Suella Braverman & the Hard Right Capture of the Conservative Party
The Home Secretary’s GB News appearance shows how Rishi Sunak’s party has been taken over by a radical fringe on the right of British politics, writes Adam Bienkov
Last night Home Secretary Suella Braverman gave her first sit-down television interview since being given her job by Rishi Sunak almost four months ago.
That it has taken this long for the Home Secretary to submit herself to questioning is remarkable enough, given the multiple crises the UK currently faces.
Yet it is her choice of interviewer that was particularly striking. Rather than go onto the BBC, ITV, or any other mainstream channel, Braverman instead chose to sit down with a presenter from the Nigel Farage Show on GB News.
GB News, which is currently under investigation over allegations that it spread dangerous disinformation about vaccines, has become the preferred choice of hard-right conspiracists and their fellow travellers since its launch two years ago.
Earlier this month Britain’s leading Jewish organisation, the Board of Deputies spoke out after one presenter on the channel was accused of propagating conspiracy theories linked to antisemitism.
“It is highly concerning that GB News continues to air a show which embraces all manner of conspiracy theories,” the group said in a statement.
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Braverman is not the first senior Conservative politician to endorse the channel. Senior figures in the party have regularly featured on there, with former Prime Minister Liz Truss championing them during her leadership campaign and telling one host on the channel that “you actually get your facts right”, unlike the BBC.
The Home Secretary’s choice of Nigel Farage’s show is also particularly striking. The former Brexit Party leader has previously accused British Muslims of having “split loyalties”, said that parts of Britain are now like a “foreign land”, accused the “Jewish lobby” in the US of having disproportionate influence and said that he feels uncomfortable hearing foreign voices on public transport in the UK.
Braverman is no stranger to such rhetoric herself. Last November she faced widespread criticism after labelling those seeking refuge in the UK as being part of an “invasion on our Southern Coast”. Pushed last month by a Holocaust survivor to stop using such inflammatory language, Braverman refused to do so, telling the woman that “I see my job as being honest with the British people.”
Braverman was pushed for similar “honesty” during her GB News appearance last night. Asked whether those taking part in recent protests outside hotels housing asylum seekers should be described as “far-right”, Braverman declined to do so, saying that while she condemned all violence, expressing “concerns or frustrations” about asylum seekers “does not make you racist or bigoted”.
Her comments come shortly after she instructed the security services to decrease their focus on the far right.
“It is a bogus equivalence to equate the threat of extreme right-wing terrorism and the threat of Islamist extremism, and that is what we all need to be honest about,” she told the House of Commons, adding that the Prevent programme must be “oriented” away from focusing on the far-right.
The Home Secretary also used her appearance last night to issue a veiled threat to resign over the Prime Minister’s planned Northern Ireland deal with the EU, saying that “I found the terms of previous agreements intolerable [and] I don’t support selling out on Northern Ireland and allowing the EU a foothold in the United Kingdom.”
In any other circumstances a member of the Cabinet using an appearance as a guest on a political opponent’s television show, in order to threaten the Prime Minister on the eve of him signing up to the most important agreement of his premiership, would be a sackable offence.
Yet so captured has Sunak’s party become by the hard-right fringe represented by Braverman and GB News, that the Prime Minister simply doesn’t have the political strength to do so.
Braverman’s last-minute endorsement of Sunak’s campaign last year, which was credited by some with securing him the leadership, has left the Prime Minister heavily beholden to both his Home Secretary and the wing of the party she represents.
Like his predecessors, Sunak has become increasingly paralysed by the intransigence of those within the right-wing European Research Group of Conservative MPs. As a result of pushback from its members this week, his planned new Northern Ireland deal, which was originally briefed as due to take place at the start of this week, has now reportedly been pushed back until next week and may yet be put on ice for much longer.
Meanwhile, those on the more moderate wing of the Conservative party are becoming increasingly marginalised within the party. Last week the Conservative Democratic Organisation, which was set up by allies of the former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, celebrated the deselection of former Deputy Prime Minister, Damian Green, who is the Chair of the centrist One Nation Group of Conservative MPs. Reacting to the news, the CDO’s chairman, former UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman, suggested that “many more MP re-selections” would now follow.
Sunak is not a passive player in the Conservative Party’s lurch to the right. He too attempted to stoke the same ‘culture war’ forces now being played on by Braverman, during his own leadership campaign last year and has continued to do so as PM.
Earlier this month one leading donor to the Conservatives quit the party, saying he had been told that the Prime Minister planned to “run a culture war” in the run up to the next general election in order to distract from the government’s “fundamental economic failings.”
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If this is indeed the Prime Minister’s plan, then Braverman would appear to be a crucial part of it. However, the risk for Sunak is that he ends up being spat out by the very same forces he is now trying to exploit.
Following Braverman’s appearance last night, Nigel Farage lavished praise on the “very bright” Home Secretary, and suggested that she could prove to be a major figure in what he called the “realignment” of the right of British politics.
“I still think there’s a possibility that by 2026 there will be a realignment of the centre-Right in British politics”, Farage told his co-host.
“And if there is, I think she could be just about the most important player in it.”
For years the Conservative Party accused Labour of being taken over by a radical fringe under Jeremy Corbyn.
Yet with the likes of Braverman now gaining the upper hand, it is Rishi Sunak who increasingly looks beholden to his own party’s most extreme elements.