wIt’s well past the point where we have to question what Suella Braverman really has in Rishi Sunak. Did he get hold of a recording of a phone call in which Dominic Raab thanked the prime minister for accompanying him on one of his regular nighttime killing sprees? Did he get a video of Rish! telling Goldman Sachs clients how to avoid paying taxes? Or is there CCTV footage of Sunak snorting coke and leading an Abba party during the lockdown? Whatever it is, it must be a kompromat type of weapon.
This is the only thing that makes sense. Why is he still at his job? After all, why was he made home secretary in the first place? When Rish! He got the top job he made a point of saying that he would be different than before. He will govern with “integrity, professionalism and accountability”. So what was the first thing he did? Suella will be appointed to one of the four major state offices just six days after he was fired for violating the ministerial code by leaking government policy through his private email.
Since then, Braverman has done his best to live up to his reputation for unreliability and incompetence. She is – by far – one of the dumbest home secretaries we’ve had in years. Which is saying something. I think Sunak has learned to live with the violation of international law on the small boats policy and the casual racism of suggesting that all grooming gangs are Asian. After all, he is “far from right-wing curiosity”. He gets an alternate, sexual excitement because of Suella’s bigotry and hatred. He made me feel even a little bigger. But the thing is, he’s all mouth. He did nothing. Immigration rose to record levels on his watch.
Now we come to Suella’s latest indiscretion. Just a moment. Someone who is dark and that arrogant will have to have sex again soon. Caught speeding – it’s become a Home Office habit: Robert Jenrick serves six-month ban – Braverman tries to get his civil servants to do his own private speed-awareness course that no one knows. about. And his special counsel then lied to the press about it four times. His civil servants were more concerned about the ministerial code than he was. They told him where to get off and reported him to their bosses.
And yet Sunak did nothing. Although many senior civil servants, including Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, noted that Suella’s actions were a clear violation of the ministerial code – a mix of the personal and the public – Rish! delayed and delayed. Says he wants to make himself available to more information.
Like what, for example? Does he think that if he’s only 5mph over the speed limit, then the offense doesn’t count at all? Or that all civil servants have lawyer Nick “Mr Loophole” Freeman on speed dial? He couldn’t even bring himself to ask his own ethics counselor, Laurie Magnus, to pose his own question. Once he finishes what is already clear to everyone.
This is perhaps not the most serious breach of the ministerial code. Certainly not by Braverman’s usual gung-ho standards. But he still cracked the code. Integrity, professionalism and accountability. Just words. The same old stuff from a tired administration that doesn’t even recognize how it managed to screw itself up.
Usually, Suella tries to get rid of his vanity and guilt by going to the ground. Hiding from the public. Not a good look. On Monday, this was not an option and he had an afternoon appointment in the Commons with Home Office questions. Something he couldn’t avoid.
So he chose to break the ice with a quick, 90-second pooled TV clip. He gave people their priorities, he insisted. He is not at all. Just wait until he sees Thursday’s immigration numbers. And he is convinced that “nothing bad” happened. Really? Then why did he keep it quiet? Even the grumpy “Honest Bob” Jenrick is upset. Do the crime, do the time. And if there is nothing to hide, then welcome to a question. Take it.
There was much of the same in the Commons later in the afternoon. Starting with Tory Paul Howell praising him for “driving” the anti-social behavior initiative. She blushed when she realized she could have chosen better words. Then Labor got stuck. Emma Lewell-Buck, Sarah Jones and Yvette Cooper all asked the same question. Speeding is a serious offence. A major cause of death. It doesn’t matter. So what instructions did Braverman give to his civil servants in an attempt to get his own customized punishments?
By now, Suella is starting to sound like a broken record. Like a diehard recidivist who says “no comment” in a police interview when everyone knows he’s guilty. “I’m sorry for rushing,” he muttered, refusing to look anyone in the eye. “But I took the points, so I didn’t try to avoid a penalty.” Which is not true at all. A crash course in knowledge is not a negotiation. Part of the punishment is taking it with other people so you can learn from their mistakes. This was not the special service Braverman was trying to organize for himself. The secretary of the home is very much on the side of the people.
It is also noticeable that Suella, several times, refused to answer the central point: what he did and did not tell the civilian servants. He couldn’t have looked more shifty if he tried. The lack of engagement with reality is almost pathological. He ends each outburst with a word salad about how all the other smears get in the way of how he delivers for the crowd. It’s amazing how often these smears happen when he’s the one breaking the rules.
Before the end of the session, Sunak appeared ready to make his statement to the G7 in Japan. He gave Braverman a tentative tap on the shoulder, but then tried to put some distance between them. An awkward encounter. Rish! seems confused. Like he knew he had to do something but was too scared. He can’t even stop his opponent from making leadership speeches at fringe Conservative conferences. All he can manage is less than full support.
Sooner or later – maybe even tomorrow – he’s going to have to grow some. Otherwise, he will just be broken. More jetsam from the sunken Tory boat.