Why Suella Braverman accused PM Sunak of betraying nation, backtracking on secret deal
It emerged that she had ignored requests from the Prime Minister’s office to tone down and edit the article before it was published
Hell, hath no fury like a woman scorned, or in this case sacked! British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has found this adage to be so very true much to his shock and detriment.
After weeks of provocation and goading, Sunak finally sacked his Home Secretary Suella Braverman as part of his mini Cabinet reshuffle on the day after Diwali, treated by many Hindus particularly in western India as the beginning of a new year for business.
The feisty Braverman, not one to take things lying down, shot back with the most scathing departure letter written by an outgoing minister in recent history. Virtually calling Sunak weak and irresponsible, Braverman accused the prime minister of betraying the nation and backtracking on a secret deal she had struck with him.
Breaching ministerial code
The Indian-origin Sunak had been under pressure to sack Braverman ever since she wrote an article in The Times newspaper last week accusing the police of bias in favour of Left-wing protestors. Braverman had been urging the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to stop a pro-Palestine march in London scheduled for Saturday 11 November as it clashed with Armistice Day, which celebrates the end of World War I and is now marked for remembering Britain’s war dead.
Braverman, also of Indian-origin with parents from Goa and Tamil Nadu and married to a British Jew, had described the massive protests every weekend demanding a ceasefire in Israel’s bombing of Gaza as “hate marches”. When the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, stuck to his guns and refused to ban the pro-ceasefire protests arguing that they did not pose any threat to law and order, Braverman wrote a scathing article against the police.
In her article Braverman accused officers of “playing favourites” with Left-wing protesters, prompting accusations that she was undermining the operational independence of the police force of which she was directly in-charge as Home Secretary. Moreover, it emerged that she had ignored requests from the Prime Minister’s office to tone down and edit the article before it was published. By not doing so she had breached the ministerial code.
The ministerial code requires all newspaper appearances by ministers to be “agreed with the No 10 press office” but Downing Street confirmed that the final text of Braverman’s article had not been signed off by the prime minister’s team. The article not only embarrassed the prime minister but also upset the upper echelons of the British police force.
Not new to criticism
The Indian-origin Neil Basu, the former head of UK counter-terror policing and one of the most senior British police chiefs, accused Braverman of demanding “potentially the end of the operational independence of policing” and that policing “is not done on the basis of who we like”.
This is not the first time that Braverman has faced criticism from within her own party and her opponents who have consistently accused her of employing “far-right” rhetoric and lacking compassion in her comments about asylum seekers, immigrants and multiculturalism.
On this occasion too Braverman’s Islamophobic comments stoked tensions and emboldened white supremacist groups like the England Defence League (EDF) to suddenly converge in London in their hundreds for a counter-protest. The Met Police chief was proved right. While the lakhs of pro-ceasefire protestors who had come to the capital on November 11 from across the country demonstrated peacefully, it was the EDF supporters who had come looking for a fight and had scuffles with the police injuring multiple officers.
Braverman was blamed by even senior Tories for creating the law-and-order situation. “I can’t remember another occasion when very senior police officers have accused the Home Secretary of exacerbating tensions – and at such a very sensitive time,” said Lord Michael Howard, a former Conservative Home Secretary and peer. This was the last straw and Sunak was left with no option but to sack her.
Upset at the manner in which she was treated, the 43-year-old barrister launched a tirade accusing Sunak of reneging on his promises to her. During the Conservative party leadership battle in September 2022, Braverman had stepped down from the contest in favour of Sunak with the arrangement that she would be made Home Secretary if he became the prime minister. She promised to give him her crucial support if he agreed to four conditions she laid down including reducing legal and illegal migration.
Ironically, lowering immigration into the UK has been one of Braverman’s main priorities despite being the daughter of Indian immigrants herself. Official statistics have shown that Indians have been the largest group of both legal and illegal migrants into the UK, particularly in the last year. Braverman had called out Indians to be the largest nationality of visa ‘overstayers’ and so becoming illegal immigrants. As for the small boats crossing the English Channel that Braverman and Sunak are so determined to stop, Indians again have become the second largest group using that route to enter the UK.
Braverman had told the Conservative Party conference last year – her first as Home Secretary – that she ‘dreamt’ of full planes deporting immigrants taking off for Rwanda. Braverman had inherited the controversial Rwanda policy from her predecessor in the Home Office, Priti Patel, yet another daughter of Indian immigrants.
Rwanda flights deporting migrants who arrived in the UK illegally have been halted since last June when a judge from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) blocked them. Braverman attacked European judges as “politicised” and “interventionist” after they interfered with her flagship policy. Braverman claimed that legislating against the ECHR was one of the promises Sunak made to her and which he backtracked on.
The day after Braverman sent off her letter, five Supreme Court judges upheld a Court of Appeal ruling that the Rwanda policy was unlawful because of the risk that asylum seekers would be returned to their country of origin and be persecuted - a breach of their human rights.
“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 warned Sunak.
Braverman claimed she agreed to serve as Sunak’s Home Secretary only because of the secret deal, - “despite you having been rejected by a majority of party members during the leadership contest and thus having no personal mandate to be prime minister”. Downing Street did not deny the existence of the alleged agreement, though allies of Sunak demanded that Braverman publish it in writing to back up her claims. So far, she has not done so.