If you thought Boris Johnson was an awful prime minister, wait until Suella Braverman gets a crack at the top job. Now that the hapless prime minister has resigned, a contest for the next Tory leader is about to descend on us. I’m not exactly looking forward to it.
Last night, the attorney general said she would go for Number 10. "If there is a leadership contest, I will put my name into the ring," Ms Braverman told ITV’s Robert Peston.
She went on to say: "I love this country, my parents came here with absolutely nothing and it was Britain that gave them hope, security and opportunity. This country has afforded me incredible opportunities in education and in my career. I owe a debt of gratitude to this country and to serve as PM would be the greatest honour, so yes, I will try."
Her pitch almost sounds sweet and earnest. A girl from an immigrant family who has done well, proud of her country, and willing to step up and take charge. She would be Britain’s first non-white prime minister and would shatter a big glass ceiling as a non-white woman.
But make no mistake, Suella Braverman would also be hugely divisive, turbocharging Britain’s Brexit divide and our culture wars. She would be Boris Johnson on steroids, a brown, female version of Trump. And that deeply worries me.
Braverman is likely to be a strong contender. Her pitch might go something like this: "I’m the daughter of immigrants who is intensely proud of her country and deeply patriotic. I don’t just passionately believe in Brexit, but as attorney general, I worked tirelessly to ensure the law was on our side. Brexit isn’t working because Remainers have tried to thwart it, and I will ensure that doesn’t happen. Plus, I hate all this ‘woke’ nonsense and will take a strong stand against it."
Remainer Conspiracy? Tick! Get Brexit Done? Tick! Woke nonsense? Tick! Can’t accuse her of being racist? Tick! Can’t accuse those voting for her of being racist? Big tick!! If she performs well at the hustings, she could be a shoo-in. And that’s precisely what worries me.
On Brexit, Braverman isn’t just a believer but a conspiracy theorist. Last week, she told the Telegraph that Brexit wasn’t working well because some civil servants were resisting reforms as they could not imagine “life outside of the EU”. As attorney general, she has been accused of generously interpreting the law to help the Brexit agenda, rather than upholding it in a fair manner and being a constitutional check on the government, as she is supposed to.
She deemed it entirely legal to rip up the treaty that Boris Johnson had signed with the EU over Northern Ireland, to the horror of the legal profession, choosing to support her leader rather than advise him against breaking international law.
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More broadly, Braverman is adept at fighting the “culture wars”. She recently said she was proud of the British Empire “[My parents] were born under the British Empire in the 1940s, and they have nothing but good things to tell me about the mother country” – well, I guess only their experience counts.
She also told the Telegraph that the left was unpatriotic and ashamed of Britain. After four people were acquitted of taking down the statue of British slaver Robert Colston, she was accused of politically driven meddling in the case, after saying she was considering referring it to an appeal.
And remember, Suella Braverman defended Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham castle during lockdown, to apparently have his eyes checked, rather than uphold the law that her government put in place. That alone should have been a disqualifying moment.
But Braverman is a strong candidate precisely because she has taken the above stances. She knows this. The Conservative Party want a candidate unafraid to deepen the cultural divides created by Brexit, to preserve the winning coalition that Boris Johnson built. She won’t just carry the torch for Brexit, she will wage a “war on woke” while doing so. She is Boris Johnson’s natural successor, in other words. She will be our version of Trump.