gravity of the situation

Amber Rudd appearing in front of the Home Affairs select committee to give evidence 

David Lammy (Lab, Tottenham), who has had a good Windrush campaign, claimed the Home Office had ignored ‘impact statements’ on immigration rules.

Ah, impact statements. Like targets and equality assessments and cost-benefit analyses and other official gauges, such things are Whitehall tank-traps. They exist chiefly as brakes on executive initiative and despatch.

Mr Lammy, like other Opposition MPs, wanted Miss Rudd to quit. The more those calls were made, the more the Tories rallied round her, the more they accused Labour of going soft on deporting illegals – and the more confident she looked.

By elevenses she was looking more secure than she had done two hours earlier. The squall seemed to have passed.

The only other item of note: in Defra questions, Mr Gove was asked about his illiberal, politically opportunistic proposal to ban electric pet-containment fences.

The matter was put with florid grandeur by John Hayes (Con, S Holland & The Deepings), who cited TS Eliot on cats and argued that such fences actually prevent animal suffering because they stop pets being run over on the road. Mr Gove confessed he had received a vast postbag from pet lovers and hinted that a part-climbdown may be in the works. One should hope so. It was a wicked idea.

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