Suella Braverman’s ‘exit’ letter to prime minister Rishi Sunak was a bombshell, but perhaps not in the way she intended. After the usual platitude of it being a privilege to have served as Home Secretary and a list of what she considers to be her achievements, she made some jaw-dropping admissions.
First, she reminded Sunak that he was rejected by the party members in 2022’s summer leadership contest and thus has no personal mandate to be prime minister. Then, she went on to say that she had nevertheless supported him in exchange for being re-instated to the office of Home Secretary, from which she had just had to resign for leaking cabinet documents; and for Sunak to sign up to her policy agenda, some of which was kept secret from the public.
“I conspired with a guy I don’t respect and who has no mandate to make him prime minister and me home secretary —as long as he agreed to my secret demands”,
is not the rallying cry she may think it is.
Did she seriously think voters would read that and conclude, yeah, that sounds like democracy, let’s have ourselves some more of that?
The four-point policy agenda that, she claimed, was the subject of their secret agreement, and which she hints has been documented, is revelatory:
- Reduce overall legal migration as set out in the 2019 manifesto through, inter alia, reforming the international students’ route and increasing salary thresholds on work visas;
- Include specific ‘notwithstanding clauses’ into new legislation to stop the boats, i.e. exclude the operation of the European Convention on Human Rights, Human Rights Act and other international law that had thus far obstructed progress on this issue;
- Deliver the Northern Ireland Protocol and Retained EU Law Bills in their then existing form and timetable;
- Issue unequivocal statutory guidance to schools that protects biological sex, safeguards single sex spaces, and empowers parents to know what is being taught to their children.
The first point is ridiculous. Have the Tories learned nothing from the Cameron years, when one immigration target after another was missed, drawing the ire of the anti-migration element of the electorate? Immigration should be managed according to the needs of the economy, and not by some arbitrary number set by ministers, who are out of touch with the frontline and have no clue about the damage skills shortages cause.
Yes, we need programmes that can home-grow those skills, but (depending on which skills – doctors? truck drivers?) that takes five years to a decade, and in the interim, migration is needed to fill the gaps. When we were members of the European Union, freedom of movement was perfect to manage that situation, as it was bureaucracy-free and did not always result in permanent migration.
Including students in immigration numbers has always been controversial, as they are so transient. Some may come for a week or two to learn English, and others for a number of years to pursue higher education at one of our excellent educational establishments. Suella Braverman does not even speak for the ultra-right on this topic. GB News presenter Tom Harwood, for example, has long lamented counting students as immigrants.
The use of a ‘notwithstanding clause’ is code for ‘breaking international law’. The formulation could be summarised as saying “We will be able to do this or that illegal activity, notwithstanding law or treaty X, Y, Z, that outlaws it.”
In other words, we will act in a certain way despite the law saying we should not. This is the way of the dictator. Suella Braverman has long thought that Suella Braverman should be able to do whatever she pleases, without the constraints of the pesky Rule of Law – a cornerstone of our unwritten constitution.
She has also showed herself contemptuous of another cornerstone: parliamentary sovereignty. She introduced, by secondary legislation, a measure to curtail protests, which parliament had considered, scrutinised, and expressly rejected, earlier in the same parliamentary session.
The Northern Ireland Protocol Bill was the brainchild of Liz Truss when she was foreign secretary, which ought to be enough of a clue as to why it was unworkable. She was unable to get it through parliament during her 49-day stint as prime minister. In short, it was a Bill designed to give ministers the power to ignore crucial parts of the painstakingly negotiated Brexit deal, specifically tearing up parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Braverman, a fully paid-up member of the hard Brexit cult, naturally backed this dangerously deluded piece of proposed legislation.
Sunak dropped the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill in favour of the Windsor Framework, which eases customs checks on goods arriving from Great Britain, gives the UK government more control over VAT rates applying in Northern Ireland, and states that medicines placed on the Northern Ireland market will be regulated by the UK rather than the EU. Naturally, Braverman thinks the Windsor Framework, which has slightly improved the situation in Northern Ireland, is a great Brexit betrayal.
The Retained EU (Revocation and Reform) LawBill first introduced by Jacob Rees-Mogg in September 2022 during the Truss administration, originally stipulated that all remaining EU Law would have a ‘sunset clause’ of 31 December, 2023. By that date, any laws originating in the EU, that had not been individually approved and reworded to be retained in UK law, would be shut off.
