- Prime Minister Sunak fired his fellow Indian-origin cabinet member as she topped her controversial statements, including one characterizing demonstrations calling for a Gaza ceasefire as “hate marches.”
LONDON — A day after Diwali, Suella Braverman, the United Kingdom’s Home Secretary was sacked by the country’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
She’s arguably among the most controversial Indian-origin politicians in the West. She could easily put to shame the very right-wing American presidential hopefuls Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley. And she is considered even more extreme than the very hawkish former British Home Secretary, Priti Patel.
This week Braverman was forced out of her position as Home Secretary for a second time. Former Prime Minister Liz Truss, during her very brief term, ordered Braverman to resign in October last year after only weeks in the job, for sending confidential information to an MP from a private email address.
It came as a shock when Prime Minister Sunak brought back Braverman again in the same position within six days after she was sacked. Many saw it as payback for her backing him over Boris Johnson to replace Truss and keeping the right wing of the Conservative Party happy. At that time the former chairman of the Conservative Party, Jake Berry claimed Braverman as Home Secretary in the Truss government was responsible for “multiple breaches of the ministerial code.”
Braverman simply cannot seem to stay out of controversy. In her short term as Home Secretary in the Truss government her hardline approach on multiple issues, including one about Indians being the largest population overstaying their visa which is believed to have angered India and has temporarily scuppered the Free Trade Agreement with India, hit the headlines.
As the Empire-loving Tory with a dream to see a plane full of illegal immigrants being sent to Rwanda, wanting to pull the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), Braverman is facing more allegations. Allegedly, when she was Attorney General in Boris Johnson’s government, Braverman was probed by government officials in an inquiry into the leak of a sensitive story involving Britain’s security services.
Braverman’s history of controversies dates back to her university days when she was the Cambridge University Conservative Association Chair. In May 2000, she was accused of trying to buy a student’s vote when standing for the CUCA chair.
Braverman leaped to national prominence in July 2022 when she announced on a late-night political TV program her candidacy to succeed Boris Johnson (who had not by then resigned as prime minister). She immediately broke convention by refusing to resign as attorney general, an early indication of her scant respect for parliamentary convention. She was, however, quickly eliminated from the contest, but the move launched her rapid elevation with her extreme anti-immigration and pro-law and order statements.
Despite the history, Sunak, however, appointed her as Home Secretary clearly to retain the support of the right-wing of the party. At that time, a former member of the Intelligence and Security Committee warned in a tweet: “MI5 need to have confidence in the home secretary – whoever that might be. It’s a vital relationship of trust, key to the UK’s security and democratic oversight of MI5. Any breakdown in that relationship is bad for the security service and the government. It needs to be sorted ASAP.”
Her right-wing views were never hidden. As home secretary, she said, it was her “dream” and “obsession” to see a flight take asylum seekers to Rwanda which attracted severe criticism. That did not stop her from saying that floods of people who come to the UK across the Channel in small boats “possess values which are at odds with our country” and there were “heightened levels of criminality.”
During her incendiary speech at the Conservative party conference in October, she claimed: “Multi-culturalism has failed because it allowed people to come to our society and live parallel lives in it.” The irony of it all is that she is herself a multicultural immigrant of mixed ethnicity. She is the daughter of a Hindu Tamil mother from Mauritius and a Goan Christian father born in Kenya. Her parents emigrated to the UK in the 1960s. She is a Buddhist, belonging to the controversial Triratna sect, and her husband is Jewish.
Often nicknamed ‘Cruella’ her tenure as home secretary has been riddled with controversy, and the build-up of tensions between her and 10 Downing Street was becoming fast apparent.
The final nail in the coffin was the unauthorized article in The Times last Thursday, in which Braverman claimed the police were biased and that there was “a perception that senior police officers play favorites when it comes to protesters” and were tougher on right-wing extremists than pro-Palestinian “mobs.” The article also likened demonstrations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza to marches in Northern Ireland, which are mainly done by unionists and that truly angered the Irish.
She labeled demonstrations calling for a Gaza ceasefire as “hate marches.” The same weekend – Remembrance Saturday – London saw one of its largest-ever protest marches, demanding a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war. The march went off peacefully, but far-right wing counter-protestors created havoc, leading to nine police officers being injured and 145 arrests being made. Braverman was blamed by police and Labour Party for helping inflame tensions resulting in far-right groups battling police near the Cenotaph.
On Sunday, Braverman doubled down on her criticism of a huge pro-Palestinian march, even though most arrests were linked to a far-right counter-protest. She said the pro-Palestinian demonstration, which police estimated was attended by 300,000 people, had seen “sick, inflammatory and, in some cases, clearly criminal chants, placards and paraphernalia.”
Prime Minister Sunak had been protecting her up until last weekend but one can imagine he had run out of options. His tolerance of her insubordinate behavior was being seen as his weakness. If he had not sacked her she would be seen as the one running the show and Sunak’s authority would dwindle fast.
By sacking her, Sunak may look to be actually in control, but he also runs the risk of facing a right-wing civil war within the party with Braverman now in the backbenches. She has already said, “I will have more to say in due course,” and is allegedly threatening to expose the prime minister. As of now, 70% of British people think it was the right decision to sack Braverman.
So, will Sunak be able to steer the ship or will it be a battle of two Desi leaders, which could well destroy the Tory party?