“It’s a stroke of luck to be born British,” said Suella Braverman in his first speechdelivered on June 1, 2015.
This sentiment was expressed in more memorable language by Cecil Rhodes: “Remember that you are an Englishman, and have therefore won first prize in the lottery of life.”
Interviewed in May this year by Paul Goodman and myself for ConHome, Braverman said:
“My background is one that is fiercely proud of Britain, of Britain’s history, of Britain’s welcome. My parents were born under the British Empire. They came to this country with a huge fondness for the British Empire.
“What Britain brought to their countries, Mauritius, Kenya and India where we have our roots, was remarkable. And I am very saddened by this apology and this shame, promulgated by the left and started by the collective guilt that began under Tony Blair, which permeates our society.
Her parents’ pride in the British Empire is something that makes Braverman herself, and a number of other Cabinet ministers with family backgrounds in the empire, incomprehensible to anyone in this country who, without know much about him in most cases see the past imperial empire as a subject of automatic shame, apology and guilt.
Britain was seen by many immigrants, including Braverman’s parents, as a land of opportunity, a wonderful and in many ways familiar place where they and their children could better themselves by working hard, taking the education seriously and by obeying the rules.
Because Britain was synonymous with the rule of law. Parliament, it was generally accepted, made the laws, and an incorruptible judiciary enforced them.
Braverman, who became interior minister on Sept. 6, cannot be understood without bearing in mind that deep, intolerably old-fashioned, progressive-eyed patriotism that makes her sympathetic to national rather than universal ways.
The government is torn by deep disagreement over immigration, itself an aspect of the growth agenda which, since Kwasi Kwarteng’s statement last Friday, has caused a spectacular stir.
On one side are the Prime Minister and the Treasury, who have long argued that immigration is good for growth.
On the other, Braverman, Kemi Badenoch and Jacob Rees-Mogg, who are on the right of the party, put Truss at the head of the party and expect the commitment of the 2019 manifesto to be based on “far fewer migrants low-skilled” and ensure that “global downward migration” is honoured.
Truss will have to give those supporters something, and must also guard against a resurgence of Nigel Farage, Richard Tice or some such new leader – a danger currently overshadowed by Labour’s rise in the polls.
Will Tanner, who worked for Theresa May and Nick Timothy when they tried to restrict immigration, fired a warning shot at Liz Truss on Tuesday this week on ConHome to loosen immigration rules.
Alp Mehmet wrote on this site yesterday that the “Treasury orthodoxy” that low-wage immigrants boost growth “is about to triumph once again, and to hell with the consequences”.
For Braverman, and other conservatives like her, this is not just a debate about the economy, but about what kind of country it is.
The debate on illegal immigration – the Channel boats – acutely raises the question of who makes our laws. In a incisive speech at Policy Exchange on August 10, repeated in abbreviated form on ConHome, Braverman, then still the attorney general, said:
“Conservatism holds that human rights are ‘inherited’ as opposed to ‘natural’, and tradition is the tool to anchor the abstract in the concrete.
“This philosophy is encapsulated in the most fundamental principle of our Constitution: parliamentary sovereignty. It is a principle of constitutional law and political fact which, linked to democracy, enables the British people to participate fully and directly in their own government.
She said the European Court of Human Rights, whose mandate was originally limited to recognizing rights that Britons had long enjoyed and were good at enforcing, was now acting “to thwart certain aspects of our policy internal affairs in terms of illegal migration”. and clarified that for her, it was an intolerable situation.
We should be able, if we wish, to send illegal migrants to Rwanda, and the discussion on whether this is the right thing to do or not should take place in our parliament. In a recent piece for The House magazineBraverman said:
“Leaving the ECHR is the only solution that solves the problem and is fully in line with international law. This puts us in good company – with Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The focus on illegal migration has to some extent distracted from the very high level of legal migration, which Braverman is determined, in line with the manifesto pledge, to reduce.
She believes we should be training and equipping British workers, not undermining them by importing cheap labor from abroad. To this end, it would like to restrict almost all immigration.
