Rishi Sunak must consider dismissing the dangerously irresponsible and inflammatory home secretary.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 13, 2023
Updated 2023/11/13 at 12:55 PM

Herbert Morrison, a former chief of the Home Office, once likened its “corridors to be paved with dynamite.” This underscores why the role of a home secretary is crucial—requiring a person who handles volatile situations with care rather than someone who can’t be trusted with even a box of matches.

Opposition parties, alongside liberal-minded Tory MPs, are expressing profound dismay at Suella Braverman’s deliberately incendiary remarks. Words like “reckless” and “unfit” are being echoed by moderate Tories.

They’re urging Rishi Sunak to exhibit courage and dismiss her, both for her actions and for disregarding Number 10’s instructions to refrain from such behavior. Even among Conservative MPs aligned with the traditional right, expressions of horror are evident. One among them, previously a colleague of Ms. Braverman, vented to me that she is “far too hazardous” to hold even a junior ministerial role, let alone occupy a critical government post entailing immense responsibilities across sensitive domains.

The accusations against the home secretary are weighty. Amid the tensions surrounding pro-Palestinian demonstrations during this Remembrance weekend, a responsible home secretary would choose every word with caution and aim to pacify while collaborating with law enforcement to maintain peace on the streets.

However, she deliberately chose to escalate the situation. In her opinion piece in the Times, she vilified the protesters by labeling them as “mobs” and employing the misleading term “hate marchers,” while making a perplexing connection with marches in Northern Ireland. This incited displeasure among those organizing pro-Palestinian protests and politicians from all camps in Northern Ireland. One individual aptly accused her of displaying “aggressive ignorance.”

Regrettably, both within her party and in broader circles, she’s been seen as undermining the essential principles of law enforcement and the bedrock of a free society. It’s a fundamental aspect of our freedoms that politicians do not dictate police operations. Such practices are synonymous with autocratic regimes, not our democratic ethos.

Equally fundamental to free speech is the right to protest, which is only restricted in exceptional circumstances, especially in the presence of a clear and imminent threat of serious disorder. Despite this, she attempted to pressure Sir Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan police commissioner, to seek a ban on a march in the capital, even when he indicated no evidence warranted such an extraordinary measure.

Ms. Braverman’s push to influence the commissioner was accompanied by an accusation that the police exhibit bias, favoring politically connected minority groups aligned with the left, while showing no leniency toward others.

Although she retracted these statements on Friday, affirming her full support for the police, the damage had been done. It’s difficult not to perceive that her actions might have incited and empowered the so-called “counter-protesters” from the far right, resulting in clashes with the police near the Cenotaph and attacks on officers in central London.

Sir Tom Winsor, the former chief inspector of constabulary under four past Conservative home secretaries, aptly highlighted that Ms. Braverman had crossed a sacred boundary. He stated, “It’s unprecedented. It’s contrary to the spirit of the ancient constitutional arrangement with the police… A home secretary, above all, should not engage in this behavior.” Except, apparently, when it comes to Suella Braverman, a person who appears compelled to trample over lines and defy directives, even when they come from Number 10.

This abusive use of her role joins a list of shocking actions. Even members of her own party were appalled by her recent comments, such as characterizing homelessness as a “lifestyle choice” and advocating for a ban on charities providing tents to those on the streets.

Thankfully, more compassionate minds in the cabinet prevented these notions from being included in the legislative agenda outlined in the king’s speech, but it’s rumored there’s an internal debate on the matter within the government. Her remarks branding multiculturalism as a “toxic” failure and migration as an “existential threat” to western civilization align with extreme nationalist rhetoric.

At a glance, it appears remarkably dismissive of both her role as home secretary and her position in the cabinet. This has led to a prevailing theory among Conservative MPs. They believe she’s less concerned about her role as home secretary and more focused on becoming the Tory leader following the anticipated election defeat their party faces. Some even speculate she’s intentionally provoking the prime minister to dismiss her. The strategy is to distance herself from her party’s failure and portray herself as a “martyr” to Tory activists, where she holds significant favor

. The ConservativeHome website regularly polls Tory members on cabinet ratings, and she consistently ranks in the top five, a significant 18 places higher than the prime minister. Her inflammatory statements seem calculated, aligning with the actions a politician might take to position themselves as the leading figure of a belligerent, nationalist, anti-constitutional, authoritarian wing in a post-defeat Conservative party.

This presents an immediate challenge for Mr. Sunak and a longer-term concern for moderate Tories who dread the idea of a Braverman takeover. The dilemma for the prime minister lies in deciding whether to dismiss her or continue supporting her. How much longer can he tolerate a home secretary who recklessly undermines her responsibilities and consistently acts against the interests of the party, all for her personal ambitions?

It’s squarely on Mr. Sunak that this issue arises. Ms. Braverman wasn’t home secretary when he assumed office. Her departure was under Liz Truss for a severe breach of ministerial conduct. Sunak reappointed her not due to her competence but in a bid to secure favor from the party’s hardliners during his leadership bid. Despite the chaos she’s created, he’s clung to her under the notion that it’s better to have her ‘inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in’. But now, she’s inside, creating chaos within.

Calls to oust her have surfaced from various quarters, but this only complicates the situation for Sunak. Some claim it makes him look weak if he acts based on opposition parties’ advice, while her supporters will cry foul, accusing him of surrendering to the party’s detractors. However, his credibility diminishes if he tolerates an unfit home secretary openly defying his authority.

“She’s a disgrace and must be removed. Under any prior leadership, any previous home secretary would have been ousted within a day,” a former Conservative cabinet minister said. “If Rishi doesn’t act, his standing will be permanently weakened.”

The crucial question for all Tories, especially the moderate MPs and members, is whether they wish their party to be characterized by Ms. Braverman’s divisive style. While there might be support for an overtly harsh stance, history shows it’s not enough to win an election in Britain.

There’s a looming risk that the Conservative party might fall under the sway of figures like Braverman, particularly in the aftermath of an electoral loss. The challenge for moderates is to gather the strength, reasoning, and support to prevent that outcome. The fact that this is a debate within the Conservative circles highlights the concerning direction the party is heading.

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