Saturday 12th November: London streets are lined with people. Some are remembering the violence of the Second World War, others are demanding an end to violence in the Middle East, and a loud minority are instigating violence and chaos to “defend” the cenotaph, accusing riot police of favouring the “pro-Palestinian mob”. This minority included the likes of Tommy Robinson and other radical right-wingers, chanting “England till I die”. On the previous Friday, the then Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, wrote the piece which would lead to this violence and her descent. On Friday 11th, Suella Braverman, then Home Secretary, had written a piece in The Telegraph which accused the police of “playing favourites”, which eventually led to her downfall.
Mrs Braverman has been home secretary twice in the last year, once under Mrs Truss and then under Mr Sunak (PM); within both cabinets, she was known for her right-wing, brexiteering views, specifically pioneering the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and, in recent days, suggesting that homelessness is a “lifestyle choice”, proposing that charities who provide tents to homeless people should be fined. The final blow to her time in cabinet was after she published an unapproved article written for the Times, where she claimed that Islamists were comparable to groups in Northern Ireland and that the police “play favourites”; she compared pro-Palestinian marches to ‘hate marches’, and consequently spurred on right-wing violence on Armistice day.
James Cleverly will take on Mrs Braverman’s muddy path; he faced the Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda policy last Wednesday Morning, in which it rejected Mr Sunak’s plan to “stop the boats”. He also will deal with the laws around protests, in which Downing Street wants him to increase police powers to deal with protests, to make it easier to ban marches and persecute those glorifying terrorism. Sacking Mrs Braverman is unlikely to result in any dramatic policy change within the Home Office, but the cooling down of inflammatory rhetoric from within the Cabinet will undoubtedly give the appearance of a more moderate Government. James Cleverly, whilst more restrained in his media presence than Mrs Braverman, still holds the same Brexit views, fiercely supporting the Rwanda deportation policy. Thus, although the end of Mrs Braverman pleased Conservative moderates, the right-wing Conservatives remained strong.
The Conservative party is still not unified. There is the right-wing faction who remain fervently Euro-sceptic and are proposing to leave the European Convention of Human Rights in order to push the Rwanda Policy through. This faction will grate against the recent introduction of Lord David Cameron as the foreign secretary, who swiftly abandoned post when the nation voted to leave the European Union.
But by firing Suella Braverman, has Mr Sunak lost his right-wing populist appeal with these backbenchers? Mrs Braverman became a scapegoat of sorts, in which she could say things which gained support from the party’s right, without Mr Sunak saying it himself. The Prime Minister may have pre-emptively sacrificed his scapegoat, leaving him responsible for radical elements of the party. Posted on X, she accuses the Prime Minister of betraying the nation and their agreement, calling him “weak” and “indecisive”. Thus, this further displays how the Conservative Party has become entrenched in bureaucracy, deal after deal made with every new Prime Minister and every reshuffle. The Conservative Party has become lost in its own chaos. As displayed in her letter, Mrs Braverman seems to be planning on leading the charge of right-wing MPs, distancing herself from Mr Sunak in time for the next election.
Ultimately, the Prime Minister had distanced himself from the member of his party most liable to cause media disruption. In many senses, this will help normalise the Party’s image, but also risks drawing attention to other divisions.
Image credit: UK Government via Wikimedia Commons