- Read Suella Braverman’s excoriating letter slamming Rishi Sunak in full here
Mr Sunak is facing a storm after the sacked Home Secretary penned an excoriating letter accusing him of ‘betraying’ a secret deal they made when she withdrew from the party leadership contest.
She raged that the premier was ‘weak’ and merely pretended to want to tackle issues such as the Channel boats crisis and high immigration.
There are claims that Ms Braverman has a ‘smoking gun’ of written evidence proving the agreement they struck over the leadership last year.
One right-winger said a ‘grid’ of interventions had been drawn up for the coming week – a reference to the government’s system of timetabling big announcements. ‘It’s a grid of s*** for the government,’ they said.
Mr Sunak, who shocked Westminster by bringing back David Cameron as Foreign Secretary at the same time as axing Ms Braverman, has tried to rise above the brutal claims that he is ‘weak’ and failing as PM.
But Conservative former leader Lord Howard was dispatched to studios this morning to slam Ms Braverman.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that politicians had to put the country above ‘personal ambition and a sense of pique’
‘I think that Suella Braverman will be forgotten. And I think Rishi Sunak will continue to do his level best to confront the challenges that the country faces,’ he said.
Lord Howard said even if Mr Sunak had struck a deal with Ms Braverman it would not be a betrayal. ‘You can’t always do what you would like to do,’ he said.
In her scathing three-page letter, Ms Braverman accused Mr Sunak of having ‘manifestly and repeatedly’ failed to deliver on his promises and warned him bluntly: ‘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.’
Jeremy Hunt rejected the criticism of Mr Sunak’s approach on illegal immigration as he was interviewed about falling inflation figures.
He said: ‘What the British people are interested in is not the dramas in Westminster, but whether the Government is actually delivering.
‘And control of our borders is something that is non-negotiable.
‘What we have seen this year is the toughest legislation ever on illegal migration, small boat crossings down by a third.
‘The Prime Minister and the Government will remain relentlessly focused on delivering our pledge to stop those crossings.’
Downing Street declined to respond in detail to Ms Braverman’s letter which threatened to trigger another debilitating round of Tory infighting.
In a statement, a No 10 spokesman said the Cabinet reshuffle in which Ms Braverman was removed had created ‘a strong, united team focused on delivering for the British people’.
The spokesman added: ‘The Prime Minister believes in actions not words. 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, he will continue that work.
‘The Prime Minister thanks the former Home Secretary for her service.’
Privately, allies of the PM were equally searing about Ms Braverman, pointing out that a statement from her supporters yesterday was signed by just two Tory MPs.
One ally of the PM said: ‘She is angry and bitter because she’s been sacked, and discovered she has got very little support.
‘She is making all kinds of ridiculous claims but we are not going to roll around in the mud with her.’
But sources on the Tory Right indicated that the former Home Secretary and her supporters plan to step up their attacks in the coming days as she tries to build support for a future leadership bid.
The former Home Secretary was last night weighing up whether to publish the details of the secret ‘deal’ she says was struck with Mr Sunak in October last year, when he was fighting to get the nominations needed to deliver a knockout blow to Boris Johnson in the battle to succeed Liz Truss.
She said that although he had ‘no personal mandate’, she agreed to support him because of the ‘firm assurances you gave me on key policy priorities’.
These included: cutting legal immigration, which has instead been allowed to soar; legislation to prevent human rights laws impacting on efforts to stop the boats; delivering key Brexit legislation, which has been watered down; and issuing ‘unequivocal guidance’ to schools on trans rights, which has yet to appear.
‘I trusted you,’ she wrote. ‘It is generally agreed that my support was a pivotal factor in winning the leadership contest and thus enabling you to become Prime Minister.’
She claimed her efforts to raise the issues later with the PM were met with ‘equivocation, disregard and a lack of interest’, adding: ‘I must surely conclude now (that) you never had any intention of keeping your promises.’
Ms Braverman also twisted the knife on the PM’s position on pro-Palestine marches, saying she had ‘become hoarse’ trying to persuade him to tighten legislation to clamp down on displays of anti-Semitism.
A senior Tory source denied Mr Sunak had agreed a formal ‘deal’ with Ms Braverman, saying only that he had agreed to ‘work with her’ on issues she had prioritised.
A source close to Ms Braverman insisted the PM had ‘agreed her terms’ and taken a copy of them away with him following their meeting.
The row has thrown a grenade into today’s Supreme Court ruling on Rwanda, due around 10am.
Government sources acknowledged that ministers were not expecting an ‘unqualified approval’ from the highest court in the land, raising the prospect that ministers may have to legislate again – and potentially pushing back the date of the first flights until after the next election.
In her letter last night, Ms Braverman accused the PM of ‘wishful thinking’ and refusing to take the ‘hard choices’ needed to make the scheme a success, such as specifically excluding the scheme from existing human rights laws.
‘Your rejection of this path was 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 wrote.
She warned that even if the courts approve the deal, deportations will not proceed ‘as swiftly as I proposed’ because of a reluctance to remove any potential role for the European Court of Human Rights.
Government sources pointed out that Mr Sunak had taken personal charge of the efforts to stop the boats – chairing two cabinet committees a week – because he was unconvinced by Ms Braverman’s efforts.
One source said that she had proposed an ‘unworkable’ scheme to send Channel migrants to the Falkland Islands despite advice from Home Office lawyers that it would take years to come to fruition.
In a separate move, supporters of Ms Braverman accused the PM of ‘abandoning’ Conservative voters.
In a strongly-worded statement, the leaders of the New Conservatives group of around two dozen Tory MPs, accused the Prime Minister of using the reshuffle to impose a ‘major change in the policy direction of the government’.
Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger said the PM appeared to be ‘deliberately walking away from the coalition of voters who brought us to power with a large majority in 2019’.
The suggested the PM was trying to focus efforts on saving Tory seats in the south at the expense of abandoning seats won in the Red Wall in 2019.
‘In political terms, it appears the leadership has decided to abandon the voters who switched to us last time, sacrificing the seats we won from Labour in 2019 in the hope of shoring up support elsewhere,’ they said.