Former ministers and Tory insiders claim that the home secretary is deliberately making unauthorised statements to woo the party’s hard-right base…reports Asian Lite News
Troubles seem to be mounting for Suella Braverman, who is trying to cement her position as the rightwing frontrunner to succeed Rishi Sunak as Conservative leader.
Former ministers and Tory insiders claim that the home secretary is deliberately making unauthorised statements on homelessness, demonstrations and multiculturalism to woo the party’s hard-right base.
The prime minister has refused to endorse Braverman’s claims that rough sleeping is sometimes a “lifestyle choice” and the flagship criminal justice bill has been delayed amid resistance from some cabinet ministers over her measures to stop tents being given to homeless people. Ministers have also refused to repeat Braverman’s description of pro-Palestinian demonstrations as “hate marches”.
Colleagues suspect Braverman has calculated that she has little to lose by making hard-hitting statements that appeal to the party membership.
One former minister told the Guardian: “It is as if she wants to be fired so she can get on with a leadership bid … If she is tied to the government for too long, she will have to carry some of the blame for Rishi’s failure – and few people think he will win a general election outright.”
Another former Tory frontbencher said Braverman’s decision to make statements that have not been signed off by No 10 shows that Sunak is weak. “She is employing a self-preservation strategy which is not going down well inside the parliamentary party outside of the 40 or so MPs who might support her.”
On Monday, Colin Bloom, the former director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, said Braverman was “goading” Sunak into sacking her. “It is not just that it is the comments about people sleeping in tents. I think she is goading No 10 into getting rid of her because she wants to launch her leadership campaign,” he told Newsnight.
Sunak last month refused to repeat Braverman’s claims that a “hurricane” of migrants was coming to the UK and that the country faced an “invasion”, and previously refused to repeat her statement that multiculturalism was a “misguided dogma” that had allowed people to “live parallel lives”.
However, Braverman is closely tied to Sunak through his promise to “stop the boats” and the court battle, expected to conclude in mid December, which will decide whether the government can deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
If the government loses, there will be pressure from Braverman’s backers in two hard-right Tory factions – the Common Sense Group and the New Conservatives – to leave the European convention on human rights (ECHR). At this point, it is possible Braverman could call on Sunak to make it a pre-election promise and quit if the idea is ruled out.
Braverman’s supporters say she is not undermining Sunak, but is instead speaking her mind, and is not pursuing a high-risk strategy that could easily backfire.
One MP said: “If she was sacked it would not be the end of Suella Braverman, but why do so? If you are sacked, people assume that it is for all sorts of reasons. It would make much more sense if she resigned on principle over an issue such as leaving the ECHR – and that scenario might arise in a few weeks.”
Another insider who has worked closely with Braverman said she was “definitely not” trying to be sacked, but appeared to be out on a limb because she was “the only rightwinger at the table”, which was good for her chances of winning the next leadership contest.
Other Tories agreed that she was sailing close to the wind in challenging Sunak while keeping her job. Daniel Finkelstein, a Conservative peer, told the How to Win an Election podcast: “What she’s doing is trying to push as far as she possibly can, probably without getting the sack … What she wants to be is the outrider. So this is not aimed at Rishi Sunak … It’s more aimed at Kemi Badenoch and James Cleverly.”
However, many Conservatives are not convinced that her rhetoric will win over voters at an election, even if it might appeal to party members in a future leadership contest.
Richard Graham, the MP for Gloucester and a former minister, went public on Tuesday with a warning that Braverman’s language was inflammatory.
“Tone matters. It’s our duty to calm, not inflame, to reduce, not increase, tensions. The language of the home secretary, whether on tents or on marches, is unhelpful to cohesion in our communities and is not in my name, nor does it reflect how we tackle issues in Gloucester,” he said.
He was backed by Sayeeda Warsi, a former co-chair of the Conservatives, who said: “Many colleagues on our benches are disturbed by this [but] not all are brave enough to speak out yet.”
Labour has challenged Sunak over whether he will accept such rhetoric from his home secretary. In the Commons, Keir Starmer openly suggested Braverman should not be in her job, saying Sunak “cannot be a serious prime minister” if he continues with the home secretary pursuing “her divisive brand of politics”.