Amber Rudd says prime minister's Brexit rhetoric 'legitimises violence'

Former minister was ‘disappointed and stunned’ by Boris Johnson’s comments about Jo Cox

Boris Johnson’s aggressive Brexit rhetoric could incite violence against opponents, the former minister Amber Rudd has warned.

Rudd, who quit the government and resigned the Conservative whip earlier this month in protest at the prime minister’s policies, also told the Evening Standard that she might stand in London as an “independent Conservative” at the next general election.

Amid bitter complaints about Johnson’s use of words such as “surrender” and “betrayal” over Brexit, and his subsequent refusal to apologise, Rudd said she had been “disappointed and stunned” when the PM dismissed the fears of female MPs about a possible repeat of the 2016 murder of Jo Cox.

Asked about the Downing Street approach of couching Brexit as a battle between the people and a remain-minded parliament, Rudd said: “The sort of language I’m afraid we’ve seen more and more of coming out from No 10 does incite violence. It’s the sort of language people think legitimises a more aggressive approach and sometimes violence.”

Comparing Johnson’s approach to that of Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential election, Rudd said “the casual approach to safety of MPs and their staff [was] immoral”, and urged ministers to “consider their own judgments rather than be desperately loyal”.

Rudd’s departure from the government and party followed the purging of 21 Tory colleagues who voted to allow more parliamentary time to pass a bill seeking to block a no-deal Brexit.

Rudd told the Standard she wanted to “stay and fight” for the one-nation style of Conservatism associated with David Cameron, but did not confirm where that may be. The former home secretary won her current seat of Hastings with a majority of just 346 over Labour in the 2017 general election.

“The most likely place for me to stand, if I need to stand as an independent Conservative, would be somewhere with a strong remain constituency, so I am looking around,” she said.

Among mooted constituencies could be Kensington, very narrowly held by Labour’s Emma Dent Coad, or Chelsea and Fulham, where the MP is Johnson-loyalist Greg Hands.

However, a Conservative source said that under Electoral Commission rules none of the purged MPs could stand as “independent Conservatives”, only as independents.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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