As one of Braverman’s closest political friends told ConHome yesterday:
“She sees immigration not only as an economic issue, but also as a social and cultural issue. She appreciates that immigration is clearly linked to population growth, and therefore to pressure on infrastructure, housing and quality of life.
“She is a genuine conservative who understands the crucial importance of social cohesion and social solidarity.”
Braverman’s boldness can be attributed to the lack of doubt she feels about the advantages of being British. Not for her the feeling, evident since the French Revolution in fashionable circles this side of the Channel, that the way things are done on the Continent must be superior to the way they are done here.
This sense of inferiority made it easy to abandon British methods of defending freedom and replace them with the supposedly superior methods employed in Brussels and Strasbourg.
Brexit was the great counterattack to this way of thinking, and Braverman was a staunch supporter of Brexit, chairing the European Research Group from June 2017 until January 2018, when Theresa May appointed her Under Secretary of parliamentary state on leaving the European Union.
In November 2018, Braverman resigned from government in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol, after which she voted against May’s Brexit deal three times.
She returned to government in February 2020, when Boris Johnson appointed his attorney general to replace Geoffrey Cox. In this role, she refused to go with the progressive tide, for example asking the Court of Appeals to clarify the law after the Colston statue case was in favor of the defendants, with the judge ordering the jury to determine whether a conviction would be compatible with the exercise by the defendants of their fundamental rights.
The Court of Appeal has just ruled in favor of the Attorney General at the time.
So, at 42, the new Home Secretary can be forgiven for thinking it is more than possible to push back against the Blairite doctrine that universal human rights trump other considerations – a doctrine in favor of unrestricted immigration.
When she ran for the party leadership this summer, Braverman’s parliamentary supporters included David Jones, Sir John Hayes, Steve Baker, Miriam Cates, Sir Bernard Jenkin and Danny Kruger.
Once Braverman was knocked out, in the second round, she and most of her supporters moved on to Truss, the eventual winner.
In his first speech after her election in 2015 as MP for Fareham, already quoted at the beginning of this profile, Braverman spoke about her family history:
“On a cold February morning in 1968, a young man, not yet 21, stepped off a plane at Heathrow Airport, nervously folding up his one-way ticket from Kenya.
“He had no family or friends and only held onto his most prized possession, his British passport. His homeland was in political turmoil. Kenya had deported him because he was British. never came back.
“He made his life here in Britain, starting in the workshop of a paint factory. My mother, recruited by the NHS in Mauritius when she was only 18, spent her 45th year service last year.
“My family had nothing but hopes and dedication. They were so proud to be British and so proud to make our country even better.
“If I manage to make a small contribution during my time here, it will reflect only a fraction of my gratitude to this country for the abundance of education, culture and traditions that have made Great Britain great. Britain, for the tolerance and brotherhood of the British people, and for the opportunity and freedom we all enjoy.
It is hard to imagine an MP whose family has lived for many generations in Britain speaking in those terms.
Braverman’s mother, Uma Fernandes, served 16 years as a Conservative councilor in Brent, where Peter Golds, also a Conservative councilor there, recalled in an interview with ConHome giving Suella Fernandes, as she l It was then, his first canvassing lessons.
She went to a state primary school, after which her parents sent her to Heathwood Independent School in Pinner.
Her life changed, she said, when she got 13 A*s in her GCSEs and realized she could go far. She studied law at Cambridge and the Sorbonne and became a lawyer.
In 2005 she challenged Leicester East, then firmly in the hands of Keith Vaz, and in 2012 ran for London Assembly but was unsuccessful.
After her election in 2015 for Fareham, between Southampton and Portsmouth, she wrote a letter of thanks to Peter Golds:
“I will always remember you were the first person to take me canvassing in Brent North, a stronghold of Sir Rhodes Boyson, and teach me how to do it!”
Braverman showed, in addition to his boldness, the humility to learn from and be mentored by various conservative politicians.
In 2018, she married Rael Braverman, with whom she has since had two children, taking maternity leave from the role of attorney general after the second was born.
And now she is Home Secretary, not at the moment the most exposed post in government, but certainly one where her cutting ideas about what it means to be British could have wide consequences.