And then she left. Or rather, she was sacked.
In a surprise reshuffle the day after Diwali, Indian-origin Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sacked his controversial Home Secretary Suella Braverman, also of Indian origin.
Known to be a loose cannon, Braverman, after being sacked said, “It has been the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Home Secretary," adding: “I will have more to say in due course.”
This is the second time Braverman has been forced out of the same job in little more than a year. The first was when Former PM Liz Truss, who within her 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.
Sunak was critically questioned when he brought back Braverman again within six days after she was sacked as Home Secretary. 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.
Suella Out, Cameron In
Opposition leaders were quick to respond to her sacking.
Labour’s Jess Phillips called Braverman the "worst home secretary in living memory”, adding: “Putting aside obvious ghoulish divisions, she simply didn’t understand her job.”
Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, said, “Suella Braverman was never fit to be home secretary. Rishi Sunak knew this and he still appointed her. It was the prime minister’s sheer cowardice that kept her in the job even for this long.”
The other big announcement of the day was Sunak bringing in former PM David Cameron as Foreign Secretary at a very critical time in international affairs and the ongoing battle within the Tory party.
The irony of this move is that while Braverman, who is a right-wing Tory is sacked, Cameron who is known to be a One Nation centrist figure is brought in.
The Controversial Article
It puts to question where Sunak now sits in the party. Is he a right-wing conservative economically and a conservative socially? His messaging has not been consistent. He may be seen as being good at government management by bringing a highly experienced Cameron, but will the move translate into votes at the next general election? Highly unlikely.
As for the highly divisive Braverman, often called "Cruella", her entire tenure as Home Secretary has been riddled with controversy, and the tension between her and 10 Downing Street has been palpable.
At the Conservative conference, Braverman made a notably populist speech attacking the “luxury beliefs” of liberal-leaning people and prompted a Tory London assembly member to heckle her for making his party look "transphobic”. Her speech was more a leadership play than that of as home secretary.
The tension was building. The final trigger was the unauthorised article for last Thursday’s Times, in which Braverman claimed there was "a perception that senior police officers play favourites 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.
According to procedure, the article was submitted to Downing Street, as is required for such pieces by ministers, and No 10 had sought substantial edits, but not all of these were made.
She labelled demonstrations calling for a Gaza ceasefire as "hate marches”. Then came one of London’s largest-ever protest march on Remembrance, on 11 November, Saturday, 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 the police and Labour for helping inflame tensions resulting in far-right groups battling the police near the Cenotaph.
A No-Win for Sunak
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”.
Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Braverman of sowing the “seeds of hatred”, while Labour’s London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the violence was “the direct result” of her words and behaviour.
Braverman’s insubordinate behaviour, left Sunak with no choice. Also, Wednesday will be pivotal for the government when the Supreme Court will rule whether its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda is legal.
Sunak must have found himself in a no-win situation. If he kept her in position he would be accused of being weak – in office but not in power. It could encourage other ministers to go rogue reading it as a sign that they need not be afraid of No 10, and Braverman would be seen as running the show.
Now by sacking her in a major reshuffle, Sunak can show that he is in control. But he also risks a revolt on the right with Braverman on the backbenches. Although Sunak supporters believe Braverman’s influence is exaggerated, it could be a dangerous time to risk a confrontation with the right.
On 15 November, if the Rwanda scheme does not get the green light, calls from the right will, in all likelihood, grow again, for Sunak to take UK out of the European Convention on human rights, a move Braverman had been pushing for as home secretary, but resisted by Sunak.
Now as a backbencher, Braverman could lead the call and find support among a large number of right-wing MPs who think the stop-the-boats battle cry is their best election bet.
Her persistent insubordination was already being seen as Braverman’s effort to be pushed out and actively trying to get sacked. She can now position herself for the post-defeat leadership contest as a change candidate not tainted by government decisions.
Braverman’s personal future plans risk stirring a fresh civil war within the party. It is ominous that on being sacked, she said, “I will have more to say in due course.”
This could well turn into a battle for the soul of the Conservative Party.
(Nabanita Sircar is a senior journalist based in London. She tweets at @sircarnabanita. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)