Discover more from The Letts Journal
Campaigning Against Your Own Government: Braverman and 'The Next One Up'.
Suella Braverman has spent the last few weeks proving she is the rightwing alternative to Rishi Sunak, is she proving she is the leadership alternative too?
UK Conservative party leadership elections seem to take place on an annual basis. Not really a good look for any party never mind the party that professes conservative ‘steady Eddy’ values. Yet, despite three leaders in three years, the Conservative Party is in the midst of a new “covert” campaign for leadership. Current leader Rishi Sunak hasn’t even run his first general election - well to be precise he hasn’t won any kind of leadership election. Even more bewildering, the not-so-covert campaign seems to be for leader of the opposition, a unique proposition for someone who’s party is currently in government.
Enter Suella Braverman, nicknamed Cruella by some for her slightly streaky white and black hair... For others it's Cruella for more sinister reasons. Anyway, enter Suella, an 8-year Conservative MP and current Home Secretary. This lady, it seems, is interested in a promotion. I guess she’s feeling she’s hit the metal ceiling with her current employer. (Don’t we all). Unlikely to get promoted to any loftier role in the current government after her stunning track record at the Home Office, it would appear she has decided to take the good old fashioned road of ‘talking the good game while polishing up the CV for the next gig’. Linkedin would be proud.
In politics this requires media, media and more media. After all those who can’t do… talk. And by talk I mean say anything to get attention (from the Tory core base). And by attention I mean whatever you bang the drums about makes a lot of noise. And boy can Suella smack a drum.
To Brexit supporters it seems Braverman is philosophical - almost prophetic. Loudly stoking positions and forcing us to question things like, should homeless people exist? and are peaceful protesters actually terrorists? Some suggest this means Suella isn’t interested in her current job. Conservative Baroness Sayeeda Warsi directly stated Suella must be “looking to get fired”. To which, I say yes… maybe, and no.
After all, as Home Secretary she gets to wax poetic on subjects like homeless people, terrorists, crime and make noise, get noticed… play the drums. All while somehow blaming everyone else for the failure - some say her failure really as Home Secretary. Straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook - which seems to imply that something civil war-like might be brewing in the Conservative Party.
We are a year at most from a general election. One might assume a party who spent more than a year and counting, a solid 20 points behind in the polls, couldn’t do much worse with someone else at the helm. Especially as that party might simultaneously be struggling to prove its entirely authentic democratic values. Could the anointed PM get tasked with taking the fall and bringing an end to 14 years of a Conservative led government?
Many are focusing on the next boss of UK Plc - by which we don’t mean the King (we don’t think…) - come 2024. While Sunak seems to be focusing on a future career of his own making. Big Tech - perhaps a la Nick Clegg for Elon? Braverman on the other hand seems to be focusing on becoming the next leader of the opposition. Which is an interesting approach for a sitting minister.
Unlike the United States, Britain doesn’t have a formalised primary system where any interested person (with money) can take a stab at becoming leader of their party. What Britain does have though, is a well established shadow campaign, a way to compete behind the current leaders back, quietly, without being too blatant about which knife they’re sharpening.
But subtle machinations isn’t necessarily Braverman’s optimal talent. Regularly the loudest member of the British government, she is the best known advocate of so many Conservative policies. For instance, the vote-winning stance of “stopping the small boats” and kicking out skiving refugees. Suella was into it before it was cool, coo-ing for years that immigrants had no place in this country. Best not to say too much about her experience for that matter.
Lately, she’s also proven just how practical she can by expounding that homeless people should just choose to have a home. I guess it's because the price of buying a home has gone down a bit recently. It appears she’s ahead of the times, literally. As Sunak shrank from putting her ‘perfect’ homelessness solution into the King’s Speech. Or maybe the new King Charles (owner of a couple of homes himself) objected to being asked to orate about such a policy in case one or more of his numerous homes get offered up as a possible solution to the crisis.
All told, she’s not the first Tory to practice the slightly dark arts of back-party scheming. The last few years have been a veritable wonderland of backstabbing party campaigning. Just two Prime Ministerial reigns ago Sunak was in a similar place to Braverman, unable to find upward mobility so deserved after the sheer genius of ‘eat out to help out’ a pandemic. Seeing his popularity rise as Dishy-Rishi in 2020-2021, Sunak was convinced he could do a job better than his esteemed party-mate, Boris Johnson.
Escaping a scandal he was implicated in with Johnson, Sunak waited until Boris managed a scandal that didn’t include him, which only took a couple months, when Boris right on cue couldn’t resist some crude remarks about a Conservative sex pest. Worse Boris was shown to have paid no heed to warnings about the man who ‘Pinches by nature’. And… name…
Sunak, like Suella, used the opportunity to get out of his legacy job. He resigned and kicked off a flurry of other resignations that would see Johnson left with the impossible choice of resigning or having to do all the work himself - which is a bit tough when you are also cosplaying as Winston Churchill.
Surely Suella won’t want to follow Rishi’s method of acquiring 10 Downing Street in a desperate attempt to salvage the government and the country - given the latter subsequently lost the party leadership vote to Liz Truss, the shortest serving Prime Minister in history and not exactly the best choice since sliced lettuce.
Better to emulate Johnson’s shadow campaign while Foreign Secretary for Theresa May. Many may have already forgotten the reign of Britain’s AI like politician, but Johnson will surely see it as his most successful piece of political machination. Although it could be he had less to do with it given we now understand that Dominic Cummings was behind everything BoJo did, until of course the adviser went for a drive to improve his eyesight.
Like Sunak and Braverman, Johnson first looked to get out of his position as a member of the government he hoped to topple. After disagreeing with May’s Brexit strategy which was somehow unpopular with Eurosceptics and pro-Europeans and pretty much everyone else in between, Johnson resigned his post, taking strong parting shots at May by suggesting she was turning Britain into a “colony”. He then privately campaigned amongst his fellow Conservative backbenches, like Braverman hopes, and became the ring leader of the Right-wing opposition flank to AI May.
Succeeding at this Johnson earned the alliance of the leader of the ERG, Jacob Rees-Mogg, a historical Conservative cosplayer of Robert Peel, in attitude and fashion, but unfortunately not in wig. He then worked to undermine May through proxies, reaching out and building connections with Donald Trump’s once chief adviser, Steve Bannon, who took numerous opportunities to float Johnson as May’s soon-to-be successor. Following this he enjoyed his favourite pastime, producing slightly odd articles for The Telegraph, itself a much celebrated conservative mouthpiece. In doing so he allowed himself to be at the forefront of the British political mind, while also continuing to criticise May’s handling of Brexit describing her Chequer’s plan as: “wrapping a suicide vest around the British constitution”. Exhausting really…
When May resigned as British PM after continued ups and downs and the lack of support for her Brexit policy, Johnson had successfully positioned himself as her undeniable successor, a right-wing firebrand who would be able to deliver on the policy May had made her priority. Hasn’t Rishi made preventing refugee migration and clamping down on public protests his priorities? Hmm, one can only hope for the sake of Britain’s sanity that no Conservative aligned newspaper picks up a recently unemployed Braverman like they did with Johnson. Do we not suffer enough hearing her poundings once a month? Imagine if she gets a weekly?
The Letts Journal is a reader-supported publication and not a Braverman weekly. Consider becoming a free or paid subscriber. You all get the same.