Suella Braverman is attempting to disown an email, sent out in her name, in which she labelled the country’s civil servants left-wing “activists”, accusing them of blocking efforts to curb Channel crossings.
In an email to Conservative party members yesterday afternoon, the Home Secretary wrote: “We tried to stop the small boat crossings without changing our laws. But an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party blocked us.”
Sent shortly after Braverman announced the government’s divisive new Illegal Migration Bill, the email came from Conservative Party Headquarters but was signed by none other than the Home Secretary.
Now, as she faces the wrath of civil servants’ unions, Braverman is claiming she “did not see, sign off or sanction” the email, despite it being sent in her name.
Her attempt to distance herself from the spiky comment is understandable. Dave Penman, head of the FDA civil servants union, has written a furious letter to the PM today demanding Braverman apologise for her “cowardly attack” on the impartiality of civil servants. He labelled her scapegoating of the civil service “a transparent attempt to deflect from her government’s own policy failings”.
Penman added that this “extraordinary statement” from a home secretary is a “clear breach of the ministerial code.”
“Not only is this statement factually incorrect, but the tone of that paragraph and the brigading of civil servants with the Labour Party and ‘left-wing lawyers’ is a direct attack on the integrity and impartiality of the thousands of civil servants who loyally serve the home secretary, doing some of the most complex and difficult work in government,” he said.
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Penman called on Rishi Sunak to withdraw the statement and to ensure the home secretary apologises to all civil servants.
While Sunak took delight in repeating Braverman’s “leftie lawyers” jibe during his PMQs session with Starmer today, he has indeed distanced himself from her attack on the civil service. The PM’s press secretary has said that Sunak does not agree with the sentiment.
Meanwhile, a Conservative party spokesperson has attempted to buffer Braverman from the onslaught. “This was a CCHQ email and the wording wasn’t seen by the home secretary. We are now reviewing our internal clearance processes,” they stated.
Either way, it’s still not great optics for the Tories. The fact that Braverman wouldn’t have signed off an email sent out in her name hardly appears professional. And whether or not Braverman was behind it, the PCS union has indicated that the remark is symptomatic of a wider problem – specifically, a wider cultural attitude towards civil servants within her party.
“Her government has, for years, treated hard-working civil servants with disdain and contempt, taking them for granted,” declared PCS union boss, Mark Serwotka.
The dig may well embolden a few civil servants as members of the Public and Commercial Services Union prepare to strike on Budget day next week in a dispute over pay, pensions and job security.
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