Suella Braverman will be a “force to be reckoned with” on the Tory backbenches after being sacked as home secretary, a former cabinet minister said.
Theresa Villiers hinted the Fareham MP could cause trouble for the prime minister after she was purged in a cabinet reshuffle that risks angering the Tory right.
In a shock shake-up of his top team on Monday, Rishi Sunak appointed former prime minister David Cameron as foreign secretary and gave James Cleverly, who previously held that post, the role of home secretary.
It followed a row over inflammatory comments made by Ms Braverman suggesting homelessness is sometimes a “lifestyle choice”, and an unauthorised newspaper article criticising the way police have handled pro-Palestinian “mobs”.
Ms Villiers, who was environment secretary between 2019 and 2020, told Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge that she would not have used some of the former home secretary’s language, but said she is “sad” to see her go.
She said: “Suella has done some important work, some of the words she used on certain issues are not the ones I would have chosen.
“But a strong focus on illegal migration is in tune with what a lot of people want to see happen.
“Her championing of the scene for Rwanda… I think is an important way to issue what is fundamentally a humanitarian crisis in the Channel.
“She’s very talented, absolutely, she will be a force to be reckoned with on the backbenches.”
Mr Sunak sacked Ms Braverman over the phone on Monday morning, and there has not been the usual polite exchange of letters between a departing minister and prime minister.
In a brief statement, she said serving as home secretary was “the greatest privilege of my life” and, in a rather ominous warning, said that she would have “more to say” about her exit in due course.
Ms Braverman is a leading figure on the Tory right, so sacking her could pose difficulties for the prime minister, who is seeking to get his party united behind him ahead of an expected general election next year.
Former minister submits no confidence letter
Some Tories have criticised the decision, with former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns submitting a letter of no confidence in Mr Sunak.
“If it wasn’t bad enough that we have a party leader that the party members rejected, the polls demonstrate that the public reject him, and I am in full agreement. It is time for Rishi Sunak to go,” she said.
Former Tory treasurer Lord Cruddas also criticised Mr Sunak’s actions, saying: “The coup is complete, Remain has won and democracy has lost.”
However, the ousting of Ms Braverman has been somewhat been overshadowed by the return of Mr Cameron to frontline politics, in a highly unusual move.
The former prime minister, who has not been an MP since he quit after the Brexit referendum, was given a seat in the House of Lords to become foreign secretary.
It comes despite Lord Cameron being critical of Mr Sunak’s decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2, while the prime minister used his Tory conference speech to distance himself from the legacy of his predecessors.
In other key changes, Steve Barclay took Therese Coffey’s job as environment secretary, while Victoria Atkins became health secretary.
Cleverly ‘committed to stopping the boats’
Mr Cleverly’s appointment is likely to face more scrutiny in the coming days, with a Supreme Court judgement due on whether the controversial and much-delayed Rwanda deportation plan is lawful.
The new home secretary said he was “absolutely committed to stopping the boats” and making sure everyone in the UK “feels safe and secure”.
Asked if he would distance himself from the words used by his predecessor, he said: “Well, I intend to do this job in the way that I feel best protects the British people and our interests.
“I have had a very good conversation with the prime minister, who’s made it very clear that [he] wants us to deliver on our promises to stop the boats, to the British people, make sure everybody feels secure in their lives.”
Today marks the second time Ms Braverman has lost the job of home secretary – she resigned from Liz Truss’s government after breaking the ministerial code. Mr Sunak reappointed her less than a week later when he took over as prime minister.
However, he came under increasing pressure to sack her after she wrote a newspaper article that accused the police of “playing favourites” over their handling of controversial pro-Palestinian marches ahead of one planned on Armistice Day.
Critics from both opposition parties and fellow Tory MPs called Ms Braverman’s comments “offensive” and “inflammatory” and said it undermined the operational independence of – and public confidence in – the police.
Ms Braverman was also criticised days earlier for saying homeless people sleeping in tents is a “lifestyle choice”.
Sky News’s deputy political editor Sam Coates said he had heard these comments tipped the prime minister over the edge.
Mr Sunak’s press secretary said there had been “issues around language”.
On the other side of the debate, some MPs welcomed the change in direction. Former health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Excellent for the Conservatives, showing Rishi Sunak will fight the election on the centre ground.”
Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “Suella Braverman has now been sacked twice as home secretary.
“Rishi Sunak [should] never have re-appointed her in the first place. He was warned against it and was warned on the damage she was doing.
“He went along with her undermining the police. Buck still stops with this weak PM.”