On Thursday 5 March, former home secretary Amber Rudd was due to speak at an Oxford University event for International Women’s Day.
However, the student society organising the event cancelled it at short notice and withdrew Rudd’s invitation.
The UNWomen Oxford UK Society pulled the event after receiving criticism from students for inviting Rudd. Rudd then took to Twitter to complain about the students ‘no-platforming’ her. She ended her tweet with “#FreeSpeech”:
Badly judged & rude of some students last night at Oxford to decide to “no platform” me 30 mins before an event I had been invited to for #IWD2020 to encourage young women into politics. They should stop hiding and start engaging. #FreeSpeech
— Amber Rudd (@AmberRuddUK) March 6, 2020
But proponents of free speech never seem to want to admit that everyone isn’t entitled to every platform available to share their views. And being denied one – relatively small – platform doesn’t equate to taking away Rudd’s freedom of speech. Especially given her Twitter following and TV appearances.
Deportation targets and Windrush
Given Rudd’s political track record, the decision to disinvite her makes total sense. In 2018, she resigned as home secretary because of her role in the Windrush scandal. Rudd initially denied setting deportation targets, and then backtracked, claiming there were “local targets for internal performance management”.
Rudd was forced to apologise over the treatment of Windrush citizens. Given the injustice that victims of Windrush deportations suffered, as a direct result of policies Rudd enforced, she was left with no choice but to resign in April 2018. The people now defending her freedom of speech would do well to remember that she isn’t immune to being held accountable for her decisions. Standing with the Windrush victims, and refusing to accept Rudd as a role model for young women, is one way of demanding accountability.
DWP and Universal Credit
Unfortunately, the disastrous treatment of Windrush citizens wasn’t enough to keep Rudd away from ministerial roles. She became work and pensions secretary in November 2018, heading the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
During Rudd’s time heading the DWP, Chris Williamson criticised her for defending the department despite the devastating impact of Universal Credit on poor people. Rudd later admitted that Universal Credit was pushing people towards using foodbanks. However, despite these issues and ongoing pressure, the roll out of Universal Credit has carried on.
Meanwhile, according to the UN, austerity measures implemented by successive Conservative governments have “disproportionately” affected “the poor, women, racial and ethnic minorities, children, single parents, and people with disabilities”.
A role model?
Rudd has access to a massive platform to share her views. But when are the Windrush victims, and those affected by austerity, able to criticise Amber Rudd? How often do they get invited to Oxford or the BBC to share their views?
Given Rudd’s track record, the student society was entirely within its rights to decide who should be providing an example for “encouraging young women into politics”. This isn’t about freedom of speech – it’s essentially about who is portrayed as a role model for women. And the misery Rudd has caused to so many people means this is a role that she should never play.
Featured image via screengrab
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