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The return of Suella Braverman

The return of Suella Braverman

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Suella Braverman was sacked as home secretary after breaking the ministerial code. Six days later Rishi Sunak appointed her as home secretary again. Why?

Suella Braverman has already resigned once as Home Secretary. Now she’s in danger of having to leave the same job for the second time in just under a month. 

She’s accused of making decisions that directly led to an asylum processing centre becoming overcrowded.

Conditions at the Manston site in Kent have been described as “wretched” and led to outbreaks of diseases like diphtheria, MRSA and scabies…

“People were sleeping on their rubber mats down on the floors, and then very thin blankets or mattresses. Lots and lots of people in a room. Very uncomfortable.”

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Charlie Taylor

Suella Braverman was told of the worsening situation in Manston weeks ago. In particular, she was warned that people were being detained for far longer than the legal limit of 24 hours. Some families were being kept there for a month.

When processing centres like the one in Manston reach critical capacity, it’s up to the government to sign-off on people being moved into alternative accommodation, which usually means booking hotels.

Critics say that Suella Braverman personally made the decision to block this from happening…

“The Home Secretary took the policy decision not to commission further accommodation, and it is that that has led to the crisis at Manston”

Roger Gale MP

Suella Braverman says that’s not true…

“On no occasion have I blocked the procurement of hotels or alternative accommodation to ease the pressure on Manston. I’m afraid that simply isn’t true.”

Suella Braverman

Whatever the truth, the controversy isn’t going away, and it’s not the only one.

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The second crisis facing Suella Braverman is her involvement in multiple security breaches during her first time as Home Secretary. 

She shared sensitive government documents from her personal email address with backbench MP Sir John Hayes. 

That’s against the rules that govern ministers… which was why she was sacked as Home Secretary in mid-October. 

But  six days later Rishi Sunak reappointed Suella Braverman back into the role of Home Secretary.

“The Home Secretary made an error of judgement but she recognised her mistake and took accountability for her actions.”

Rishi Sunak

His decision to bring her back so soon tells us a lot about Rishi Sunak’s government and the Conservative Party that he leads.

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Suella Braverman was first elected as MP for Fareham in Hampshire in 2015. 

Although not a household name, she quickly became a darling among right wingers within the Conservative Party and led the influential European Research Group, known as the ERG.

At its height, the ERG had about 80 MPs in its ranks and was described as the most powerful group in Westminster. It even runs its own whipping operation and was instrumental in bringing down Theresa May. However they’re not the only important faction…

“The second group that backs Suella Braverman is the Common Sense Group, which was founded in 2020 and is headed by Sir John Hayes, the backbench MP that she shared the documents with. This group focuses more on anti-woke policies, uh, as a slight distinction from the ERG.”

Cat Neilan

Cat Neilan is Tortoise’s political editor…

“The third caucus that seems to back Suella Braverman is the Conservative way forward, which is a kind of low tax that your right wing, and again, this has a lot of overlap in its membership with both the other two groups. And with the other two groups, Suella Braverman was said to be their preferred leadership candidate. There is a suggestion that beyond perhaps Steve Baker and John Hayes and maybe another dozen or so MP’s Suella Braverman’s influence is actually quite limited.”

Cat Neilan

Her decision to back Rishi Sunak over Boris Johnson in the most recent leadership election helped him win.

As soon as he became prime minister he told Tory MPs they must “unite or die”, which was a nod to just how divided the party is.

Appointing her to his government helps keep all the groups she represents onside… and it’s been suggested that making her Home Secretary was one of her conditions for backing him. Sacking her now would create a lot of powerful enemies for the prime minister.

But many are now asking whether her reappointment was a tactical error by Rishi Sunak.

Cat Neilan: “What this all comes down to really, is that the Tory party is an unhappy place to be in at the minute after 12 years of rule, there are wildly differing views on what that rule should look like. They’re just fighting like rats in a sack. Even before Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, there was some scepticism about his ability to exercise political judgement.

Boris Johnson, for all of his many faults, was seen as an eminent political being. Rishi Sunak is the sort of polar opposite, hard working, but doesn’t really get the political dimension to things in this situation. It seems as though Rishi Sunak may have overstated Suella Braverman’s value to him and  perhaps the threat to him as well.

And as one former minister said to me earlier this week, he is now paying the price for his cowardice and poor judgement in his rush to enter Downing Street.”

Commentators now say it’s unlikely that Suella Braverman will be able to cling on until Christmas. But will she go of her own accord or be pushed out?


This episode was written and mixed by Rebecca Moore.


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