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The trouble with Suella Braverman’s revolt

She who wields the knife shall never wear the crown. Credit: Getty

November 15, 2023 - 10:40am

The first thought that struck me when reading Suella Braverman’s three-page epistle to Rishi Sunak following her departure from Government was: why wasn’t this a resignation letter?

It reads like a resignation letter. The former home secretary accuses the Prime Minister of breaking solemn undertakings he made to her as part of a deal to smooth his path to Downing Street following the collapse of the Liz Truss ministry.

We haven’t yet seen the formal document in which these pledges were apparently recorded, although if it exists we surely will. But in addition to reinstating her as home secretary, the promises apparently covered scrapping EU regulations, cracking down on illegal immigration, and “protecting biological sex” in schools.

Yet she writes: “You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to delivery on every one of these key policies”. 

Why, then, was she still in his government? It’s not as if there have been a sudden flurry of betrayals; rather, Sunak had clearly been giving Braverman the cold shoulder for months, at least, and a cursory glance at the Government’s record is enough to show he wasn’t following her advice.

Anyway, she certainly isn’t the first minister to find principled reasons to leave office after she has been ejected from it, nor will she be the last. Fun as the drama is, more important is what it means for the next year or so.

Talk of any immediate threat to Sunak is overblown. Few seem to think Braverman has a substantial following amongst Tory MPs, and nobody has yet followed Dame Andrea Jenkyns’s lead and publicly submitted a letter to Sir Graham Brady.

Braverman might, however, be able to cause the Government a lot of political pain over the next year, especially after the Supreme Court today ruled the Rwanda policy unlawful.

While few voters are likely to be exercised by Sunak breaking a private commitment, it will give the former home secretary and others on the Right plenty of ammunition if, as seems likely, the Government fails to make progress on small boats and mass immigration in 2024.

Could that be a springboard for a successful leadership bid if the Conservatives lose the next election? The thought has certainly occurred to Braverman — and being on the backbenches at least means she won’t personally carry the can for whatever goes wrong between now and then.

Still, having attended Cabinet under three different prime ministers she cannot escape her share of responsibility for the abysmal circus of the last few years, whatever letters she was writing behind the scenes. Combine that with a divisive public profile and a small following in the Commons, and it seems likely that even Right-wing MPs would be better off seeking a candidate who won’t unite the opposition against her.


Henry Hill is Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome.

HCH_Hill

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N Satori
N Satori
8 months ago

Well, the ‘supreme’ court has ruled unanimously. Anybody got a plan B by any chance? Or are we about to endure a lengthy storm of recriminations, hand-wringing, lofty moralising and (my favourite) long-winded explanations of what-should-have-been-done-but-wasn’t.
Meanwhile the influx which dare not speak its name continues apace.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The decision seems to say that the policy is actually legal, but that the chosen destination doesn’t meet the criteria. This implies that other destinations might. Has this been explored ? All subject to EHCR oversight today of course.
It also implies that we might make ourselves an offshoring destination for France (I assume we’d be safe enough) and send them a bill for the illegal channel migrants. And that it might be possible to “chain” offshoring.

Jonathon
Jonathon
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Presumably yes, another destination would be legal. However with the Prime Minister talking of changing the law it looks like they are set on Rwanda and will do whatever they can to keep this the destination.

james elliott
james elliott
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

“The decision seems to say that the policy is actually legal, but that the chosen destination doesn’t meet the criteria. This implies that other destinations might”

Great!

Ship them back to France.

Or, failing that, Communist China.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Lateral thinking! Like it…

Mrs R
Mrs R
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

The government has a majority and could have changed the laws. They seem to enjoy legislating all kinds of new and far-reaching laws that affect citizens but when it comes to policing our borders the very thought appears to be deemed an immoral idea and the will simply is not there, all we get is pantomime. Our parliament is stuffed with craven cowards.

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
8 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Here’s a Plan B: fly them to Akrotiri. House them in proper refugee camp conditions, but with free boats for them to move on, if they so choose.

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Goodhand

Plan C, fly them to Diego Garcia. Oh wait, we handed that over to the Americans for a military base out of the goodness of our hearts. What a pathetic excuse of a country this is.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
8 months ago

She was only Home Secretary for little more than a year and probably felt by remaining in office she could do more good than any likely replacement, who would be a plaything of civil servants (as has indeed happened). Henry Hill has no any idea if anyone else has followed Andrea Jenkyn’s lead, he just knows no MP has said so. Braverman won 32 MP votes in the 2022 Conservative leadership election, which is more than any party in the House of Commons other than the Conservatives, Labour and SNP. And with the Tories at around 23% in the polls now, very possibly more than the Conservatives in total will win next time.

