Suella Braverman is making headlines yet again - this time over reports that she tried to get special treatment when she was issued with a speeding notice.
According to The Sunday Times, the Home Secretary asked civil servants to help her avoid a fine and points on her licence after she was caught speeding by requesting a private driving awareness course. It is understood that she did not want to attend a course in-person or online as she did not want her identity to be known by other motorists.
When civil servants refused the request, Braverman, who is in charge of law enforcement in the UK, continued her attempts to dodge the fine - and asked a political aide to try to persuade the course provider to agree to a one-on-one session. This request was denied too.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the news broke, Braverman denied “anything untoward” had happened however refused to say whether she asked civil servants to intervene. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has met with his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus over whether an inquiry should be launched into his Home Secretary, making the whole thing a pretty big scandal.
But Braverman is no stranger to the spotlight. The Fareham MP has long been a divisive government figure, meaning she has faced a fair few controversies in her time - from contentious remarks about refugees to having to resign from the role she was later re-appointed to over “security concerns”. So as questions about her political future continue to circulate, here are some of Braverman’s most infamous moments - plus the backlash they sparked.
Rwanda is her ‘dream’
Braverman faced criticism in October 2022 when she said it was her “dream” and “obsession” to see a flight of asylum seekers depart for Rwanda, after the first planned flight was grounded following an intervention from the European Court of Human Rights.
Speaking at a Conservative Party conference, the Home Secretary, who was serving under former Prime Minister Liz Truss at the time, said: “I would love to be here claiming victory.
“I would love to be having a front page of The Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda. That’s my dream. That’s my obsession.”
The deportation scheme has proved highly contentious since it was first introduced, with refugee charities raising concerns over whether the policy is legal - and questioning whether Rwanda is a safe place for migrants to be sent.
Rant about ‘Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’
Speaking in the House of Commons on a day that saw major traffic and delays due to Just Stop Oil members protesting on the M25, Braverman launched an extraordinary attack at opposition parties who she blamed for the disruption.
The MP said: “I’m afraid it’s the Labour Party, it’s the Lib Dems, it’s the coalition of chaos, it’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati, dare I say, the anti-growth coalition, that we have to thank for the disruption that we are seeing on our roads today.”
Labour MPs reacted with laughter to Braverman’s comment during the debate on the Public Order Bill, with the party’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper branding the comments “astonishing”. She added: “The Home Secretary actually talked about a coalition of chaos. We can see it in front of us as we speak.”
Sacked and re-appointed
19 October 2022 was a busy day for Braverman, as just hours after her comments about tofu, wokerati, and The Guardian, the MP resigned from her role as Home Secretary after admitting to a “mistake” which breached national security rules and the ministerial code.
Posting her resignation letter to former Prime Minister Liz Truss on Twitter, the Fareham MP wrote that she had “sent an official document from [her] personal email to a trusted parliamentary colleague.” She admitted: “This constitutes a technical infringement of the rules.”
Braverman added a caveat to her mistake, claiming that the documentation was due for publication “imminently”, but maintained that “nevertheless it is right for me to go.”
However, Truss then resigned herself and left Number 10, and, in a highly controversial move, new Prime Minister Sunak decided to re-appoint Braverman on 26 October 2022 - to the very role she had quit just a week prior.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems raised “national security” concerns following the re-appointment, and demanded an investigation by the Cabinet Office.
‘Inflammatory’ rhetoric about asylum seekers
Braverman wasted no time in sparking more controversy once re-appointed. In November 2022, she was accused of making “inflammatory” remarks about refugees when she referred to an “invasion” of the south coast while speaking in the House of Commons.
The Refugee Council said at the time: “To describe the serious and complex situation created by the asylum crisis as an ‘invasion’ is appalling, wrong and dangerous. These are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution, and conflict.”
Refusal to apologise to Holocaust survivor
Braverman was then confronted about this rhetoric at a constituency event in January 2023 by 83-year-old Holocaust survivor Joan Salter. In footage of the exchange provided by charity Freedom From Torture, Ms Salter said: “I am a child survivor of the Holocaust. In 1943, I was forced to flee my birthplace in Belgium and went across war-torn Europe and dangerous seas until I finally was able to come to the UK in 1947.
