In Depth

Bodyguard: is Julia Montague based on a real home secretary?

Comparisons drawn between Keeley Hawes’ character and Amber Rudd and Theresa May

BBC One’s Bodyguard was hotting up last night - if that is possible after a gripping two episodes packed with an attempted assassination, mass terrorism and steamy sex.

At the centre of Jed Mercurio’s intense drama is Home Secretary Julia Montague, played by Keeley Hawes, and her protection officer, Sergeant David Budd, played by Richard Madden.

The twists and turns are certainly more dramatic than most days at Westminster, but some viewers are wondering if Montague is based on a real home secretary.

Hawes has admitted that she drew inspiration from Amber Rudd (pictured below), who held the post when they were filming, telling journalists: “She was just a brilliant example of the life that Julia is living.” 

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has resigned amid Windrush scandal

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Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

However, she added: “We’re very much not playing Amber Rudd. That wasn’t what we were going to do. But, she’s a very good example. She was brilliant for me to research.”

Rudd, who resigned earlier this year, is a keen fan of the show and said she hopes she influenced Hawes in the more political sense - “because it’s fair to say that in her off-duty role the character is a bit of a bitch, which I hope my own former detail would agree I am not”.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Rudd said: “The part most reminiscent of my own life in the job was the portrayal of the relentless rhythm of the Home Office.”

She said she “ruefully recognised” the experience of having to do an Andrew Marr interview at the last minute and identified with the dynamic between a minister and her protection officers: “On the one hand there’s a constant professional distance, but on the other you become incredibly close.”

Rudd’s predecessor, Theresa May, on the other hand, apparently turned off after the first 20 minutes of the Bodyguard, finding it too close to home.

The Prime Minister (pictured below), who was home secretary from 2010 to 2016, told The Guardian: “I watch TV to unwind. I’m not sure a drama about a female home secretary is the best way for me to do that.” 

Theresa May PMQ

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

There are some similarities to be drawn on the political side: Montague is a Conservative MP for the (fictional) constituency of Thames West, who consistently voted for UK military forces in operations overseas and military action in Iraq and Afghanistan. May, a Conservative MP for Windsor and Maidenhead, west of London and on the Thames, has a similar voting record. Like Montague, May also clashed with civil liberties campaigners during her time as home secretary for pursuing greater surveillance.

But viewers might have to look further back for the inspiration for Montague’s personal life: the wife of Alan Johnson, home secretary from 2009 to 2010, allegedly had an affair with his police protection officer. The detective was later sacked.

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