Last edited 8 months ago by Stephen Walsh
Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
8 months ago

What purpose would have been served by Braverman flouncing off at the first whiff that Sunak was dishonestly and dishonourably reneging on their agreement?
If she had, she would have been replaced by some milquetoast Tory MP and would be limited to occasionally speaking up from the backbenches.
Over the past 12 months as Home Secretary she has had a prime platform to articulate the policies she believes the government should be pursuing, and to have her opinions reported daily in the MSM.
While she stayed she could also try to persuade Sunak on policy and use her media exposure to pressure Sunak in to acting on the things he promised. Finally, when her time had run out, she was ready to explode a bomb under Sunak and reveal him as the duplicitous, establishment creep he obviously is.
As far as I can see she’s couldn’t have played the hand she was dealt with better.
As for the future leadership aspirations, after the next election the Parliamentary Tory Party with be a rump in which the Lib Dem influx that Cameron’s reforms brought in will be the largest faction, and the new leader will reflect that. The Tory party will be a divided, severely diminished party in terminal decline.

Last edited 8 months ago by Marcus Leach
Geoff W
Geoff W
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Yes, she played her hand brilliantly, except for the bit about doing stuff of practical benefit to the country.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
8 months ago
Reply to  Geoff W

And how would she do that if the PM refused to back her?
Be specific.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
8 months ago

Subtitle: “Tory MPs will want a unifier as their next leader
Final sentence: “…it seems likely that even Right-wing MPs would be better off seeking a candidate who won’t unite the opposition against her”.
Seems like Hill started his article aiming to write about one thing and then wandered off into the weeds a bit.
And, even if I take those two sentences, no real practical meaning can be squeezed out of them:
The Tories want a unifying leader? Your word in God’s ear. I don’t think there is anyone who can really unite the Tories. The party looks ripe to split into a moderate, centrist wing (the party of the Sunaks) and a hardline, right wing (the party of the Suellas);
The right-wingers would be better off looking for a candidate who won’t unite the opposition against her? Sorry, again – your word in God’s ear. Britain is so divided and politics so resentful, distrustful and toxic that any candidate is going to unite the opposition against them – purely because said candidate is going to be a Tory, and therefore, in the eyes of the opposition, the spawn of the devil.

Last edited 8 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

There is nothing moderate about the “centrists”.

David Butler
David Butler
8 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

“Hardline, right wing”? Why don’t we start with a wing that is conservative, at least?

Mark Goodhand
Mark Goodhand
8 months ago

“ Tory MPs will want a unifier as their next leader”

The fundamental problem is that most current Conservative MPs aren’t remotely conservative.

Thankfully, most of them will be out of a job at the next election. We shouldn’t worry too much about what they think.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

She would surely have countless emails to back up her claims. It would be very reckless to make up these type of claims.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Suella Braverman making reckless claims with no basis in fact?
I’m shocked I tell you, shocked!!!

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
8 months ago

Well they’d be stupid. They need a barn raiser and berserker

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago

Plenty of nutters available!

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
8 months ago

Still, having attended Cabinet under three different prime ministers she cannot escape her share of responsibility for the abysmal circus of the last few years

Yes, she can. She could have done her best for as long as she could stand it, or had a hope of success; only then provoking Sunak to sack her once she had exhausted all avenues into changing the Blob and a spineless globalist administration.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Good luck with making that case, sport!
Face it – Braverman is a grotesque caricature and is playing the part to woo the swivel eyed loons (TM) who will be running the Tory party into the ground for the next decade or more.
You are welcome to her!

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

“Tory MPs will want a unifier as their next leader”
Why does this putative unifier have to be a liberal rather than an actual conservative?

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Because they are all nutters. Obviously!

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

Yes, unlike the Labour gender-benders who are the very voice of sanity.

Champagne Socialist
Champagne Socialist
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

“gender-benders”
Is this for real? You sound like you are a Sun reader.
From 1983.
Nutter!

