Suella Braverman’s fall would be astonishing at any other time. But chaos is the new normal

She departs with the channel boats unstopped, the suspects unsearched and Guardian readers still free to walk the streets eating their tofu

Suella Braverman’s “departure” as British home secretary after not much more than six weeks in the job would be astonishing at any other time in modern politics. Right now, though, it looks like merely par for the course in a Tory party that seems utterly chaotic, unable to govern — and further proof, if it was needed, that Liz Truss’s administration may not make it into November.

If talk counted for more than actions in politics, Braverman would be top of the Tory pile. Her rise has been almost as fast as her sudden departure. A second-rate attorney general who happily politicised what was once a strictly defined advisory role in government, she eyed the leadership after Boris Johnson’s fall, and then cast herself as an alpha all-action home secretary. Now she will only be remembered as the one who didn’t last two months in the job.

She was going to solve the small boats crisis in the British channel with much tougher measures than even Priti Patel tried. She was going to get the police back to basics by stopping and searching suspects, then arresting and punishing them properly. She was going to call out the influence of disruptive protesters whom only this week she dismissed as “the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati”.

And now she has gone, just like that. She departs with the Channel boats unstopped, the suspects unsearched and the Guardian readers still free to walk the streets eating their tofu. The British Home Office, a government department that is as ripe for reform as it was a generation ago, when a Labour predecessor, John Reid, said it was not fit for purpose, remains one of Whitehall’s unhappiest and least focused places. No wonder.


In her resignation letter, Braverman says she is quitting because of sending an official document through her own private email — a pretty serious error for a minister with security responsibilities to make. But there is clearly more to it than that. Braverman’s letter is a not-so-coded assault on Truss, attempting to claim that she is ready and willing to confess to getting things wrong when Truss, by implication, is not.

It is a show of defiance from a massively assertive but profoundly unproven minister with her own Truss-like level of self-deceiving ambition. Braverman clearly has her eyes once again on the leadership and is prepared to do her best to ensure that there is soon a vacancy.

Either way, it is a sign that Truss is nowhere near to getting out of the jail into which her tax-cutting obsession has landed her. Within a few weeks, she has lost a chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, and now a home secretary, Braverman. These posts once used to be called some of the great offices of state. Now they are just batons that are passed, dropped and exchanged in the endless ministerial relay race and permanent leadership contest to which the party has now been reduced by its own idiocy.

Truss’s government still hangs by a thread. She will try to bring in more supporters of Rishi Sunak — Grant Shapps has replaced Braverman — in an attempt to give her cabinet a broader base than she chose in September. It is not going to work. But the Tory party’s claim to be able to govern hangs by a thread too. Who cares about being a minister and actually getting something done when there is a chance that, by being sacked or resigning and making a few blood-curdling political promises to the rightwing press, you might find yourself as the next prime minister? The party has lost its judgment. It is an ungovernable party that is more than ever unable to govern the country.

Martin Kettle is a Guardian columnist