Amber Rudd ‘hanging by a thread’ after blunders over immigration targets

Labour stepped up calls for the Home Secretary to resign after she revealed she did not read a leaked document which contradicted what she told MPs this week.

She told the Home Affairs Select Committee on Wednesday that the Home Office did not have removal targets, but the document revealed it did and that she was told about them last year.

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There was speculation that Ms Rudd, who is now fighting for her political life, was on the brink of resignation after she took nearly eight hours to respond to a Guardian report on the leaked document.

When she did respond, in four highly defensive tweets, she apologised once again for the Windrush scandal and said she should have been known about the targets.

In her first tweet, she said: “I will be making a statement in the House of Commons on Monday in response to legitimate questions that have arisen on targets and illegal migration.”

It was highly significant that the Home Secretary admitted that the questions she is now facing from MPs about targets are legitimate, rather than attempting to brush them aside.

In her second tweet, she said: “I wasn’t aware of specific removal targets. I accept I should have been and I’m sorry that I wasn’t.”

That was an admission of a serious blunder and her fifth public apology this week, following a Commons statement on Monday, her select committee appearance on Wednesday and an Urgent Question in the Commons and a speech to political journalists on Thursday.

In the third tweet, the Home Secretary said: “I didn’t see the leaked document, although it was copied to my office as many documents are.”

This was by far the most damaging admission by the Home Secretary, since it will reinforce the impression of her critics of incompetence and a failure to get a grip on the Home Office.

Finally, she tweeted: “As Home Secretary I will work to ensure that our immigration policy is fair and humane.”

But her determination to fight on amid growing calls for her resignation will be severely tested if there are further embarrassing disclosures about blunders or cover-ups over the weekend.

Ms Rudd’s candid admissions were immediately condemned by the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, who said saying sorry was not enough and again demanded her resignation.

“Amber Rudd is hanging by a thread to shield the Prime Minister from her responsibilities as the initial architect of this cruel and callous approach to migration, which resulted in the Windrush scandal,” she said.

“She failed to read crucial documents which meant she wasn’t aware of the removal targets that have led to people’s lives being ruined. Another apology is not enough, she should take responsibility for chaos in the Home Office and resign.”

Labour MPs claim the Home Secretary is guilty of breaching Whitehall’s ministerial code, which has strict rules on ministers telling the truth in Parliament.

“It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity,” the code states.

“Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.”

Justice Secretary David Gauke told Sky News on Saturday he was confident there was no intention by Ms Rudd to mislead and gave her his backing.

He said: “She gave an answer that wasn’t accurate, she wasn’t trying to mislead… Amber is a very good Home Secretary. She has done excellent work… There are a whole set of reforms she has developed. She does a really good job.”

Theresa May – who has lost Damian Green, Michael Fallon and Priti Patel from her Cabinet in recent months – will be desperate to hold on to Ms Rudd for a number of reasons, not least because she is a loyal and trusted ally.

Also, besides not wanting to lose her from the Home Office, she will not want to lose a prominent Remainer from her Brexit war cabinet of senior ministers, with crucial discussions on the customs union looming.

Nor will she want such a prominent Remainer on her back benches – someone who could become a major focal point for Tory rebels – with key Commons votes on Brexit coming up.

But bookmakers have already installed Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, as favourite to succeed her, with Housing Secretary Sajid Javid and James Brokenshire – a former Home Office Minister who quit as Northern Ireland Secretary to have lung surgery, but is now recovering – also being tipped.

Mr Gove, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, also backed Ms Rudd, saying she was “a highly talented and highly effective minister”.

“When documents that should be placed in front of a Home Secretary aren’t then placed in front of a Home Secretary, that is sad, that is regrettable,” he said.

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