Suella Braverman: The rise and fall of the ex-CUCA Chairman
How did the former president of the Cambridge University Conservative Association rise through the Tory ranks to make Home Secretary, just to lose the position twice?
Since her recent dismissal from the post of Home Secretary by Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman has been a prominent figure in UK political news. Braverman has held the position of Home Secretary twice, firstly between the 6th and the 19th October 2022, and then again from the 25th October 2022 until her sacking on 13th November 2023. Having maintained a far-right position in the Conservative party, Braverman has faced her fair share of controversy.
Cambridge University and the CUCA
Braverman’s interest in politics began long before her entrance into Parliament. While reading Law at Queens’ College at the University of Cambridge, she was chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA).
Much like today, her time at Cambridge was not free from scandal. In May 2000, the 522nd issue of Cambridge’s Varsity Newspaper printed a picture of Braverman on the front page alongside the title “Conservatives in Corruption Crisis”. The article accused Braverman of rigging the elections in her bid for chairman by attempting to buy votes.
Braverman strongly denied these claims in the following week’s issue of Varsity entitled “Conservatives not in Crisis”. She argued that since she was running unopposed in the election, the accusations were “ludicrous” and came from Liberal Democratic opposition.
It seems the tendency for controversy that has characterised the rest of Braverman’s political career can be traced back to her early experiences at University.
Entrance into politics
In 2015, Braverman entered the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Fareham. In 2016, she campaigned to leave the European Union in the EU membership referendum and in 2018 was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Exiting the European Union. However, she later resigned in November 2018 in protest against the drafted Brexit deal by the May government.
In 2020, she was appointed as Attorney General for England and Wales and Advocate General for Northern Ireland. In the crises of 2022, she called for Boris Johnson to resign. Following this, she made a bid to stand for Prime Minister but was eliminated from the Conservative Party Leadership Election. Under the new Truss government, she became Home Secretary in September 2022.
A Turbulent Career
Braverman’s career has certainly not been smooth sailing. After gaining the position of Home Secretary on 6th September 2022, she left the post little more than a month later on 19th October. She was accused of breaching the Ministerial Code when she shared an official document from her personal email address.
Even though she was then reappointed a mere six days later, her career remained turbulent. Her reinstatement in the new government was widely contested by Labour Party MPs, Liberal Democrats, Scottish National MPs, and even some Conservatives. However, her position was defended by Sunak.
Her controversial political positions have been a continued source of criticism as she stands firmly on the right wing of the Conservative Party. In an interview with The Times, she supported J.K. Rowling’s widely criticised views on transgender rights, claiming that “if I get trolled and I provoke a bad response on Twitter I know I’m doing the right thing. Twitter is a sewer of left-wing bile.” She has also controversially declared herself a “child of the British Empire” arguing that “on the whole the British Empire was a force for good.”
In particular, Braverman’s hardline views on immigration have caused upset. Many find her stance particularly surprising considering her parents, Uma and Christie Fernandes, immigrated to Britain in the 1960s from Mauritius and Kenya.
Braverman’s rhetoric towards immigration has often been at the root of these issues. After her use of language such as “invasion”, “grooming gangs” and “swarms”, she was criticised by fellow MPs as well as human rights and activist groups. Joan Salter, a Holocaust survivor, told Braverman that “when I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion’ I am reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others.” In a later article for The Guardian she warned Braverman “stop your dangerous rhetoric and find other solutions, or history will not forgive you.”
Braverman is a key supporter of the Rwanda asylum plan which was announced in April 2022. The government planned to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, where they could be granted refugee status to remain there, apply to settle on other grounds or seek asylum elsewhere. No asylum seeker has been sent to Rwanda after the initial flight which was scheduled for June 2022 was cancelled due to legal opposition. Braverman described the Rwanda plan as her “dream” and “amazing.”
This month, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the Rwanda asylum policy is unlawful, due to human rights breaches. Sunak’s government remains committed to revising and reinforcing the policy.
Braverman, in her first article since losing her position as Home Secretary, criticised Sunak’s approach and described her own five-point plan to push forward the Rwanda policy. She has cited the need for new emergency legislation to prevent legal challenges.
Removal from her role
After mounting pressure to act against her, Sunak sacked Braverman last week. The removal came after Braverman wrote an opinion piece which criticised the police’s handling of pro-Palestinian protestors, blaming them for not taking hard enough action. Sunak later revealed to reporters that Braverman had not had the article approved by his office, meaning she had violated the Ministerial Code.
Days after her removal, she issued a public letter to Sunak accusing him of having “manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver” on key policies, arguing this was “a betrayal of your promise to the nation.” She criticised his “irresponsibility” which “has wasted time and left the country in an impossible position.”
However, is this not the same move that was made by Braverman after her resignation from the Truss government in 2022, when she then also became fiercely critical of Truss’s leadership? Indeed, conservative MP Philip Davies has dismissed the resignation letter as a “hissy fit”, while Lord Howard, former leader of the Conservative Party has stated that “she will be forgotten” after her dismissal.
Only time will tell what is next in the political career of the ex-CUCA chairman.
Featured Image Credits: Wikimedia via Creative Commons (Committee quizzes Suella Braverman 2022)