• Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Braverman ‘confused’ by sacking

Times op-ed was agreed, says ex-home secretary amid claims of no confidence in Sunak

Suella Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and former immigration minister Robert Jenrick are vying for the Conservative party leadership post.

By: Sarwar Alam

FORMER home secretary Suella Braverman said she was “confused” at the manner of her sacking, claiming that prime minister Rishi Sunak had agreed for her to write a newspaper column which he then pointed to as the reason for her removal from cabinet.

In an opinion piece published in the Times ahead of a pro-Palestinian march on November 11, Braverman accused the police of exhibiting a “double standard” and “playing favourites” in dealing with protests, notably pro-Palestinian demonstrations. She repeatedly criticised the tens of thousands of protesters who have rallied in London since the Hamas attack on Israel last month, calling the protests “hate marches” and “mobs”.

Braverman’s words were cited by some as inciting the violent protests by far-right thugs at the Cenotaph in London during Armistice Day (11).

She revealed the prime minister had called to sack her as she was making her way to parliament on Monday (13) morning, and he had informed her the op-ed “wasn’t the right thing to do”.

“It was a bit odd because on the Wednesday we had agreement with No 10 that I should write an article for the Times. We had put a draft together and exchanged versions with the team at No 10, so I find it all very confusing,” Braverman said.

“On the one hand they gave us permission and then the reason that he cited in the call was that he wasn’t happy with the op-ed in the Times.”

Sunak’s official spokesman said Downing Street did not approve the final text of Braverman’s op-ed. It is understood No 10 asked for changes, but they were ignored by the former home secretary.

Braverman has been in the news for her inflammatory statements.

Earlier this year she claimed multiculturalism in the UK had failed, despite her own background as the daughter of Indian-origin immigrants and Sunak being the UK’s first prime minister of colour.

More recently she floated the idea of banning homeless people from using tents, while claiming that homelessness was a “lifestyle choice” for some.

Her comments branding pro-Palestinian protests as “hate marches” and highlighting a perceived lack of arrests for racially motivated crimes put pressure on police at a politically sensitive moment.

She was criticised for undermining police independence after accusing officers of taking a softer approach to left-wing causes such as Black Lives Matter protests than anti-Covid lockdown rallies.

In an interview with the Mail on Sunday (19), Braverman stood by her comments in the Times and reiterated her controversial stance that the Metropolitan Police were “letting down the British people” in the way they were handling pro-Palestinian marches.

“I was making it clear that after a month of these marches, the police needed to do better. They were letting down the British people, they were letting down the majority, they were letting down the Jewish community, and I can only conclude that the prime minister didn’t agree with that sentiment,” she said.

LEAD Suella INSET GettyImages 1783739425
Braverman had called London’s pro-Palestine rallies ‘hate marches’

“I felt there had been a lack of moral leadership over the last four weeks. We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets on a weekly basis chanting anti-Semitic slogans, celebrating terrifying acts of terrorism, threatening community cohesion and undermining British values.”

She added: “There had been tepid and timid statements from the prime minister throughout the course of this issue and I felt there was a real opportunity for the prime minister to demonstrate some moral leadership, to demonstrate that this is not what Britain stands for, that we are an inclusive, tolerant and respectful nation whereby violence on the streets of Britain is unacceptable. I felt that was wholly lacking.”

Former Tory MP Neil Parish gave an insight into the feeling of her supporters, warning the prime minster to “prepare for war” and claiming Braverman was the “standard bearer of the right of the party”.

The former home secretary unleashed a blistering attack on Sunak via a letter last Tuesday (14) that could mark the start of a campaign to replace him if, as polls predict, the Conservatives lose an election expected next year.

She accused Sunak of betraying a promise to do “whatever it takes” to stop the boats and illegal migration.

She also said Sunak broke a series of promises he made to her so she would serve under him as prime minister.

“Someone needs to be honest: your plan is not working, we have endured record election defeats, your resets have failed and we are running out of time. You need to change course urgently,” Braverman said in the letter, posted on X, formerly Twitter, referring to Tory defeats in local votes under his leadership.

Sunak became leader in October last year and re-appointed Braverman as home secretary days after she was fired by his predecessor for security breaches.

Braverman said that, in return for her support for his leadership bid, Sunak had agreed to a document with “clear terms” on policies including immigration, an agreement with the European Union on post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland and others. But he had broken her trust by “manifestly and repeatedly” failing to deliver on the promises he had made.

“Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so. Or, as I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises,” she wrote.

Braverman said Sunak had no “Plan B” if the Supreme Court’s ruling on Rwanda went against the government, which it did last Wednesday (15), and he had opted for “wishful thinking as a comfort blanket to avoid having to make hard choices”.

“This irresponsibility has wasted time and left the country in an impossible position,” she said. “I can only surmise you have no appetite for doing what is necessary, and therefore no real intention of fulfilling your pledge to the British people.”

She also criticised Sunak’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests, saying she had become hoarse in making arguments to ban the marches when his response had been “uncertain, weak and lacking in the qualities of leadership this country needs”.

“As on so many other issues, you sought to put off tough decisions in order to minimise political risk to yourself,” Braverman wrote.

A spokesperson for Sunak said in response: “The prime minister believes in actions, not words. He thanks the former home secretary for her service.”

The spokesperson added that Sunak was proud of bringing forward the “toughest legislation to tackle illegal migration this country has seen”.

David Campbell Bannerman, chair of Tory members’ group the Conservative Democratic Organisation, revealed that MPs were organising behind the scenes and “the numbers are now there” for a no-confidence vote in Sunak.

A poll by the Telegraph last Thursday (16) found that 60 per cent of people agreed with Braverman’s view Sunak lacked leadership qualities. It asked people to what extent they agreed or disagreed with Braverman’s assessment that Sunak was “uncertain, weak, and lacking in the qualities of leadership that this country needs”.

Some 34 per cent of respondents said they strongly agreed and 26 per cent said they agreed. About 21 per cent said they neither agreed nor disagreed while nine per cent disagreed and three per cent strongly disagreed.

“Polling I’ve seen says voters agreed with the things I’ve been saying about immigration, about policing and I’ve been incredibly heartened by the positive response from colleagues,” she said.

However, she played down her ambitions to be party leader, saying the only way that would happen was if the Tories lost the next general election and “no one wants to be leader of the opposition”. She insisted MPs needed to back Sunak to win the next election despite her “concerns about the direction the party is heading”.

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