With a tenure of just 43 days, the enforced resignation of Suella Braverman made her the shortest-serving UK home secretary in nearly 200 years.
But after just one week in the wilderness, the new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has restored her to the post, raising howls of indignation from opposition MPs and human rights campaigners. They point to the various controversies she stirred in just a few weeks before she had to quit.
‘David Cameron famously said tens of thousands, no ifs no buts. So that would be my ultimate aspiration’
Within days of her initial appointment, Braverman caused alarm in the government by reviving the Conservatives’ earlier failed promise to cut net migration to “tens of thousands”, from the current level of 239,000.
She trained her sights on international students – a crucial source of revenue for UK universities – and overseas farm workers, who fill staff shortages.
The declaration appeared to contradict Liz Truss’s plans to allow more migrants to fill UK job vacancies in specific industries.
The unfeasibility of the target has already dogged successive governments: David Cameron first pledged to keep net migration to tens of thousands in 2010, but never met the target, which was maintained by Theresa May’s government before being ditched in 2019 under Boris Johnson.
‘Look at migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants’
Braverman took another gamble that risked upsetting No 10 in an interview in the Spectator, in which she said she had “reservations” about Britain’s trade deal with India because it could increase immigration to the UK.
Braverman said Indian migrants made up the largest number of visa overstayers in the UK and criticised her predecessor Priti Patel’s deal with the Indian government aimed at facilitating migration last year, which she said had “not necessarily worked very well”.
‘I would love to have a front page of the Telegraph with a plane taking off to Rwanda, that’s my dream, it’s my obsession’
In a further demonstration of her talent for headline-grabbing soundbites, Braverman used her Conservative party speech to share her strength of feeling around deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda.
However, she acknowledged the flights would not happen soon, with a legal dispute making deportations unlikely to begin before 2023.
Cannabis is a ‘gateway’ drug to more harmful substances
The Sunday Times reported that Braverman was considering upgrading cannabis to a class A drug, putting it on a par with cocaine. Parliamentary colleagues viewed this as a further sign that she was eschewing government policy in favour of boosting her popularity among party members.
The report cited a source who said she was strongly opposed to calls to decriminalise cannabis, which she believed sent a “cultural” and “political” signal that using the drug was “acceptable behaviour”. “We’ve got to scare people,” the source said.
Downing Street later distanced itself from Braverman’s comments, saying there were “no plans” to change the drug from class B. The move would put additional pressure on prisons and provoke the ire of decriminalisation campaigners, who argue the UK’s approach has failed.
‘It’s the coalition of chaos, it’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’
The soundbite that provoked most ridicule from opposition MPs and social media commenters alike came in her final parliamentary address, in which she blamed Guardian readers and soy products for the Just Stop Oil protests.
She said: “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.”
Observers pointed out that tofu was a readily available mainstream food available in all supermarkets rather than the preserve of the liberal elite, and queried the relevance of the anti-growth coalition at a time when Truss had already shed much of her programme of government.