You can see why she thought it, if only for second. Any mother would understand.
There was her handsome strapping son, all 6 ft whatever of him, clad in a face mask, standing in front of a van piled high with food, destined for frontline NHS hospital workers, the needy and vulnerable — the fruit of his (unpaid) labour for the past month.
‘Just delivered our 10,000th meal,’ wrote Alasdair Gill, 27, referring to the 700 meals a day the London-based charity Family Meal, run by a group of professional chefs such as himself, had been boxing up and driving all over the capital.
How proud his mother, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, must have been. And who could blame her?
Julia Lawrence met with Amber Rudd and her children Flora and Alasdair Gill on Zoom
‘That’s why you’re my favourite child,’ she wrote in the family’s WhatsApp group chat — before adding a hasty, cheeky ‘oops’, when she realised it would only be a matter of time before Alasdair’s older sister, Flora, saw it. She did — and without further ado Flora made the exchange public. Very public indeed.
Those familiar with Twitter will know that Flora, 29 — whose father was the hugely controversial food critic and columnist A.A. Gill — has gleefully picked up the family mantle for shock journalism with her own brand of sexy, confessional ‘blimey, did I really just read that?’ material, on social media and in print.
Losing her virginity, flavoured condoms and the horror of nipple hairs — it’s all out there for everyone to see. Her late father, who received no fewer than 62 press complaints in five years at the peak of his career, would be so proud.
Flora naturally saw the post as great fodder for her 27,000 plus Twitter followers and duly posted it online: ‘In case anyone was wondering if Mum bullied me outside of Twitter . . .’ she wrote. The ‘likes’ came pouring in — in the thousands.
Only last week, Flora ‘outed’ her mum as a day-time tippler, when she told the world how she’d been downing canned cocktails during their Zoom chat — at 11am
Today, as they talk exclusively to the Mail, everyone in the family finds the exchange quite funny: ‘Flora was being increasingly naughty with her escalating levels of crudeness so I thought I’d give her a teeny little bit of a slap.
‘But I didn’t expect her to make it public. It was a private little joke for my family. That was just brutal. That was a declaration of war,’ Amber, 56, explains. Welcome to the Amber Rudd and Flora Gill show — one that never ceases to entertain, and is gathering its own fan base.
So, just for clarity, is Alasdair the favourite? Every parent has a favourite, don’t they? Just a teensy bit? Absolutely not, says Amber.
‘When my children ask me, I get round it by saying I have a favourite daughter and a favourite son.’ An answer any politician would be proud of.
‘That’s not what you wrote though, Mum,’ grins Alasdair.
‘No it wasn’t and I took a screenshot of it,’ Flora shoots back, clearly enjoying herself. Oh dear, how long before a bedroom door gets slammed?
We are meeting on Zoom and it is strange to see the polished, accomplished former Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye — who left the Commons at the last election — in Lockdown Mum mode.
Those familiar with Twitter will know that Flora Gill, 29 — whose father was the hugely controversial food critic and columnist A.A. Gill — has gleefully picked up the family mantle for shock journalism
Amber, who’s just taken on an advisory role with a UK cyber security firm based in Cambridge, alongside her work as an adviser with management consultants Teneo, is ‘in the country with my partner’ (she was rumoured to have found love again last year but that’s all anyone’s getting on the subject).
Alasdair and Flora, meanwhile, are with their respective partners, in their flats in London. Like many families, this is the new normal, and the banter is flying.
Amber has taken a fair few beatings at the Commons despatch box, but you’ve got to feel for her over some of Flora’s revelations. No one wants to hear about their ‘baby’s’ sex life. ‘Yeah, it was pretty awkward at first,’ Amber says. ‘But in the end I decided to go with it.’
Only last week, Flora ‘outed’ her mum as a day-time tippler, when she told the world how she’d been downing canned cocktails during their Zoom chat — at 11am.
Amber protests: ‘I was taste-testing for a friend in the business!’
‘Yes, but you only need one sip for research!’ says Flora. ‘You were doing a lot of double checking. I found it funny because they are surprisingly alcoholic! Mum was getting quite tipsy, so I decided to take a few screenshots and share them with the world. Everyone’s day-drinking right now. We need to share!
‘One of my aims is making Mum uncomfortable, and she is slowly getting used to it, so I’ve had to slowly up the level. I reckon we’ve got just a few weeks until it’s releasing nudes on the internet,’ she quips.
Amber winces. ‘Ali, we’re not going to like that are we?’ she asks her son, who’s agog.
‘No, we won’t,’ he agrees.
Jokes aside, the warmth and deep bond between these three is palpable. Flora was quick to leap to her mother’s defence, with a stream of angry expletives, when she was ditched — with 30 minutes notice — from an Oxford University event in early March.
Flora Gill shared a snapshot from the family WhatsApp group and made public Amber Rudd saying son Alasdair was the favourite
The event, In Conversation: Amber Rudd, was organised by the university’s UN Women Society and Amber was expected to speak about encouraging women to get into politics.
But organisers came under fire over Amber’s links with the Windrush scandal — which cost her her job as Home Secretary — and they cancelled at the very last minute.
Flora called it ‘f*****g rude’, her outrage very touching. I comment it must have been hard to be Amber Rudd’s daughter, having to watch the tirade of abuse to which she was subjected before resigning in 2018.
The Windrush scandal centred on British subjects, who’d arrived in the UK before 1973 from Caribbean countries, who were wrongly detained, denied legal rights, threatened with deportation, and, in at least 83 cases, wrongly deported by the Home Office.
