Gaza demo row was a step too far by Suella Braverman

Importing overseas conflicts into a country's domestic agenda is almost always a negative development

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman pictured at the Conservative Party conference on October 3 in Manchester, England. Ms Braverman has been accused of stoking division by describing pro-Palestinian demonstrations as 'hate marches'. Getty
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I have lost count of the number of senior politicians who proclaimed they “would not have chosen to use those words” after UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s “hate marches” campaign against pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Ms Braverman was sacked on Monday by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who said he wanted a united team to take the country in a 2024 general election.

So what is going on? Two consequences are plain, and both have very negative implications for the UK.

The point at which domestic politics imports an overseas conflict is almost always a negative development for any country. What is so extraordinary for the UK is that Gaza is now at the heart of its national politics.

That is largely because Ms Braverman is importing the conflict between Israel and Hamas as the dividing line to practise her form of politics.

It is true others are also pushing their own agendas into this wedge in the political fabric. Mr Sunak has, for example, led a government that has abandoned important balancing pillars of British foreign policy in his determination to line up behind Israel’s right to self-defence.

If you don’t believe me, listen to the analysis of John Casson, the former UK ambassador to Egypt, who has said the government line is a “posture, not a policy, it follows events, not shaping events”.

The same is true of Keir Starmer, the opposition leader, who has resisted pressure from his Labour party to join the worldwide campaign for a ceasefire to allow international aid to flow. Mr Starmer has accepted Israel’s claim that ceasefires would freeze the Hamas position with an attacking force in place.

It is still worth singling out Ms Braverman, who has gone to a whole different place with her interventions, and is apparently bent on dragging the country into a polarised new political landscape.

It already doesn’t take much in Britain for commentators, such as Douglas Murray, to get headlines and airtime for holding up the images from marches and declaring that the multi-cultural society has failed.

Likewise, a section of the governing centre-right Conservatives can be lined up to back calls for rough justice for any group that defies their orthodoxy. One commentator last week, with no proof whatsoever, declared that Margaret Thatcher would have “crushed” the pro-Palestinian protesters by now.

Ms Braverman is a product of this world. A dedicated section of the party has been working for decades in the cause of the right, not the centre-right. In the era of populist politics, it has achieved much even as it has not clearly asserted its control over the ruling party. At least, not yet.

The creation of a dedicated mindset within the rank and file has slowly become more pervasive. A decade and a half ago, the Young Britons Forum was the place for activists who resented reformist efforts to detoxify the Conservatives. How they must cheer now as Ms Braverman is single-handedly vaulting for the summit to retoxify the party. The weekend just gone feels like a significant mountain pass has been traversed.

Others are pushing their own agendas into this wedge in the political fabric

Politically active in successor groups, including The Way Forward, the European Research Group and more recently the National Conservatism Conference, is the entry ticket into Ms Braverman’s world.

Superficially, these movements are themed on ideas of national renewal and small government. As culture wars swept to the top of the political agenda, it gave a head of steam to politicians to take their hardline vibes to the very make-up of British society.

As Ms Braverman’s attacks have become a tribune for the right, there are signs that the Conservatives have been frequently supportive of her constitutional vandalism.

If there can be no space for humanitarian empathy or rightly held views on supporting the provisions of international law, then every protest is up for grabs as a platform for extremism.

The second consequence is that Conservatives are a party preparing for defeat and opposition. Obviously, this means they will not disappear. Their platform in parliament and as a national political force will give them a springboard to launch divisive social campaigns to undermine their rivals in government.

It is hard to think who is better practised at this than Ms Braverman. The 43-year-old is already steeled to withstand any backlash based on condemnation of her inappropriate or damaging ideas and actions.

Less than a year ahead of an election, she and her backers now make up a fully formed cabal with a well-known political godfather and phalanx of ideologues who have been on the fringes for more than 20 years.

The opportunity to take over the party when it is reeling in defeat is now clear.

The prescription they hold for what they will do with this position is equally now out in the open. It is to turn the UK into a boiling pot of tensions between people based on race, ethnicity, religion or viewpoint.

The race to take the hardest line can be won and politics will reward those out in front of the times.

As George Orwell, the novelist most famous for Nineteen Eighty-Four, foresaw in the middle of the last century, the whole point of this type of politics is its Newspeak, the language of hate. The very thing Ms Braverman is professing to oppose.

Published: November 13, 2023, 10:21 AM