JASON GROVES: Is Suella Braverman trying to goad Rishi Sunak into sacking her?
Is Suella Braverman trying to get herself sacked? On the face of it, it sounds an absurd question given how hard the 43-year-old Home Secretary has battled to climb the greasy pole.
But it is one that is being asked increasingly at Westminster in the wake of her provocative statement at the weekend that many homeless people sleeping rough in tents are doing so as a ‘lifestyle choice’.
Even some figures in No 10 are starting to wonder whether Mrs Braverman is goading Rishi Sunak to sack her in the hope that martyrdom would cement her position as the darling of the Right in a leadership contest that could come as soon as next year.
Certainly she is happy to court controversy, and can appear reckless about the risk of being sacked. While other senior ministers carefully tread the government line, she delights in making provocative comments that make Downing Street spin doctors wince.
In her party conference speech last month she warned that Britain faced a ‘hurricane’ of migrants and described the Human Rights Act as the ‘criminal rights act’. The previous month she declared that multiculturalism had failed and suggested it might be necessary to quit the UN Convention on Refugees.
Suella Braverman’s provocative statement at the weekend that many homeless people make a ‘lifestyle choice’ attracted a wave of controversy
Even some figures in No 10 are starting to wonder whether Mrs Braverman is goading Rishi Sunak (pictured) to sack her
READ MORE: RISHI SUNAK REFUSES TO BACK SUELLA BRAVERMAN OVER HER COMMENTS ABOUT THE HOMELESS
She has had public spats with liberal luvvies including Elton John and Gary Lineker. And she has gone further than any other minister in condemning the rash of pro-Palestine protests as ‘hate marches’.
Friends insist, with some justification, she is simply reflecting the views of a ‘silent majority’ who are too often ignored at Westminster.
The approach has certainly worked to boost her profile among the Tory activists who will pick the next Conservative leader. Polling by the grassroots website Conservative Home suggests her net approval rating among activists has jumped from 21.6 per cent to 43.5 per cent this month, bringing her closer to leadership rival Kemi Badenoch.
Allies of Mrs Braverman do not deny that she has (at least) one eye on a future leadership contest. But they insist claims she is trying to get sacked are wide of the mark.
Fellow Right-winger Esther McVey yesterday said that the opposite was true – and that Mrs Braverman’s headline-grabbing interventions were designed to make her unsackable.
‘It’s not a great platform to go forward to be leader having been sacked, because you get sacked because you’re not doing your job properly,’ she said. ‘If you really did want to be leader, what you’d be doing is resigning on a principle.’
Another former minister said her support in the party was so great that ‘if Rishi were to try to sack her it would end very badly for him’.
Others take a different view. Some One Nation Tories are urging the PM to use her comments on the homeless as a pretext to force her out. One accused her of ‘singlehandedly re-toxifying the Conservative Party’.
A former minister said Braverman’s support within the party was so great that ‘if Rishi were to try to sack her it would end very badly for him’
Despite it all, the Prime Minister is broadly aligned with Mrs Braverman on the key policy of stopping boats across the English Channel
The homeless row does feel different. No Tory minister is going to get sacked for picking a fight with a holier-than-thou celebrity.
But Mrs Braverman’s decision to brand homelessness a ‘lifestyle choice’ has exasperated many in No 10 and irritated fellow Cabinet ministers. The flagship Criminal Justice Bill, which was the centrepiece of the King’s Speech, has been delayed while ministers debate whether her comments have poisoned the debate to such an extent that a planned clampdown on those using tents after refusing a hostel place will have to be abandoned.
Yet, despite it all, the Prime Minister is broadly aligned with Mrs Braverman on the key policy of stopping the boats. And her outspokenness on immigration is useful at a time when arrivals have risen to record levels.
In any case, it is not clear the PM could sack his Home Secretary without causing serious ructions. So for now at least the pattern looks set to continue – she will carry on being outspoken. And other ministers will have to grin and bear it.
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