In a highly controversial move, new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has decided to reappoint Suella Braverman as Home Secretary, just days after she resigned for breaching the ministerial code.
Her inclusion in the new Cabinet has caused widespread outrage amongst the public and opposition parties. In response to the reappointment, Labour has called for a full investigation into security breaches committed by Braverman, with Yvette Cooper, Shadow Home Secretary, writing to the Cabinet Secretary to “demand answers”.
The Green Party meanwhile argued that the reappointment contradicted the message Sunak presented during his first speech as Prime Minister. Caroline Lucas, party co-leader, wrote on Twitter: “Rishi Sunak at lunchtime: ‘This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level. Rishi Sunak in the afternoon: *re-appoints Suella Braverman as Home Sec, after breaching official ministerial rules & “dreaming” of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.’”
Sunak has already defended his decision. In today’s PMQs (26 October), he told Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer: “[Braverman] made an error of judgement, but she recognised that and resigned.” When Starmer pushed on whether officials had raised concerns about the choice, Sunak dodged the question - instead talking about how the new Home Secretary would be cracking down on crime and defending the country’s borders.
But why did Braverman resign from office in the first place? Here’s what happened in the lead-up to her departure - and what her return means for the government and the country.
Why did Suella Braverman resign as Home Secretary?
Braverman resigned from her role just last week after admitting to a “mistake” which breached government security rules.
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.” She then went on to talk about government accountability in words will likely be used against her given her reappointment.
The Home Secretary wrote: “The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes. Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.”
In the day after her resignation, more details about what had happened emerged. Downing Street had shared immigration proposals with Braverman, which she then attempted to email to John Hayes, a fellow member of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs. But she also accidentally sent it to a staff member of another Tory MP who shares Hayes’s surname.
Government sources explained that the email had constituted two contraventions of the Ministerial Code: sharing a statement ahead of time and by sending it from a personal account. They also said that the information in the email was deemed highly sensitive because it related to immigration rules, which could have major implications for market-sensitive growth forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
What else did the Home Secretary say in her resignation letter?
In addition to some more veiled criticisms, Braverman’s letter also openly expressed “concern” about Truss’ already-precarious government. She wrote: “I have concerns about the direction of this government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers and stopping illegal migration, particularly the dangerous small boat crossings.”
The Home Secretary also made sure to land a blow at some of her nemeses, such as Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain, by writing that the British people need “laws which serve the public good, and not the interests of selfish protesters.”
What does her return mean for the government?
Braverman already has quite the reputation, recently making headlines by attacking the “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati” as she aired her opinion on so-called ‘culture wars’.
She is also notorious for her strong views on immigration. In her short time as Home Secretary, she repeatedly expressed her unwavering support for the government’s controversial Rwanda deportation scheme - even saying it was her “dream” to see a flight of asylum seekers departing for the country.
Her return to government then raises concerns for many about the new Prime Minister’s plans for immigration. But Sunak’s allyship with Braverman is perhaps not a surprise, as during the summer leadership contest, he announced plans for an annual cap on the number of refugees the UK accepts and pledged to do “whatever it takes” to ensure the Rwanda policy was a success.
In PMQs, Sunak said Braverman’s reappointment represents a “united” party - perhaps an indication of wanting to include MPs from all wings of the party, even if most appear to come from further right. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has also defended Braverman, telling Sky News: “Suella made a mistake. She apologised for that mistake and she stood down at the time. She has shown a willingness to take responsibility for what happened."
Starmer responded to the Prime Minister’s defence of his decision by suggesting Braverman’s appointment was in exchange for her public endorsement of Sunak ahead of his election, remarking: “The Prime Minister is so weak he’s done a grubby deal and threatened national security because he was scared to lose leadership election."
Labour MP Yvette Cooper echoed these thoughts, writing on Twitter: “[Sunak] put party before country. Security is too important for this irresponsible Tory Party chaos.”