Suella Braverman is seen as a threat to ‘judicial activism’


Britain's Attorney General Suella Braverman at Downing Street on February 13. (Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)
Britain's Attorney General Suella Braverman at Downing Street on February 13. (Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP via Getty Images)

BESIDES Sajid Javid’s resignation and Rishi Sunak’s elevation, Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle witnessed another historic development: Suella Braverman was appointed the attorney general of England and Wales.

The Fareham MP became the second woman, after Baroness Scotland of Asthal in 2007, to be elevated to the post that was created in 1315.

Born to immigrant parents “who came to this country with very little”, Braverman grew up the rungs with her determination and hard work.

Her father Christie Fernandes, who has Goan roots, had come to the UK from Kenya, and her mother Uma, a nurse, from Mauritius.

Braverman, 40, who changed her surname after marriage, was state educated in Brent. She later went to an interdependent girls’ school in Harrow after winning a scholarship.

She studied law at the Queens’ College, Cambridge University, where she was elected as Conservative Association president.

After completing her master’s at the Sarbonne in Paris, Braverman cleared the Bar Exam in New York State and became an attorney.

In a decade-long practise as a barrister, she was on the Attorney General’s Treasury Panel, and represented the Home Secretary in immigration cases and the defence ministry in the Guantanamo Bay Inquiry.

Braverman grew up in a politically active environment, as her parents were local socio-political activists in Wembley.

“No problem was too small: whether it was trying to save the local library, or keep the local playing fields open or help a resident get a better home,” she recalls.

She entered Parliament in 2015. As a hardline Brexiteer, she campaigned ‘Leave’ in 2016 and chaired the European Research Group of pro-Leave Conservative MPs a year later. Later, she became a junior minister in the Department for Exiting the EU.

After the reshuffle, even before Braverman started work as attorney-general, the knives were out.

One of the primary observations regarding Braverman was her tough stance on “judicial activism”. Several analysts believe she is likely to rein in the judiciary.

A day after her appointment, a headline read: “A Collision Course With The Courts? UK Lawyers Wary of New Attorney General”

There are compelling reasons to believe so, courtesy her “outspoken views” on how the relationship between the legislature and judiciary.

In a recent blog on the Conservative Home website, she wrote about “restoring sovereignty to parliament” and retrieving “power ceded to another place—the courts”.

“Brexit has served as a flashpoint of the shrinkage of politics and the ascent of law,” she said.

“The political has been captured by the legal. Decisions of an executive, legislative and democratic nature have been assumed by our courts. Prorogation and the triggering of Article 50 were merely the latest examples of a chronic and steady encroachment by the judges.”

Braverman said there was a need to “stop this disenfranchisement of Parliament”, and termed the Human Rights Act a “catalyst” in the issue.

“Today, our courts exercise a form of political power. Questions that fell hitherto exclusively within the prerogative of elected Ministers have yielded to judicial activism,” she added.

“Judicial review has exploded since the 1960s so that even the most intricate relations between the state and individual can be questioned by judges.”

However, former attorney-general Dominic Grieve, QC, said Braverman “has completely missed the point” and warned that the government “needs to be careful over hostile against judges”.

He also pointed out that judicial review had expanded “because the powers of the government to interfere in the lives of citizens has expanded—100 years ago, people had no redress whatsoever”.

Braverman, however, claimed that she was “not lambasting the judiciary” and her views were not a “diatribe against human rights”.

She said there was no doubts over the “quality of our judges”, but I do question their trespass into inherently political terrain”.

That’s exactly what Boris Johnson wanted to hear, said analysts. The prime minister has been wanting to expedite judicial reforms, and curb legal challenges to government decisions.

Johnson apparently wants to use his Democracy and Rights Commission to stop the growing reach of judges. And Braverman seems to be the perfect ally to accomplish the mission.

Former Conservative MP and barrister Anna Soubry tweeted: “Genuine concern that as a hardline, no-deal Brexiteer with little experience [Braverman] will not undertake the important role of AG—which invariably means giving firm legal advice a Govt/PM doesn’t want to hear because it doesn’t suit them politically.”

And the Secret Barrister commented, “An entirely fitting attorney general for a Boris Johnson government.”