Suella Braverman's most controversial moments as Rishi Sunak urged to sack Home Secretary after comments made about police 'favourites'

Friday 10 November 2023

Suella Braverman has been no stranger to controversy in her time as a minister, with the Home Secretary once again facing calls for her dismissal over comments about the police.

Opponents of Ms Braverman have consistently accused her of employing “far-right” rhetoric and lacking “compassion” in her comments about asylum seekers, immigrants and multiculturalism.

She was also effectively sacked by Liz Truss over security concerns, before being brought back into government a week later by Rishi Sunak.

Here are some of the major controversies from Ms Braverman’s time in office.

The Internal Market Bill, October 2020

As attorney general, Ms Braverman drew criticism from the legal profession for backing the Internal Market Bill, which was described as breaking international law in a “limited and specific way”.

Senior barristers particularly questioned her decision to seek advice on the Bill from three Brexit-supporting lawyers, including a junior barrister who had worked for the Vote Leave campaign, rather than the Government’s usual panel of legal advisers or the Treasury’s most senior lawyer.

Ms Braverman remained a staunch supporter of the Bill, leading to accusations that she had sacrificed the UK’s reputation and put the Good Friday Agreement at risk.

Rwanda “dream”, October 2022

Ms Braverman has been a major proponent of the Government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda if they cross the Channel in small boats.

The policy itself has attracted widespread condemnation from human rights groups, with Ms Braverman herself criticised after telling an event at the 2022 Tory conference that it was her “dream” to deport people to Rwanda.

India trade deal, October 2022

A major trade deal between the UK and India was reported to have been “on the verge of collapse” after Ms Braverman expressed “reservations” about the possibility of allowing more immigration from India and said there was a problem with Indian citizens overstaying visas.

A Government spokesperson said the UK and India enjoyed a close and positive relationship.

Security breach, October 2022

Ms Braverman was effectively sacked as Home Secretary towards the end of Liz Truss’s premiership after it emerged she had leaked confidential Cabinet papers to right-wing backbencher Sir John Hayes.

A subsequent investigation found she had sent confidential documents to her personal email address on a number of occasions as Home Secretary, in addition to leaking a draft ministerial statement to Sir John.

Her return to government days later, when she was reappointed by Rishi Sunak, reignited the row but Ms Braverman survived.

Migrant “invasion”, October 2022

Shortly after her return to government, Ms Braverman again courted controversy by describing the arrival of asylum seekers on the south coast as an “invasion”.

Her comments came days after a man threw firebombs at a migrant processing centre in Kent, and migrant support groups likened her words to language used by far-right figures.

She was subsequently confronted over her comments by Holocaust survivor Joan Salter, but Ms Braverman said she would not apologise “for the language that I have used to demonstrate the scale of the problem”.

Grooming gangs article, April 2023

In a comment piece in the Daily Mail, Ms Braverman claimed child grooming gangs in the UK were “almost all British-Pakistani”.

Muslim groups, medical bodies and others accused her of “amplifying far-right narratives” about British-Pakistani men, but Ms Braverman stood by her comments in a follow-up article for The Spectator.

In October, press regulator IPSO found that the claim had been “significantly misleading” as the Home Office’s own research had concluded that offenders were mostly from white backgrounds.

Driving awareness course, May 2023

Rishi Sunak faced calls to launch an inquiry into Ms Braverman over claims she breached the ministerial code by asking civil servants to arrange a private driving awareness course for her after she was caught speeding in 2022.

Mr Sunak decided not to launch an investigation, after consulting with his ethics adviser, concluding that Ms Braverman’s actions did not amount to a breach of the code even if “a better course of action could have been taken to avoid giving rise to the perception of impropriety”.

Asylum seekers “pretending to be gay”, September 2023

Ms Braverman drew outrage from LGBT groups after claiming there were “many instances” where asylum seekers had pretended to be homosexual or transgender to “game the system” and get “special treatment”.

She also said being a victim of discrimination on LGBT grounds should not be enough to qualify for asylum.

Human rights activists and prominent figures spoke out against her comments, with Sir Elton John saying Ms Braverman risked “further legitimising hate and violence” against LGBT people.

Multiculturalism a “failure”, September 2023

In a speech on migration in the United States, Ms Braverman said multiculturalism in the UK had “failed” and threatened security.

Mr Sunak subsequently distanced himself from her comments, which some commentators regarded as part of a pitch for the Conservative leadership should the Prime Minister lead his party to defeat at the next election.

Homelessness a “lifestyle choice”, November 2023

Homelessness charities criticised Ms Braverman for reported plans to prevent them from giving tents to rough sleepers and claiming homelessness was a “lifestyle choice”.

The proposals did not appear in Tuesday’s King’s Speech, but the Prime Minister has not ruled out including them in a wider Criminal Justice Bill.

Police “playing favourites”, November 2023

Amid multiple pro-Palestinian marches in the UK and concern about the use of antisemitic language, Ms Braverman accused the police of “playing favourites” by tolerating the demonstrations while using stronger tactics against right-wing protests.

Downing Street said it had not approved the comments, which were described by some as “divisive” and “inflammatory” and led to renewed calls for the Home Secretary to be dismissed.