Suella Braverman's rhetoric on immigration is dangerous populism – Scotsman comment

Even if Home Secretary Suella Braverman did not actually write an email attacking civil servants for being members of an “activist blob” thwarting the UK Government’s attempts to stop illegal migration, whoever did caught her tone perfectly.

In a speech announcing the Illegal Immigration Bill, Braverman repeatedly referenced “the British people” as if they were of a single mind – hers. The bill, she claimed, “will allow us to stop the boats that are bringing tens of thousands to our shores in flagrant breach of both our laws and the will of the British people”.

The email, sent to thousands of Conservative Party members in her name, blamed “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour party” for the government’s failure to stop Channel crossings. Braverman later insisted she had not approved the email, while a spokesperson stressed neither she nor Rishi Sunak held this view.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It should be noted there was no such sentiment expressed about “left-wing lawyers” – a group accused of playing a nefarious role in public life by too many politicians. Lawyers are professionals whose job is to represent their clients to the best of their ability, regardless of their political views.

These two ideas – “the will of the British people” and the “activist blob” that opposes it – are designed to create an artificial divide. On the one side are patriots who think like Braverman; on the other are those to be smeared as “enemies of the people” – a phrase used by Stalinists and other dictatorial regimes which reared its head in the UK during the Brexit debate.

This stirs the passions of supporters and motivates them to vote, but it also risks creating a dangerous level of hatred towards political opponents. As the Scotsman pointed out when Conservatives attending a party leadership hustings in Perth in August were subjected to vitriolic abuse by a crowd outside, a basic level of respect for others is crucial to the health of the body politic and democracy itself.

No one has the right to put their thoughts into the minds of a nation, particularly not a politician from a party on about 25 per cent in the polls. We can only hope this is little more than the last few twitches of the corpse of Brexit-style populism.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.