Earlier tonight, PM Theresa May accepted Amber Rudd’s resignation as Home Secretary. Rudd’s resignation comes after the Windrush scandal and days of harsh scrutiny of her actions in the position. In my view, her position had become untenable and she made the right call. Now though, the focus is on who will replace her.
One of the early favourites with bookmakers is Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary who has excelled in the role.
Gove’s history as Education Secretary did not win him many plaudits from the public but he is still viewed by many within the party as a potential future leader. The step up to the Home Office would be an opportunity for him to get closer to that. Beyond that, Gove is simply an impressive minister. He pushed through a lot of reforms in a short space of time in education and has already achieved a lot in his environment post. With the Home Office viewed as archaic and in need of change, he could be ideal for the job.
The other early favourite is Sajid Javid, current Communities Secretary.
Just yesterday, Javid tweeted his view that Rudd should continue in her role. Now, though, he could be taking it for himself. He has positioned himself as a strong voice on Windrush and has a personal connection, being from a family of immigrants himself. Indeed, he spoke about how it could easily have been him or his parents in the position of the Windrush generation. Appointing him to fix the mess would certainly be good optics for the government. Javid also has significant backing from within the cabinet.
The other candidate wanted by some within the current cabinet is Jeremy Hunt.
Hunt’s time as Health Secretary has done his popularity no favours whatsoever. Rather, he has been seen by many as trying to privatise the NHS. Yet he is third favourite to replace Rudd and, as has been shown time and time again, public perceptions can change in a heartbeat. Those who believe the Tories are privatising the NHS are unlikely to vote for them no matter who the next Home Secretary is. Regardless, at a time when the government is under huge pressure, this appointment would be odd.
Dominic Raab, while less discussed by bookmakers, is popular amongst the Conservative grassroots and is currently a minister for housing.
The prevailing view at the moment seems to be that Raab may well replace whoever is promoted to Home Secretary, assuming the appointment is of a current cabinet minister. Raab has the added bonus of being a Brexiteer, which would be a good look for Theresa May at a time when she is coming under severe pressure over post-Brexit membership of a customs agreement with the EU.
Another candidate with the Brexit factor, though more of a wildcard than Raab, is Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The backbencher is loved by many within the Conservative party but him being appointed to such a senior cabinet position seems unlikely at this point. May will certainly have little desire to increase his credentials to challenge her leadership or replace her when she goes.
The Prime Minister may wish to opt for someone who endorses her current line on immigration. Within the cabinet, the list of politicians meeting that condition is short. Karen Bradley, Northern Ireland Secretary, and Gavin Williamson, Defence Secretary, are the only two. Williamson has been seen as May’s ideal candidate to replace her but his recent performances over the Salisbury attack haven’t won him much public approval. Theresa May could well be looking at appointing a woman to ensure that the big three positions below her are not filled by men. If so, Bradley makes sense. She is also a strong ally of May and has previously been a minister in the Home Office.
Personally, I would like to see Gove take up the mantle. He is adept at getting the job done and would be the best choice for genuinely sorting out the mess which is today’s Home Office. In reality I suspect one of Sajid Javid or Karen Bradley is more likely to be given the post. The optics for either of their appointments would be far better for the government and the PM, and at a time like this such a factor cannot be underestimated. It’s a coin toss, then.