UK’s prime minister Rishi Sunak has sacked his home secretary Suella Braverman, the vicious, right wing extremist who had been pandering to the basest attitudes and Islamophobes with her comments about how being homeless was a lifestyle choice and suggested that charities be prohibited from giving them tents, and that demonstrations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were “hate marches” and made up of pro-Palestinian mobs bent on desecrating national monuments. She had already been sacked once as home secretary by Liz (“loser to a head of lettuce”) Truss, the short-lived predecessor to Sunak as prime minister, a sacking that she also seemed to have sought.
I suspect that she was actually seeking to be fired as a means of increasing her profile as a possible alternative to Sunak for the party leadership, to portray herself as a bold truth-teller that the party establishment wants to silence. For that reason, I predicted that Sunak would refrain from firing her but I was wrong. He must have felt that having her in the cabinet was a greater liability than having her outside. Her supporters within the party are already rallying around.
Shortly after Sunak sacked Braverman after accusations that her rhetoric had inflamed tensions over violent Armistice Day protests, the latest in a series of challenges to the prime minister’s authority, she said she would “have more to say in due course”.
There is widespread expectation that she will unleash another eviscerating newspaper article, positioning herself as a figurehead for right-leaning Conservative MPs.
One MP who supports Braverman said Sunak had misjudged both his MPs and voters by removing her: “Suella is popular. The political establishment might tut about her views on protests, but our constituents agree. Rishi might have created a problem for himself. She will become a rallying point.”
Supporters of Braverman expect much of this to be focused on positioning for a likely post-election leadership battle, but some believe a handful of MPs could be sufficiently disgruntled to submit no-confidence letters in Sunak.
I was also surprised that former prime minister David Cameron, who had resigned in the wake of the Brexit referendum, has returned to the government as foreign secretary. Having a former prime minister return as foreign secretary in not unprecedented (it has happened twice before) but it is unusual. Cameron had resigned from parliament in 2016 and to more easily allow him to be in the cabinet, the government fast-tracked his appointment to the House of Lords yesterday, which means that he is not in a position to pose a challenge to Sunak. But it does strengthen Braverman’s potential claim that Sunak, far from being a change candidate, is part of the old guard leadership that wanted the UK to remain part of the EU.
It looks like UK politics is entering another period of turmoil. The current parliament will end on December 17, 2024 at the latest and the election “would be expected to take place 25 days later, not counting weekends or any bank holidays that fall within this period”.