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by Louise Wilson
06 November 2022
Sketch: Suella Braverman defends the government from her broomstick

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Suella Braverman defends the government from her broomstick

All in red for Halloween, Suella Braverman finally resurfaced from the dungeons of the Home Office. Whether she was hiding or whether she was put there by Rishi Sunak in an attempt to save him from any further embarrassment is unclear.

Flying in on her broomstick, she slammed the “political witch hunt” against her. She had already taken responsibility for breaking the ministerial code by resigning, she insisted. Those were a hard six days, involving a lot of soul searching (very difficult to do when you don’t have one) and bargaining with the devil (how else do you explain her return to a great office of state?).

Now, pulled to the chamber by a summoning spell – no, sorry, a crisis at an immigration centre, Braverman is backed by, well, no one. The frontbench behind her is emptier than a haunted house. Her colleagues know a dead woman walking.

MPs were pleased to see her though, eyeing her up as a tasty sacrificial lamb before the real blood sport of getting Sunak out of Downing Street begins. Labour’s Yvette Cooper made a solid attempt to get answers on Braverman breaching security protocols. Leaky Sue accepted it was an “error of judgement” – but she “took responsibility for it” by resigning. Yet despite that resignation, here she was, days later, back at the dispatch box speaking on behalf of the government, like a recurring nightmare. ‘Take back control’ was the mantra of the European Research Group to which she belonged; little did we know that meant taking back control of former offices, regardless of rule breaking.

Knowing the excuse would not silence Cooper and other critics, though, Braverman went on the attack. Her party was the only one serious about “stopping the invasion on our southern coast”. Well, indeed. It’s the only party to know about an “invasion” on the southern coast. Indeed, if the UK was being invaded, Cooper and other MPs would probably not be in the chamber asking about the processing of refugees.

Though actually, Leaky Sue would almost definitely be out of the job if there was a real risk of invasion. Loose lips sink ships, after all. But then again, maybe that’s what she is hoping for. It’s her dream to send desperate asylum seekers off to Rwanda, but she’d settle for fewer dinghies arriving on the shores of Kent.

The SNP’s Stuart McDonald had a go at getting the home secretary to be honest about her use of private email. “She has said that no documents were top secret, but how many were marked official and sensitive?” he asked.

There was no answer. Instead Braverman said she would not apologise for “things that I have not done”, though no one was asking her to do so. Many of the allegations made about her actions were “wrong, wrong, wrong,” she insisted, knowing that chanting something three times makes it a spell, but unfortunately her witchcraft skills aren’t powerful enough to silence MPs. Instead, the deputy speaker felt she had to intervene. “Does the House want to hear what the home secretary has to say?” she said. No, not particularly. They want her to resign. And for it to stick this time.

“There are some people who would prefer to be rid of me,” acknowledged Braverman. “Yes,” came the reply from the benches. “Let them try,” she challenged, waving a red flag to the bullish eyes of the opposition. Those might be famous last words…

But the Tories in the room kept trying to help the home secretary, offering up softball questions. Only, they can’t seem to make up their minds about whether the French are at fault here or not. Are they a friend or a foe? No wonder Liz Truss was confused.

One backbench Tory warned: “We cannot keep paying millions of pounds to the French but seeing ever-increasing numbers of illegal arrivals.” That really is magic.

But then a colleague later praised the “UK-French joint alliance”, and asked: “What are her thoughts on doubling those resources and finally eliminating these dangerous crossings?”

For her part, it’s Albanians who have really got the home secretary’s goat. “Albania is not a war-torn country, and it is very difficult to see how claims for asylum really can be legitimate claims.” Yet Home Office figures show half of people coming from Albania who claim asylum in the UK are granted it, suggesting many of them do have a “legitimate claim”. But then, when has this government ever let facts get in the way of a good story?

And when challenged by a Labour MP about the conditions at detention centres, Braverman suggested members should not use such “inflammatory language”. “People are being fed, clothed and sheltered.” Those lucky, lucky refugees. And as for reports of diphtheria? Don’t worry about that, it was only a “very small number”, she muttered while stirring her big black pot…

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