Braverman accuses ‘weak’ Sunak of betrayal as Tories ‘running out of time’
Suella Braverman accused Rishi Sunak of being “uncertain, weak and lacking in the qualities of leadership that this country needs” as she said the Tories are running out of time and urgently need to change course.
The former home secretary, who was sacked by the Prime Minister on Monday, issued a rallying cry to the party’s right with a call for an “authentic conservative agenda” as she aimed a broadside at the Tory leader.
Mrs Braverman, who claimed her support was “pivotal” for a Prime Minister with “no personal mandate”, accused Mr Sunak of betraying the country over key policy promises.
In an incendiary resignation letter, Mrs Braverman:
– Said Mr Sunak has “manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver” on key pledges;
– Claimed he has relied on “magical thinking” rather than being prepared to do “whatever it takes” to stop small boat crossings of the English Channel; and
– Told Mr Sunak “we have endured record election defeats” and “your resets have failed and we are running out of time”.
Mr Sunak sacked Mrs Braverman over the phone on Monday morning, clearing the way for a reshuffle which saw former prime minister David Cameron brought back into government as Foreign Secretary.
Mrs Braverman said being fired was “disappointing” but “for the best” as she aimed a series of blows at Mr Sunak.
The nail in her ministerial coffin may have been an unauthorised article for The Times in which she accused police of “double standards” because of the way pro-Palestinian “mobs” have been handled.
She said she pushed Mr Sunak to legislate to “ban the hate marches” as “Britain is at a turning point in our history and faces a threat of radicalisation and extremism in a way not seen for 20 years”.
But she told him: “I regret to say that your response has been uncertain, weak and lacking in the qualities of leadership that this country needs.”
Mr Sunak became Tory leader in the aftermath of Liz Truss’s disastrous and short-lived tenure without facing a vote of party members.
Mrs Braverman indicated she did a deal with him to secure her support in October 2022 – which she claimed he reneged on.
She said Mr Sunak was “rejected by a majority of party members” in the contest with Ms Truss but during his second campaign “it is generally agreed that my support was a pivotal factor” in him being installed as Tory leader and Prime Minister.
She agreed to back him because of “firm assurances” on cutting legal migration, inserting measures to override the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Human Rights Act on legislation to stop the boats, support for key pieces of Brexit legislation and the promise of “unequivocal” guidance to schools on protecting biological sex and safeguarding single-sex spaces.
“You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver on every single one of these key policies,” she said, adding: “I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises.”
Mrs Braverman, who backs leaving the ECHR, said that given his opposition to quitting the convention, Mr Sunak should have been prepared to “block off” the risk of human rights challenges to measures to curb migrant crossings.
“Your rejection of this path was not merely a betrayal of our agreement, but a betrayal of your promise to the nation that you would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the boats,” she said.
Ahead of Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Rwanda migration plan, Mrs Braverman accused Mr Sunak of “magical thinking – believing that you can will your way through this without upsetting polite opinion” and of failing to prepare a plan B should the justices rule against the Government.
But even if the Government succeeds and the Rwanda plan is backed, Mrs Braverman said the “compromises” made by Mr Sunak over the small boats measures will mean a “struggle to deliver” it in the way the public expects.
With a general election expected next year, Mrs Braverman told Mr Sunak: “Someone needs to be honest: your plan is not working, we have endured record election defeats, your resets have failed and we are running out of time. You need to change course urgently.”
In a sign she will champion causes cherished by the party’s right – and with a possible view to her own leadership ambitions – she said: “I will, of course, continue to support the Government in pursuit of policies which align with an authentic conservative agenda.”
A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister believes in actions not words.
“He is proud that this government has brought forward the toughest legislation to tackle illegal migration this country has seen and has subsequently reduced the number of boat crossings by a third this year. And whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court tomorrow, he will continue that work.
“The PM thanks the former home secretary for her service.”
Mr Sunak was already facing anger from the right of the Tory party.
Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, who co-chair the New Conservatives grouping of MPs, stressed their support for Mr Sunak but expressed deep disappointment that Downing Street has decided to give up on the voters Boris Johnson won over in the 2019 general election.
They said: “Until yesterday, we held on to the hope that the Government still believed in the realignment – that they would work to rebalance our economy, reorient our foreign policy, radically reduce migration and restore common sense in our schools and universities. That hope – the project of the realignment – has now dwindled.
“In political terms, it appears the leadership has decided to abandon the voters who switched to us last time, sacrificing the seats we won from Labour in 2019 in the hope of shoring up support elsewhere.”
Mr Sunak held his first post-reshuffle Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning, hailing his “strong and united team”.
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