Amber Rudd will be leading the British team of negotiators at Paris as the world’s leaders meet to decide the fate of the planet.
The secretary of state was just this week accused of misleading Parliament about the state of the country’s renewable energy target as the chasm between her declared commitments to climate change and loyalty to chancellor George Osborne’s austerity-plus-fracking grows ever wider.
And yet it was only 10 years ago that Rudd decided to enter politics. She made a life-changing decision at the age of 40. She decided to “take [her] life back” and “really point it in the direction I want it to go.”
Observers disagree about whether Rudd is a ‘Turquoise Tory’, a conservative with a small ‘c’, or whether in fact she is merely a career politician serving the powerful. Will she stand on principle in Paris, or quietly toe the corporate line?
There are important clues to be found from her life story.
Life Before Politics
Rudd was born on 1 August 1963, in London, to father Tony Rudd, a stockbroker and financial journalist, and mother Ethne, a magistrate who also worked as the secretary of the Kensington Society.
Ethne was a strong woman. “She had a very strong sense of right and wrong and that was part of her magnificent appeal,” Tony wrote upon her death in 2008 after 56 years of marriage.
The youngest of four siblings, Rudd lived a privileged life. Her childhood homes consisted of a Kensington townhouse and a country mansion in Wiltshire. Chalcot House, near Bath, previously belonged to Nicholas Phipps, whose mother, Lady Sybil, was a sister of the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester and the Duke of Buccleuch.
It must be a spectacular place to stay; part of the house dates back to the 12th century while other parts are Carolingian.
Rudd graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1986 with a Master’s degree in History. Four years later, in 1990, she married the writer A.A. Gill, a restaurant reviewer for Vanity Fair and the Sunday Times – Rudd’s privileged upbringing was far from lost on Gill, who nicknamed her ‘the Silver Spoon’ in his restaurant columns. The pair has two children, Flora and Alasdair, but the couple separated in 1995 and later divorced.
Before entering a life of politics, Rudd’s career was dedicated to finance.
She worked for financial services company JP Morgan in both London and New York for several years after which she joined a venture capital firm in London where she raised funds for small businesses. And like her father, she also spent time working as a financial journalist.
But in an entertaining testament to her posh upbringing, Rudd had a stint in the early ‘90s as “aristocracy co-ordinator” recruiting extras for party scenes in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.
As the film’s director Richard Curtis, put it: she knows “a lot of dukes and earls”.
Meanwhile, as Rudd was becoming acquainted with the finance world. Roland, her brother, founded Finsbury PR and is now one of the best known people in financial PR. He is a Labour Party donor, and also the current treasurer of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.
Of Rudd’s two sisters, Amanda runs Aveda hair and beauty products in Europe while Melissa is a primary school teacher.
Then, in 2005 things changed. Rudd set her sights on a career in Whitehall.
Describing her choice to enter politics in an interview with the Financial Times in 2013, Rudd said: “I decided to take my life back. In my twenties I was leaving university, getting married or having a baby. And then, in my thirties, I was just keeping my head above water.
“When I hit 40 I thought I have got to get a grip of my life and really point it in the direction I want it to go rather than just swim hard against the current.”
A few short years later Rudd picked up and moved to Hastings – an area to which she has no connection – to stand as a Conservative MP. Her political ambitions knew no bounds.
Check out Part 2 where DeSmog UK looks at Rudd’s burgeoning political career and close ties to Osborne.