Suella Braverman rails against ‘experts and elites’ in partisan speech

Home secretary attacks ‘radical left’ and identity politics and warns against ‘fratricide’ on right

Suella Braverman has railed against “experts and elites” and what she called the divisive politics of identity, in a highly partisan speech that is likely to be viewed as setting out ideas for a post-election Conservative leadership bid.

Addressing the National Conservatism conference in Westminster, the home secretary made comments trailed in advance about the need for the UK to cut back on legal migration and train domestic workers for jobs such as fruit picking.

The speech, which was interrupted by two Extinction Rebellion protesters who were marched from the hall, otherwise largely steered clear of specific policy areas.

Instead, Braverman set out a highly personal blueprint for a political philosophy to take on the “radical left”, including the Labour party.

Braverman argued that conservatism “has no truck with political correctness”, in a section of the speech that squarely addressed culture war issues.

“The ethnicity of grooming gang perpetrators is the sort of fact that has become unfashionable in some quarters,” she said. “Much like the fact that 100% of women do not have a penis. It is absurd that we find ourselves in a situation where this a remotely controversial statement.”

In one of a series of attacks on Keir Starmer, Braverman said that “given his definition of a woman, we can’t rule him out from running to be Labour’s first female prime minister”.

On a similar theme, Braverman said those on the left “are ashamed of our history and embarrassed by the sentiments and desires expressed by the British public”.

She said: “I think the left can only sell its vision for the future by making people feel terrible about our past. White people do not exist in a special state of sin or collective guilt. Nobody should be blamed for things that happened before they were born. The defining feature of this country’s relationship with slavery is not that we practised it, but that we led the way in abolishing it.”

Beginning with a description of her father’s arrival from Kenya in 1968, and her mother’s move from Mauritius to train as a nurse, Braverman said her politics, like that of her parents, was “a politics of optimism, pride, national unity, aspiration, and realism”.

She continued: “The left’s is a politics of pessimism, guilt, national division, resentment and utopianism. The left on the other hand sees the purpose of politics as to eradicate the existence of inequality, even if that comes at the expense of individual liberty and human flourishing.”

Attacking identity politics, Braverman said it was “the politics of grievance and division – it is illiberal and incompatible with social cohesion.”

In apparent criticism of academics and other advisers, Braverman said Conservatives should be “sceptical of self-appointed gurus, experts and elites who think they know best what is in the public’s interest, even when that public is quite certain that they need something different from what those experts are proposing.”

She added: “Common sense and a shared understanding of who we are and what really matters in life have vastly more to recommend themselves than does anything that emanates from an ivory tower.”

Braverman warned against the UK descending into a US-style culture war that pitted various elements of the right against each other.

“I suspect the form it takes in the UK will naturally differ in some ways to the form it’s taken in the US,” she said. “But having observed events in the US in recent years, I do want to sound a note of caution. One way that we Conservatives must distinguish ourselves from the left is by not devouring ourselves through fratricide.”


Peter Walker Deputy political editor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Suella Braverman calls for ‘further action’ against pro-Palestine marches
Home secretary’s rhetoric is dividing Conservative MPs, who are frustrated that Rishi Sunak has not sacked her

Peter Walker Deputy political editor

12, Nov, 2023 @6:47 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman speaks out against likely UK trade deal with India
New home secretary objects to increasing visas for Indians and critiques predecessor’s attempt to return overstayers

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

05, Oct, 2022 @11:01 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman: five controversial statements from UK home secretary
As PM reappoints Braverman, we look at her record from her initial 43-day stint, in her own words

Rachel Hall

26, Oct, 2022 @11:50 AM

Article image
Suella Braverman forced to resign as UK home secretary
Rightwinger is replaced by Grant Shapps in further serious blow to Truss’s authority

Pippa Crerar, Peter Walker and Aubrey Allegretti

19, Oct, 2022 @4:43 PM

Article image
Sir John Hayes: ‘in lockstep’ with Suella Braverman on immigration
Veteran Tory MP was intended recipient of home secretary’s plans sent from her personal email

Rajeev Syal

26, Oct, 2022 @6:43 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman resignation letter: what she said and totally meant
Outgoing home secretary sticks boot in and throws down gauntlet to embattled Liz Truss

Aubrey Allegretti

19, Oct, 2022 @6:03 PM

Article image
Liz Truss pushed on immigration plans after Suella Braverman exit
Tory MPs demand assurance that home secretary’s departure was not due to row over policy changes

Rajeev Syal

20, Oct, 2022 @12:12 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman urges Sunak not to ditch Northern Ireland protocol bill
First sign of cabinet tensions emerges as Downing Street plays down hopes that deal with EU will be clinched on Tuesday

Jessica Elgot, Pippa Crerar and Kiran Stacey

20, Feb, 2023 @7:51 PM

Article image
A second reprieve for Suella Braverman could be a tall order
Home secretary has won little good will from colleagues since she was last – briefly – forced from office

Pippa Crerar Political editor

21, May, 2023 @7:41 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman to consider giving anonymity to suspected criminals
The home secretary criticised the ‘media circus’ surrounding high-profile people wrongly accused of sexual abuse

Rajeev Syal

03, Oct, 2022 @9:30 PM