“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. Why do you find the need to use that kind of language?”
But while the Home Secretary said she shared “concern and sympathy” about the challenge of “illegal migration”, she refused to apologise, remarking: “I won’t apologise for the language that I’ve used to demonstrate the scale of the problem”.
This response sparked huge backlash, with social media users branding Braverman’s comments “grotesque”, “utterly shameful”, and “disgraceful”.
Illegal Migration Bill may ‘breach Human Rights Act’
The Home Secretary’s Illegal Migration Bill has been a huge topic in politics and the press over the past few months, with various experts and charities voicing concerns about the legality of the proposed new legislation, the dangers it will pose to asylum seekers, and the possibility that the UK could breach human rights law and the Refugee Convention if it pushes ahead with it.
But Braverman has not shied away from this controversy and could even be seen to be embracing it, as she openly admitted shortly after the publication of the bill in March that it may not comply with the Human Rights Act.
In a letter warning MPs, she wrote: “This does not mean the provisions in the bill are incompatible with [Refugee Convention] rights, only that there is more than 50% chance that they may not be.”
She also later said in the House of Commons that she couldn’t make a “definitive statement” on whether the bill was legally sound. She explained: “Our approach is robust and novel, which is why we can’t make a definitive statement of compatibility under the Human Rights Act.”
Email attacking civil servants
Also in March, Braverman faced fresh controversy after sending a scathing email to Conservative Party members in which she blamed “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants, and the Labour Party” for blocking previous attempts to tackle illegal migration, amid backlash over her Illegal Migration Bill.
She was accused of breaking ministerial rules by questioning the impartiality of the civil service. Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA union which represents civil servants, said: “I cannot see how the Home Secretary’s statement to Conservative Party members can be reconciled with her obligations under the code.”
Meanwhile, Downing Street claimed Braverman “did not see, sign off or sanction” the email, and that Conservative Campaign Headquarters had sent it out to Tory members in her name in error.
Jokes about Rwanda ‘interior design’
Yet another controversial comment Braverman made about the government’s divisive asylum seeker deportation scheme was when she joked about the “beautiful” interior design of the migrant accommodation in Rwanda.
While on a visit to an estate with the newly constructed homes for those who will be deported to the country in Africa from the UK, the Home Secretary said: “These houses are really beautiful, high quality, welcoming and I quite like your interior designer. I need some advice myself.”
But Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael accused Braverman of “playing politics with people’s lives” and “chasing cheap headlines”. He added: “People are losing their lives on the Channel and all Braverman has in response is foul comments about interior design. What a disgrace.”
Attempts to ‘dodge’ speeding fine
Last but not least, the speeding fine. The Sunday Times reported on Sunday (21 May) that Braverman, who is in charge of law enforcement in the UK, was first issued a speeding notice by police outside of London back when she was Attorney General in the summer of 2022.
After being given the penalty, the now Home Secretary allegedly asked Home Office staff to arrange a one-on-one speed awareness course for her. This is not allowed, and so civil servants refused the request.
But Braverman then asked a political aide to try again to convince the course operator to let her attend a private session - a request which was also denied. She therefore ended up paying a fine and accepting three points on her licence, instead of attending a course.
Speaking on Monday (22 May) in the House of Commons, Braverman directly answered a question on her speeding fine. She said: “Last summer, I was speeding. I regret that. I paid the fine and I took the points but we’re focused now on delivering for the British people and working for them.”
Pressed on the same question, she said: “In relation to the process, I’m focused on delivering for the British people, doing my job as Home Secretary. What I will say is that, in my view, I’m confident that nothing untoward has happened.”
Sunak has backed his Home Secretary, with a government spokesperson saying the Prime Minister continues to have confidence in her. But Sunak has nevertheless spoken with his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus about the scandal. Currently, it is understood that no formal inquiry has yet been launched.