#GE2017: Amber Rudd and the Magic Money Tree

Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s now-infamous retort to Jeremy Corbyn during last Thursday’s televised debate, that “there is no magic money tree” to solve the food bank crisis, suggests a well-developed sense of fiscal probity. Quite the opposite. Here, in an article first published in Leeds rs21’s Northern Star in October 2016, we look at the path taken by Rudd to the second-most powerful job in the Government.

The story of Rudd’s business career is a truly Thatcherite one. Spanning the period between the Big Bang financial deregulation of 1986 and the dot-com collapse of 2001, it contains many of the motifs of predatory speculative capital unleashed by Thatcher’s ‘reforms’, including exaggerated share valuations, arms-length companies used to avoid direct liabilities, tax debt purchases that could be declared at a later date in order to avoid future tax obligations and ‘walk-away’ busts.

As the daughter of a stockbroker Rudd enjoyed an impeccable and gilded start to her career of sharp practice and gutter politics. Educated at the exclusive Cheltenham Ladies’ College, then ‘finishing’ at the private Queen’s College in London, she went on to obtain a degree in history from the University of Edinburgh. Rudd’s first job was with Wall Street titan JP Morgan, where she was an ‘events manager’. However she soon became involved in the operations of Lawnstone, her family’s holding company, embroiled in scandal as it was by then.

Her father Tony Rudd had been banned from being a company director – “totally unfit to hold a position of public trust” – in 1989 over misdealings in a firm called Greenbank Trust. Then the collapse of the one-time motorcycle manufacturer Norton Villiers Triumph Group in 1990 led to the third Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) investigation into the dealings of Lawnstone.

In 1984 Lawnstone, under the control of elder sister Amanda Rudd, had approached London taxi makers Manganese Bronze for an arms-length arrangement by which Manganese Bronze took over the Norton group. The scandal that ensued after Norton’s collapse brought about a change of name and principal directorship, from Lawnstone under Amanda Rudd to Lawnstone Group Plc under Amber Rudd. This transformation also allowed for a restructuring in which the company bought up £178,000 of tax losses so as to be able to avoid future tax bills. In the eight years that Amber Rudd was a director of Lawnstone Group the company never paid any tax. However, the company still continued to operate from Tony (corporately ‘unfit’) Rudd’s £7m Grade 2 listed Kensington Square family property. During this period the company bought up three different finance companies, which all failed, including Buckingham Corporate Securities, but not before Lawnstone had petitioned the DTI for winding-up orders in order to avoid debts.

In 1991 it purchased Portsville (Finance) Ltd but the firm went bust a year later, owing £572,271, including a missing loan cheque for £100,000 which Rudd can’t quite remember. Then Zinc Metallurgical Products (renamed Warkworth) went bust in 1999 with £1.5 million of debts, only to be taken over by a firm named Monticello – to which Amber Rudd transferred as director – with the zinc business eventually being wound up by the High Court with debts unpaid.

A break in show business followed in 1994 as the ‘aristocracy adviser’ on the film Four Weddings and a Funeral for which she enlisted ‘literally dozens’ of her ‘friends’ as extras ‘just to hang about looking lovely in the right clothes’ for £100 per shoot.

Multitasking

Other Monticello undertaking in which Rudd had oversight as a director were the speculative scams Kensington Resources and Siberian Pacific Resources – the latter alleged to be a phony blood diamond racket. Both firms registered on the unregulated (and later disgraced) Vancouver Stock Exchange, which the Finance Ministry of British Columbia said was “overshadowed by the continuing occurrence of shams, swindles and market manipulations”. Both companies, needless to say, went bust with “substantial and unaccounted for losses”. Monticello itself crashed in 2003 amid allegations that director board voting rights had ‘become matters of telephone death threats’.

Caribbean dreaming

Yet another venture in which Rudd had her sticky fingers as a director from 1999 was Environmental Polymers, which after a short life of only three years went bust with £5.9 million of unpaid debts – although directors’ fees and remunerations were paid up to the date of liquidation. But at the same time Amber was holding two other offshore directorships with Bahama-registered Advanced Asset Allocation Fund and Advanced Asset Allocation Management. Both companies, needless to say, were registered in the Bahamas for the purpose of advising other companies and private wealth funds in the art of offshore registration and tax avoidance.

