Amber Rudd says there was a 'whiff of sexism' in the ERG's treatment of Theresa May

PUBLISHED: 13:22 15 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 15 October 2019

Former minister Amber Rudd has said there was a

Former minister Amber Rudd has said there was a "whiff of sexism" in the ERG's treatment of Theresa May. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Former minister Amber Rudd has condemned a "whiff of sexism" around the ERG's treatment of Theresa May and said that it is "difficult not to share" the view that she was treated differently to Boris Johnson because she is a woman.

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Speaking of the pressure the ERG put on Theresa May to resign, she said: "It did feel like we had our second female prime minister being pushed out by a group of men at the time."

Amber Rudd is the fastest-promoted MP to a high cabinet position since the Second World War, but resigned Boris Johnson's cabinet over the expulsion of 21 Tory MPs for defying the whip on Brexit.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live's Emma Barnett, she said the prime minister's move was an example of "certain behaviours that particularly men in politics want to see".

Barnett had remarked on how similar Boris Johnson's new withdrawal agreement proposals are to his predecessors'. However, he is drawing much more support from the hard-Brexiteer wing of the party, the ERG.

"Why would they accept it from him and not from Theresa May?" asked Barnett. "There's only one difference between Boris Johnson and Theresa May - one's a woman, and one's a man".

Rudd responded: "It's difficult not to share that view, I have to say.

"I find it very disappointing - I found it at the time - the way that Theresa May was treated by some of these largely male groups.

"I mustn't suggest that the whole of the ERG is male, it's not, because there's plenty of women in it as well.

"But it did feel like we had our second female prime minister being pushed out by a group of men at the time."

She added that the ERG had already made one attempt to remove May the previous December.

Rudd said "people can draw their own conclusions" about why such a similar deal is now acceptable to the ERG under Johnson's leadership.

"I think there absolutely is a whiff of sexism," said Rudd, but added that it is difficult to "fillet out" how much of it simply may be to do with the fact that Johnson has stronger ties with the ERG and wanted a harder Brexit than May did.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, speaking on Westminster Hour, had previously attributed his new approval of Johnson's deal to the fact that the prime minister is a "copper-bottomed Brexiteer".

Continuing, Rudd said the "dominance penalty" - the theory that men are rewarded, but women are punished, for aggressive behaviours - is present in politics.

She added: "But I also think that there are certain behaviours that particularly men in politics want to see that women don't so much, that Boris did adopt, which has given the ERG members a lot of confidence.

"So for instance I was very opposed to the prime minister expelling 21 colleagues from the party as members of parliament and I felt very strongly that Ken Clarke, who had been in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet, should have a place in Boris Johnson's party."

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