Three reasons why Amber Rudd’s resignation is good news for Theresa May

The Prime Minister’s chances of enduring until the next election have increased.


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Amber Rudd quits a few days before May: Labour will hope that sentence works in more ways that one.

The risk posed by any reshuffle to Theresa May’s position are too obvious to dwell on, which is one reason why Downing Street didn't want to lose Rudd: it was Rudd herself who forced the issue with her resignation.

But the circumstances of Rudd's exit aren’t, actually, as bad for May as they ought to be. Rudd hasn't quit over the Windrush scandal but because she misled the Home Affairs Select Committee on Yvette Cooper's question of whether or not the Home Office had deportation targets. That's good news for the PM for three reasons.

The first is that it’s one of the few things Rudd has done wrong that you can't fairly blame on Theresa May. The second is that the question of targets moves the conversation around Windrush onto territory where the government has public support – the general existence of immigration targets – and away from one where it is weak: the specific mistreatment of Commonwealth Britons. And the third is that Rudd's replacement, announced on Twitter as Sajid Javid, has access to a card that Rudd couldn’t play: that is to say, they can blame their predecessor. Rudd's time as Home Secretary may be over but her tenure as a human shield may have a little way left to run.

It's a boost for May, too, that in the short term, the group of Conservatives she has done the most to alienate over Brexit – liberal Remainers – is now desperately short of plausible leadership contenders. That won't change if she goes for a limited and defensive reshuffle in which she promotes Karen Bradley, an innocuous junior minister, and no-one else. And seeing as “limited and defensive” is practically May's middle name, why wouldn't she?

Don't forget, either, that the more sparse and flawed the post-May field looks, the better May's chances of managing to somehow cling on for the do-over she craves at the 2022 election become.

Now of course, Theresa May wouldn't be in her present position if she wasn't capable of squandering bigger political advantages than these. But it is worth remembering that even as pieces of her cabinet fall off around her, even as her flagship legislative achievement causes misery for thousands of British citizens that the Prime Minister’s chances of enduring until the next election have increased even if her ability to take advantage of that chance hasn't.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.