Suella Braverman has now dodged two urgent questions amid the row over her controversial reappointment as Home Secretary – just six days after she resigned/was sacked over a breach of the ministerial code. Junior minister Robert Jenrick was sent out yesterday to answer Labour’s question regarding a refugee camp in Kent.
There has been a concerted effort by the government to play down the severity of Braverman’s breach, with ministers describing it as a minor “mistake” for which she nobly “took responsibility” and fell on her sword. Unfortunately for Rishi Sunak, however, the argument over her reappearance in one of the four great offices of state seems not to be going away. Four Conservative MPs and a former Home Secretary have now publicly raised concerns, suggesting that this particular headache for the new Prime Minister is set to drag on. Crucially, the row rather directly – and embarrassingly – flies in the face of his promise to ensure integrity and professionalism in government.
Sunak has enjoyed a bounce in the polls since coming into office – narrowing the gap between Labour and the Tories by nine points (albeit to a still huge 28-point divide), according to research for The Times today. A large chunk of this movement, however, can be ascribed to the simple fact that his premiership marked the end of Truss – who was being openly and widely mocked by her opposition, the Conservatives and the press alike by the end of her 44-day tenure.
The Braverman scandal will not be the end of the Sunak administration. But, after a tumultuous period in politics characterised by a government dogged by scandals, the new Prime Minister knows that people have come to associate the Conservatives with sleaze and ineptitude – hence his pledge to bring integrity and professionalism. His first priority is re-establishing his party as the ‘sensible’ party of government, to raise the Tories’ dire poll ratings and give them a chance of winning the next general election, but the grubby deal struck with the very recently disgraced Home Secretary shows how difficult that will be. The reappointment is the result of his need to bring on board the right of his party, and gives credence to Labour’s accusation that the Prime Minister is putting party before country.
Labour groups have called for Rosie Duffield to lose the whip after the MP reportedly said at an LGB Alliance conference that she would rather be arrested than call Eddie Izzard a woman. Labour Students and Young Labour this week echoed calls from LGBT+ Labour – which also reiterated its demand first made last year – for the Canterbury MP to lose the whip. Izzard launched a bid to become Labour’s candidate for Sheffield Central constituency earlier this month, and is one of six people to have been longlisted. Local members are due to vote on who they want to represent them at the ballot box next month.
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