(Bloomberg) -- Former UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Rishi Sunak of betraying the public and breaking his promise to clamp down on immigration, in an explosive letter that threatens to exacerbate the febrile mood on the right of the governing Conservative Party.
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Referring to a “deal” Braverman said they struck as she supported his unlikely bid for the Tory leadership just over a year ago, she said he had committed to reduce overall legal migration and to exclude the European Convention on Human Rights from the government’s policy toward asylum seekers.
Read more: Sunak Opens Rift With Tory Right by Reviving Centrist Cameron
“You have manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver,” she said, breaking her silence a day after she was fired in a Cabinet reshuffle. “Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so. Or, as I surely must conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises.”
A spokesman for Sunak said the prime minister “was proud to appoint a strong, united team” in Monday’s Cabinet reshuffle.
Braverman’s backing paved the way for Sunak to enter Downing Street in the most remarkable fashion, weeks after he’d lost a leadership contest to Liz Truss. In words that cut to the heart of Sunak’s struggles since taking office, Braverman said that meant he had “no personal mandate to be prime minister.”
The letter is just the latest diatribe Sunak has received about his leadership. Past examples include former Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well as former Cabinet minister Nadine Dorries, who also accused Sunak of not having a mandate and of lacking the “winning X-factor qualities” of his predecessors.
But the timing of Braverman’s missive is sensitive, a day before the Supreme Court rules on the legality of the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, a flagship policy backed by both Sunak and his former home secretary.
It’s the central plank of the tough position on immigration that Braverman referred to in her letter, and Sunak made a vow to “stop the boats” carrying migrants across the English Channel one of his five key pledges to voters.
But he has struggled to make progress, with crossings down but far from stopped, and Braverman accused him of watering down the government’s immigration bill in a way that makes it harder to deliver the Rwanda plan. Specifically, she said Sunak had not been willing to bypass the ECHR.
In the event the government loses the Supreme Court case, “you have failed to prepare any sort of credible Plan B,” Braverman wrote.
“The Prime Minister believes in actions not words,” Sunak’s spokesman said in response. “He is proud that this government has brought forward the toughest legislation to tackle illegal migration this country has seen.”
The danger posed to Sunak ahead of the court ruling was underscored by the New Conservatives grouping of right-wing Tory MPs on Tuesday.
“The Conservative Party now looks like it is deliberately walking away from the coalition of voters who brought us into power with a large majority in 2019,” the group’s leaders Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger said, referring to what the Tories regard as a Brexit-based reset under Johnson. “We will continue to campaign for a new framework for asylum policy that fulfills our moral obligations to genuine refugees while restoring control of our borders.”
Sunak’s decision to fire Braverman — a darling among party populists — has left right-wing Tories spoiling for a fight. Their mood worsened with the extraordinary reappointment of ex-premier David Cameron as foreign secretary.
Braverman said Sunak’s premiership had been “uncertain, weak, and lacking in the qualities of leadership that this country needs.”
(Updates with Braverman comments from third paragraph.)
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