Last edited 8 months ago by Champagne Socialist
j watson
j watson
8 months ago

Reading the Supreme Ct judgment it seems Home Sec should have well known the tests applied were not going to be passed and thus had a year to either sort these with Rwanda (probably impossible to be fair – they were only ever going to fleece us) or get cracking on alternatives. Looks like she did neither. That begs question – was it just incompetency or it really didn’t matter to her as much as the use of a dividing line to define herself. One suspects bit of both.
Importantly Court has decided offshoring is in itself not illegal. We just picked the wrong country with a poor record on this. I hadn’t appreciated until reading the judgment Rwanda had previously failed on refoulement in a prior deal with Israel. So the portents were there.
Braverman will make alot of noise, but even those who might have sympathy know she’s a poor rallying point.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

If you read her letter you would know that know that what you suggest is exactly what she has been imploring Sunak to do for the past 12 months.
There is this silly widespread belief that ministers have a free hand in managing their departments and areas of responsibility. That is nonsense.
Major policy decisions have to be approved by the PM. A minister attempting to personally introduce legislation to enact policy that PM rejects will simply not be given any parliamentary time and would be sacked.
If Braverman says she wants a policy of leaving the ECHR, for example, and Sunak says no, then that’s that. She can’t then initiate her own legislation and try to get it through Parliament.
If she tells Sunak that the legislation being passed needs provisions allowing the government ignore the Supreme Court ruling, but he refuses to add those provisions, again, there is nothing she can do to circumvent that refusal.
Minister’s deal with day to day management of their departments. Policy is decided within No10.

Julian Newman
Julian Newman
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

“Minister’s deal with day to day management of their departments. Policy is decided within No10.”
So what became of collective responsibility?

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Let’s just ignore Suella Braverman (probably not as important as she thinks she is) and discuss the ruling and the policy. I guess this wasn’t her policy originally.
You’re correct that this outcome was always possible – and perhaps likely. It’s no good he blaming Rishi Sunak for not having a Plan B. Surely that was her responsibility – her department.
She had the opportunity to resign on principle about this earlier, but decided against it. I have little sympathy for her.
It is indeed interesting that the judgement decides that offshoring is legal. Presumably the next step is shopping around for destinations which meet the now-defined criteria for offshoring ? We do have quite a few overseas dependencies and islands left. I’m not saying this is a good idea – but it would seem to be the logical next step. But then why would the logical next step be any guide to what this government will do next !
It’s also interesting that the judgement stated that Rwanda did not meet the criteria at the time the decision to implement the plan was taken. That implies that circumstances may change and that the court apply a judgement at a specific point in time rather than evaluating a country over a broader period. It also implies that a policy might be legal now but if the situation in a country deteriorated (as it often does), it might then be open to a fresh challenge. So anywhere you want to “offshore” to probably needs a record of meeting the criteria and a likelihood this will continue.

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
8 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

Any Plan B was DOA without Prime Ministerial support. She gave it her all, but ultimately that support wasn’t there.

Peter B
Peter B
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Just tried replying, but it’s “awaiting for approval”. Sometimes comments get held with a label – sometimes they are silently delayed. It’s a mess …
The fact that “offshoring” is now officially legal – subject to some newly-defined/clarified rules is indeed interesting and doesn’t seem to have registered widely yet.
Of course, that is only “legal” subject to the opinion of the EHCR … so that aspect is still unclear.
One wonders which countries in the world do meet the new criteria to be safe “offshoring” destinations. Amusingly, I imagine that the UK would be near ther top of the list ! So perhaps we should open for business as such a destination and accept the illegal channel migrants on payment of a fee from the French government who are effectively sending them over here ? They’ll then be here on a defined legal basis and at least covering a part of the costs …

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Her resignation letter made it plain that she thought the Supreme Court might well not support the scheme and considered steps should be taken to prepare a plan B and was concerned that a year had been wasted. She did not have a free hand. There is an anonymous article written by a member of home office staff in the Telegraph today highlighting that the Home Office is institutionally against reducing immigration and is fully woke and that the policy is in fact driven by the Treasury’s desire to pump up national GDP without regard for per capita GDP.

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Did you expect her to go around the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and No. 10 and negotiate directly with a foreign government? Come on.

j watson
j watson
8 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Obviously since most of us posted on this stream yesterday Sunak announced what actions he proposes to now take. Begging obvious question – why hadn’t they done all this before as the judgment so clear they must have known highly likely way before now?
As regards Braverman – one has to suspect that if she’d been blocked from all these actions she and her supporters would have been leaking that all over the place well before her resignation and for many months. But that never happened. Sounds much more like a post-facto re-working of her self narrative to obscure considerable incompetence.

Last edited 8 months ago by j watson
Iris C
Iris C
8 months ago

Appointing Suella Braverman was Ricki Sunak’s attempt to unite the party by having all different opinions heard in cabinet. I can’t think he would have chosen her for his team otherwise.

James Kirk
James Kirk
8 months ago

Money mouth interface. If they don’t like Sunak get rid of him or join a peripheral Party like Reform and see who follows you AND votes for you. Surely nothing to lose there. As somebody who cannot believe anyone of sound mind can vote for Starmer’s clown act I wonder at the desperation of those who’d give Sunak another chance.