27 October 2022
The Braverman way.
By Robert Kilconner
Suella Braverman is a very lucky woman. Not lucky in everything, of course. To be christened Sue-Ellen after a character in a soap is an unfortunate start to life but then no one could criticise her for a decision in which she presumably had little say so it has probably not held her back very much. Her departure from Ms Truss’s government, however, must have used up a considerable part of whatever credit balance was owed her in the balance sheet of fortune.
The terms of her resignation letter make it clear that she had concerns about government policy and in particular about immigration where she seems to have felt that a harder line should be being taken. She may also have felt it expedient to desert a political ship which, as history has now proved, had only 24 hours or so before it slid under the waves. Either way she had a problem. Resignation as a rat would have looked cowardly and could have damaged her long-term credibility. Resignation on principle just before the government collapsed would have strained credulity and might have made cynical people believe that she was really a rat after all.
It was at this point that she got lucky because she discovered that she had sent an official document to a trusted colleague from her personal email. That is against the Cabinet Office Rules and being a woman who holds herself to the highest possible standards she felt it right to resign.
Two things are odd about all this. The first is that Suella is a barrister. Not a particularly distinguished practice at the bar it is true (her status as KC is an automatic entitlement for any barrister who becomes a member of the House of Commons) but, for all that, one who has served as Attorney General. Surely she is someone you would expect to know the rules about using personal email accounts to transmit government documents? How could she have overlooked them, especially after last year’s row about the use of private accounts by Matt Hancock and Lord Bethell?
The second is that the breach was an extraordinarily venial one. As she states in her letter, the recipient was a trusted parliamentary colleague, not some awful newshound from the gutter press. What is more, her letter is careful to make it clear that the breach was harmless. She refers to a ‘technical infringement’ and states that much of the document in question had already been briefed to MPs. No harm then and no lasting reputational damage; just an accidental breach of the rules which only someone who holds themselves “to the highest standards” would feel called for resignation. Ms Braverman seems to have such standards, why she tells us so herself and she should know, so the result was inevitable.
In these days when standards seem to be slipping in public life it is refreshing to come across integrity and to see it being rewarded by fate. Ms Braverman’s error and conscience allowed her to elegantly disassociate herself from Truss before the fall without any suggestion of ratting at all. Napoleon as we know favoured lucky generals. Perhaps Mr Sunak takes the same view and that is why in choosing his Home Secretary he looked favourably on the untainted and pristine figure of Suella Braverman.