Suella Braverman has accused Rishi Sunak of “betraying” a secret deal they made to secure her backing during the Tory leadership contest that paved the way for him to become prime minister.
In a scathing departure letter a day after she was sacked as home secretary, the right-wing MP launched a blistering personal attack on her old boss, saying he had “manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver” on key policies.
In the three-page broadside, in which she branded Mr Sunak “weak, uncertain and lacking in leadership qualities”, she claimed she agreed to serve in Mr Sunak’s cabinet on “certain conditions” after Liz Truss’s premiership imploded.
She said this included commitments from the prime minister to reduce net migration and legislate against the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in order to deliver on the Rwanda deportation plan.
However, she claimed that despite sending “numerous letters on the key subjects contained in our agreement”, as well as making requests to discuss them and working up legal and policy advice, “this was often met with equivocation, disregard and a lack of interest”.
“You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver on every single one of these key policies,” she said.
“Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so. Or, as I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises.”
Ms Braverman was sacked as home secretary during the prime minister’s reshuffle on Monday and was replaced by former foreign secretary James Cleverly.
The move has angered some on the Tory right, with David Cameron’s return to the frontbench to fill Mr Cleverly’s old position seen as a pivot to the centre ground.
In the lengthy letter, Ms Braverman told Mr Sunak he had “no personal mandate” to lead the UK after losing the 2022 Conservative leadership contest to Ms Truss.
She said her support for him was “pivotal” in him being installed as Tory leader six weeks later, and came on the basis of his “firm assurances” he would prioritise certain policy issues.
As well as stopping the boats, she said the commitments centred around delivering key pieces of Brexit legislation and providing “unequivocal” guidance to schools on protecting biological sex and safeguarding single-sex spaces.
She said: “These are not just pet interests of mine. They are what we promised the British people in our 2019 manifesto which led to a landslide victory. They are what people voted for in the 2016 Brexit Referendum.
“Our deal was no mere promise over dinner, to be discarded when convenient and denied when challenged.”
Small boats ‘betrayal’
In particular, Ms Braverman said Mr Sunak had not lived up to his promise to do “whatever it takes” to stop small boat crossings by failing to override human rights concerns about the delayed Rwanda deportation policy.
The plan to send refugees to the east African nation has been stalled for 18 months due to a series of legal challenges, with some Conservative MPs calling for the government to leave the ECHR in order to enact it.
Ms Braverman called Mr Sunak’s rejection of this idea “not merely a betrayal of our agreement, but a betrayal of your promise to the nation that you would do ‘whatever it takes’ to stop the boats”.
She accused the prime minister of “magical thinking – believing that you can will your way through this without upsetting polite opinion” and of failing to prepare a plan B should the Supreme Court rule against the policy when it delivers a key verdict on its lawfulness on Wednesday.
Mr Sunak sacked Mrs Braverman over the phone on Monday morning, clearing the way for a high-risk reshuffle aimed at reviving his faltering premiership.
She was purged after writing an unauthorised article in The Times which accused the Met Police of left-wing bias to pro-Palestinian protesters who have been marching for a ceasefire in Gaza. It was the latest in a series of inflammatory comments that was starting to rile members of her own party, including saying that rough sleeping was a “lifestyle choice”.
In her letter, Ms Braverman admitted she may “not have always found the right words” but said she wrote the article out of “frustration” that Mr Sunak would not ban the marches, calling him “uncertain, weak and lacking in the qualities of leadership that this country needs”.
She finished her attack by urging Mr Sunak to “change course urgently”.
She said: “Someone needs to be honest: your plan is not working, we have endured record election defeats, your resets have failed and we are running out of time. You need to change course urgently.”
And in a sign she will champion causes cherished by the party’s right on the backbenches – possibly with a view to her own leadership ambitions – she said: “I will, of course, continue to support the government in pursuit of policies which align with an authentic conservative agenda.”
‘Conservative soap opera’
In response, a Number 10 spokesperson said the prime minister was “proud to appoint a strong, united team” in his reshuffle and thanked Ms Braverman for her service.
They added Mr Sunak was still committed to stopping small boats, regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s court decision.
“The prime minister believes in actions not words,” they said. “He is proud that this government has brought forward the toughest legislation to tackle illegal migration this country has seen and has subsequently reduced the number of boat crossings by a third this year. And whatever the outcome of the Supreme Court tomorrow, he will continue that work.”
But opposition MPs have seized on the attack as an example of “yet more Conservative chaos”.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said: “Suella Braverman failed at every task at hand as home secretary and now she seems determined to drag everyone else down with her.
“While people struggle to see their GP or pay their mortgages, this government is too busy dealing with their own infighting. When will this Conservative Party soap opera end?”