In 2000 Rudd, in league with her business partner and fellow director Mark O’Hanlon, set up another offshore adventure called Investors Noticeboard Plc, which again lasted a mere three years. As early as December 2001 it declared losses of £1.2 million. This led the DTI to investigate Rudd and Co’s activities, and when Rudd jumped ship (yet again) she left the hapless O’Hanlon to explain what were clearly falsified company statements. In the ensuing inquiry, O’Hanlon, having obviously perjured himself, was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

But by the early 2000’s it was dawning on Rudd that, with nothing but a string of company failures, massive and unpaid debts, a closing net of more investigations plus her closest confederate now doing porridge, her ambitions as a venture capitalist might be thwarted. And with the collapse of a bio-degradable and recycling firm for which she was ‘corporate advisor’ going bust to the tune of £4.8 million, plus a financial services company she had set up being closed by the High Court with £1.2 million of debt, the game, it must have seemed, was up.

Fields afresh

In 2005 Rudd decided to devote her undoubted genius, integrity and time to politics. After a false start in Liverpool Rudd moved to Hastings, East Sussex, and was elected as MP for Hastings and Rye in 2010. Wading quickly through the slops of the Tory leadership, she was rewarded in 2015 for her obsequious loyalty to George Osborne with the job as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change – a task for which she was monumentally unqualified.

Perhaps Rudd’s most enduring epitaph will be the monstrous nuclear white elephant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, for which she found a dubious partner on the begging-bowl trip to China she made with Osborne in a desperate bid to get overseas investment in the depleted and crumbling UK nuclear infrastructure.

Bahamas bites back

In April 2016 Rudd leapt to the defence of David Cameron following the disclosure in the ‘Bahamas Papers’ that Cameron and family had personally benefited from a private Bahamas trust fund, Blairmore Holdings, set up by his father as a tax avoidance measure. Of course Rudd, with her own Caribbean past, was in an expert position to comment on such matters. And particularly when the German paper Südeneutsche Zeitung pointed out that Rudd had been a director in two out of 175,000 Bahamas-listed companies registered in the island tax haven for the purpose of avoiding – or advising others on how to avoid – UK tax.

Environmental magazine The Ecologist followed Friends of the Earth in accusing Rudd in November 2015 of misleading Parliament over the UK’s Mandatory Renewables Energy Target. Stating a ‘free market’ case for such a move, Rudd stated, “Government support must help technologies that can stand on their own two feet [and] not encourage a permanent reliance on subsidies”. Then enter the Hinkley Point C nuclear project – the most subsidised and uneconomic energy project in history!

Rising to new depths

Since the fall of Cameron, Rudd has found favour in Theresa May’s government as Home Secretary. And in this role she has excelled as May’s successor in the viciousness with which she is prosecuting a racist programme of Islamaphobia and the hounding of migrants and refugees. At the 2016 Tory party conference Rudd proposed that employers should be made to keep a register of foreign workers to be made accessible to ‘the authorities’. “This”, she said, “would ensure that British jobs would go first to British workers”.

This torrent of xenophobia was even attacked by the Financial Times, in which her ‘naming and shaming’ proposals were called “both preposterous and bizarre”. To which on 4 October 2016 Rudd replied with ‘don’t call me a racist’, before then ruling out any prospect of an inquiry on police conduct at the Orgreave picket on 18th June 1984.

If the Mein Kampf fits….

On 5 October 2016, LBC presenter James O’Brien accused Amber Rudd of ‘enacting chapter 2 of [Hitler’s] Mein Kampf’ and of ‘fanning the flames of hatred in our communities… By drawing a distinction between people born here and people who have come here looking for work, you’re enacting chapter 2 of Mein Kampf’.

Although Rudd is no Nazi, her reckless disregard for the consequences of her actions here is consistent with her years of willful business mismanagement. But as Rudd now controls the police, who should be investigating language likely to cause racial hatred, and the Serious Fraud Squad, it is unlikely that her conduct will be investigated. Rather, her proven qualities of low cunning, self-interest and ambition mark her out for the top job in the politics racket: Tory leader.

 

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