In person, Suella Braverman is no 'Cruella de Vil'. She’s much more dangerous – Kenny MacAskill
Recently I was asked if I’d met Suella Braverman, and I’m sure the person asking was expecting me to compare the former Home Secretary to Cruella de Vil. I have met her but she came across as both affable and personable – not the answer they’d expected. It’s a view perhaps harder for some to appreciate given some of her recent comments.
Now at my meeting with her, which was when she was Attorney General, I was accompanied by a Tory MP and she was sympathetic to the issue we were raising. So of course, the meeting was far from tense or problematic for her. I’ve been in meetings with other ministers, even those far more sympathetic to my cause, and found them more difficult or the individuals colder. I’ve also been stuck next to ministers and politicians at dinners or formal events which can only be described as hard, if not excruciating.
But then I wasn’t a protestor or homeless. Braverman’s statements have been incendiary and deliberately provocative, and she had to go. Her undermining of senior police officers was unbefitting of the office she held. I condemn her remarks for the fear they’ve created and the hate that’s been unleashed. I also agreed with Bob Neill, the Tory chair of the Justice Committee, that her undermining of the police made her position untenable.
The reason I detailed my meeting with her is that she’s acting to a political playbook. It’s not her character but an agenda. It’s one I loathe and it makes me fear for our democracy. But she’s not some beast with horns. She’s calculating, knowing well what she’s doing and its effects.
Working to a political template, shock factor’s all part of the script. It's the new populist right in the Tory Party. I don’t believe that she’s just been entirely freelancing. Sunak may have sacked her but much of what she said was with his tacit consent. She’d been given some licence but just went too far. He only objected when major blowback occurred with rioting right-wing thugs who she’d fomented.
Similar political playbooks from the USA depress turnout and demonise minorities, with such tactics echoed by Meloni in Italy and others in Europe. They know what they’re doing, and it’s not just rabid rants.
It suited Sunak to have some cover but whilst she threw the grenades, there’s more than her fingerprints on them. Her fellow ministers knew what was being done and the political polarisation it creates, and they allowed it. Even if it wasn’t the language they would themselves have used, or some other excuse, they colluded.
Braverman and her ilk haven’t gone away, and they’ve left their mark. They’re entrenched and their influence remains. “Stop the boats” is still a mantra and whilst she was going out the door, swingeing benefit cuts were being imposed.
The veneer of the Tories’ returning to the centre is simply a disowning of one who’s gone too far. A change of tone, not tenor. Cameron’s appointment’s putting on a velvet glove, but an iron fist remains underneath. UK politics is now a choice between the populist right or the centre-right. Scotland needs to get out of this Union as, whilst personable, populists’ politics are reprehensible.
Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian
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