Put simply, this was absolute madness. Since 2018, when the first Retained EU Law Bill passed, only around 200 pieces of the estimated 3,800 pieces of EU legislation have been repealed. After 47 years of membership, UK law is so entwined with EU law, that it makes it difficult to unravel. Some UK laws and regulations build on EU law, and so if the concepts within those EU laws are suddenly withdrawn, it will make a nonsense of much of UK law. Fortunately, Kemi Badenoch saw the light, and withdrew the sunset clause. As research group UK in a Changing Europe wrote, “Better law is made when time is given to evaluate it on its merits.” Braverman, who considers Badenoch to be her principal rival for the leadership, was not best pleased.
Point four is somewhat of a surprise. Braverman’s proposal on the boundary between women’s right and trans rights falls under the remit of the Equality and Education secretaries of state, not the Home Secretary. She has strayed out of her lane on this one, but what it does show is her willingness to seek out wedge issues – those the public is divided on – and engage in ‘culture war’. This is bad for society because it polarises the public and weaponises issues, making it difficult for sensible debate to take place.
After listing her four points, Braverman waxed lyrical about Sunak failing to deliver her agenda, despite her nagging him to do so. “Our deal was no mere promise over dinner, to be discarded when convenient and denied when challenged,” she rails. She then bangs on about leaving the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), one of Winston Churchill’s greatest achievements, founded before and separately from the EU, and an important ’defence of last resort’ against overbearing governments. To give just one example, think back to the Hillsborough Disaster: it was the ECHR that ensured the families of the 96 victims finally received justice. Only Belarus and Russia are not party to the ECHR, originally drafted by British lawyers. (Fortunately, James Cleverly, the new home secretary appears to be in favour of remaining in the ECHR.)
Braverman then moves on to the Rwanda policy in her letter, chiding Sunak for ignoring the risk of losing legal challenges against us, accusing him of opting for “wishful thinking as a comfort blanket to avoid having to make hard choices.” Now, it is important for the public to understand just why the Rwanda policy is so “bat-sh*t”, as shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has called it in parliament.
First of all, it’s an exchange scheme: for every asylum seeker the UK sends to Rwanda, Rwanda sends us a vulnerable refugee in return. In other words, it has zero net impact on refugee numbers in the UK.
Second, Priti Patel, who originated the Rwanda policy, did not come up with it all on her lonesome; she got the idea from Israel, which piloted the scheme, found it to be unworkable, and so ditched it.
British voters may well question WHY the UK has tried to implement a failed Israeli policy; not least because the third issue with the policy is that it is phenomenally costly, wasting millions of taxpayers’ money — and that was before the £140m Braverman spent on the spurious law cases defending it.
Of course, the Rwanda policy should never have gone ahead in the first place. The year before Braverman brought in the Rwanda operation, the government denounced Rwanda for human rights abuses. We still, to this day, accept Rwandan nationals as refugees in this country. Surely that is evidence enough that Rwanda is not a suitable country to farm asylum seekers out to, without having to waste money in court?
It is at this point that Braverman turns her attention to the obscene scenes at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day. Except she doesn’t.
There is not a single word of apology for riling up the far-right with false assertions that the Cenotaph was in danger of attack by peace protestors who were, at the point where the march passed closest to the Cenotaph, a mile away.
Braverman cares only about Jewish victims of Hamas and the rise of anti-Semitic attacks subsequent to Israel’s military campaign. She has not a drop of sympathy for the over 11,000 casualties of Israel’s defence force, in which a Palestinian child dies every eight minutes and hospitals have been destroyed; or for the rise of Islamophobic attacks due to the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October last. Unlike most of the British public, Braverman has shown herself incapable of distinguishing between Jews and Israel on the one hand, and Palestinians and Hamas on the other. Was she ever worthy to represent us?
Hopefully, we will not need to be troubled with whether Suella Braverman is fit to hold public office ever again. She claimed to have the backing of 52 MPs. The Daily Mail splashed, “Come for Suella and you come for us all” over its front page on November 10 2023, three days before she was sacked.
Yet, there have been no resignations in protest. No signs of a rebellion. Only one MP, Andrea Jenkyns, appointed an education minister and made a dame by Boris Johnson, has issued a grammatically incorrect letter of no confidence in Rishi Sunak to the 1922 Committee. ‘Mad Nads’, as Nadine Dorries is fondly referred to, is sniping from the sidelines. Talk about a damp squib. Perhaps Lord Michael Howard,, the former Tory Party leader is right. Suella Braverman was unable to put the common good above her personal ambition, he said, and she will be forgotten.