Suella Braverman credit: UK Parliament

Suella Braverman: a remarkable journey to become the most controversial figure in current British politics

By Ana Negut

Braverman’s recent actions have led to a cabinet reshuffle that left her out in the cold. But this isn’t the end for the former Home Secretary.

Suella Braverman may be gone from government, but her tenure as Home Secretary has certainly had an impact. Braverman, who was voted out early on in the first Conservative Party leadership contest of 2022, has been known to harbour leadership ambitions. Recently, however, she has made headlines for making increasingly problematic public comments.

The most high-profile and controversial of her proposals during her time as Home Secretary is arguably the policy of permanently removing asylum seekers who attempted to cross the English Channel in small boats to Rwanda, a plan which has since been declared unlawful by the UK Supreme Court, and contested by human rights activists, the European Court of Human Rights, and other prominent actors in the sphere of international protection of human rights. In a speech made to American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC on 26 September, the former Home Secretary commented on the issue of human rights legislation: “It is not racist or anti-refugee to want reform of the European Convention on Human Rights”, she declared. “As if  […] the ECHR is all that is holding us back from becoming Russia,” Braverman added. “I’m merely advocating for reform.” The UK’s existing international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations (UN) human rights treaties grant everyone “the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”.

Braverman was determined to sow further division in this speech, making further headlines for her vitriolic comments on multiculturalism. “Multiculturalism makes no demands of the incomer to integrate. It has failed”, the former Home Secretary declared. Despite being a part of the most ethnically diverse cabinet in history, and a daughter of immigrants herself, Braverman describes multiculturalism as a “misguided dogma”. Policies of multiculturalism intend to cater for the needs of ethnically diverse communities in the UK, but it is important to acknowledge that multiculturalism does not only exist as a political agenda. For many people living in the UK, multiculturalism, with its advantages and failures, is a way of life and a reality that they must navigate.

On 4 November, the former Home Secretary also chose to comment on the salient problem of homelessness, stating: “We cannot allow our streets to be taken over by rows of tents occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice”. Braverman also desired to stop charities from offering tents to unhoused people, a wish she expressed on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter). There are growing concerns that Braverman’s divisive comments are part of a strategy to mark her out for a future leadership bid, although the Prime Minister and several other senior Conservatives have chosen to distance themselves from her comments.

Braverman has also embarked on a controversial ideological mission, on multiple occasions expressing her disapproval of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. She described the demonstrations as “hate marches” and produced a post on X denouncing alleged “displays of thuggish intimidation and extremism.” In the run-up to a high-profile pro-Palestine march in London, Braverman declared she had “full confidence in the Metropolitan Police to ensure public safety.” However, her stance on the Metropolitan Police had changed significantly by the time she authored an article in The Times, published on 8 November, which questioned not only the intentions of the attendees, but also put forward the idea that “senior police officers play favourites when it comes to protesters.” Braverman further complained that lockdown protestors have received unfavourable treatment in the past. This is despite the average rate of arrests for anti-lockdown and anti-vax protests across 8 demonstrations being 32 arrests per demonstration, according to the Metropolitan Police’s own data. On the day of the pro-Palestine march in question, 126 people were arrested, with the assistant commissioner at the Met citing far-right violence as the main factor leading to arrests.Braverman’s stance generated outrage across the political spectrum, as well as accusations of interference with the operationally independent Metropolitan Police. Four days and a Twitter rant later, Suella Braverman was sacked. “I have more to say”, she threatened. And more to say there was. In a scathing letter, launched as an attack on Rishi Sunak on 14 November, Braverman doubled down on her stance against illegal and legal migration, international students, human rights institutions and international law in general, genderqueer people, and pro-Palestinian marches. She manages to do so in between accusations that Sunak not only broke secret promises on policy priorities, but also failed to address extremism. “It is a privilege to serve and one we should not take for granted”, she added to Sunak. Still, the implications of her sacking, for both her individual career and for the Conservative party as a whole, remain to be seen.


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