Whatever your politics, the abuse Amber received was truly shocking. Some even wished her dead. ‘People are always asking me whether I feel protective of Mum, but she’s always been really strong and able,’ says Flora.
‘If anything, she can teach me about some of the hate I’m starting to get . . .’
Ali, it should be said, doesn’t even have a Twitter account. ‘I’m pretty anonymous,’ he says. ‘I am not on Twitter because of my mum and sister. I get enough of it in person . . .’
Amber interjects: ‘Ali is more of a private person than Flora. Flora has found her way through social media and publicity of her character and writing amazing articles. But Ali has found a different way.’
‘Yeah, but everyone is a more private person compared to Flora . . .’ says Ali. More guffaws.
Ali and Flora were born during Amber’s five-year marriage to A.A. (Adrian) Gill, who died from cancer in 2016. They split after Gill started a long-term relationship with journalist Nicola Formby.
For many years, Amber worked as an investment banker before entering politics in 2010, when the children were in their late teens. Flora has a look of her dad about her, while Ali is more like his mum. Amber can see ‘nothing of herself’ in either of her offspring, although can see where her daughter gets her ‘communication and shock’ skills from.
‘We used to joke that if we had to split and go to one parent, Ali would go to Mum and I would have gone to Dad,’ says Flora.
They had the classic, two household upbringing, seeing Dad and their younger twin half-siblings at the weekends.
Amber Rudd’s daughter Flora Gill is pictured with her father A.A. Gill who was a hugely controversial food critic and columnist
Flora was educated at Bedales boarding school in Hampshire where she was — her phrase — a goody-two-shoes (‘How I miss goody-two-shoes,’ says Amber), getting As in everything before going to Oxford to read philosophy and theology.
Alasdair, meanwhile, took another path. ‘I got kicked out of a couple of schools — for this and that, mostly smoking,’ he says.
‘He wasn’t very good at following rules, shall we say,’ says Amber. ‘Not always turning up for lessons. Not always at school when he should have been.’
‘School never worked for me,’ Ali says. ‘By the time I attended sixth-form college, I had a two per cent attendance rate.’
Alasdair went from school into the hospitality industry, trained at Ballymaloe cookery school, and worked as a chef at the Little Blue Door restaurant in Fulham, from where the Family Meal project is operating.
As different as the children they made together, Amber and A.A.Gill had opposing parenting styles.
‘Mum cared about exams and about us doing well at school and Dad did not,’ remembers Flora. ‘He just cared about us being kind. Nothing else mattered.
‘So if I had detention, which I got once in my life and cried about insanely because I hated being told off, I knew I should get Dad to sign my permission slip. He refused to sign it and told me to go and tell my teacher she was a tosser.
‘And he ate my homework once . . .’ What! The Zoom room erupts with laughter.
‘Yeah, it’s true,’ continues Flora. ‘I was so panicked about not being able to finish this maths sheet and Dad took the sheet and ate it. He said: “Tell the teachers your Dad ate your homework.”
‘I did not tell them the truth. I made up that I’d lost it and got in trouble and had to do it again.’
Maybe it should be pointed out that A.A. Gill once wrote: ‘The interesting adults are always the school failures, the weird ones, the losers, the malcontents. This isn’t wishful thinking; it’s the rule.’
He loved a rebel. Amber, meanwhile, was big on discipline. ‘Because it was just the three of us we were very close,’ she says. ‘But I do remember getting very irritated by all the fighting during the teenage years.
‘My sister, who’s a teacher, said I needed a “layer of explaining” when they were getting out of control. So you go green, yellow, black, saying: “OK, now we’re on green but if you carry on fighting, we’re going to go to yellow”
‘I never understood it, so I just used to go “Green Yellow Black!” ’
‘We just remember “BLACK BLACK BLACK” being shouted up the stairs. It didn’t last long, that system,’ laughs Flora.
‘When I was first elected, Ali was 17 and my sister said to him: “You must be so proud now your mother’s an MP”, and he said: “Yes it’s fantastic — she’s never home.” ’
Since resigning as an MP, Amber was just getting used to civilian life, when the pandemic struck — the family is planning a big party (with Ali doing the cooking) when it’s all over. In the meantime, he’s managing to get by, and keep himself busy, with the meals project.
After so many years being the ‘good one’, Flora is enjoying seeing her brother’s valuable work.
‘I helped out one day. Alasdair was being such a boss — he was so impressive! Obviously it pains me to have to say that.
‘I packaged up all the boxes and delivered to one of the hospitals. They were so unbelievably grateful. It was amazing to see and made me feel that maybe Mum had a right to have a favourite.’
Amber interjects: ‘My children are so different, with such different skills, and they’ve felt lost at different times of their lives. But I am very proud of them.
‘They both seem to have focus which is giving them satisfaction and reward. It’s been a revelation that Alasdair has found such a sense of purpose working for this organisation that is reaching out and helping people.
‘Anyone who is working in hospitality doesn’t have much of a job at the moment, obviously. The fact that Ali has found this really valuable role, helping feed people in London who really need their help, does make me very proud.’
So what’s next? Are either Flora or Ali tempted to enter politics? Flora shakes her head: ‘No way.’
Her brother drops a bombshell: ‘Who knows? Never say never . . .’
His mother’s eyes widen in shock, yet again.
- The Mail is making a donation to Family Meal for this interview. To contribute, visit familymeal.org.uk