Voices: Suella Braverman’s ‘vision for conservatism’ is a psychodrama of self-interest
The Tory Party knows it is sinking. You can tell not only because so many of them have already got their eye on the soon to be vacant captain’s job, but also because they reckon they can get it by driving into the iceberg again, but this time even harder.
For some reason, the Conservative Party is having not one but two fully deranged “conventions” over the weekend and into this week, and both are seeking to outdo the other in their complete and utter failure to understand the inevitable consequences of absolutely everything they’ve done.
It’s commendable, in a way. The psychodrama of self-interest is all that most of them have cared about for a very long time, so we, the mere people, should be grateful that they’ve now hired a range of cheap convention facilities in which to do it, freeing at least some of them to plough on with the quotidian humdrum of actually running the country. That hasn’t always been the case.
On Saturday, Boris Johnson’s biggest fans gathered in Bournemouth to listen to Andrea Jenkyns sing the national anthem, twice, and bid for some bottles of wine signed by Boris Johnson. These people really do think that bringing back Boris would sort their problems out. One suspects they also think that Hiroshima was mainly the fault of the people who failed to adequately hoover up after it.
This week, in an old church hall near Westminster, various senior Tories will be swanning in and out of the National Conservatism Conference to talk about an apparently new form of conservatism called “national conservatism” which absolutely is not new, and definitely is not going to answer their prayers.
Jacob Rees-Mogg kicked things off by breezily announcing that when he was in the government, they tried to rig elections but it hasn’t worked. He really did do that. Here’s the quote in full:
“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections,” he said.
“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative. So we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
For most of the last two years, every Tory who’s ever been asked has tried to claim with very little success that new voter ID laws were to “restore confidence in the electoral system”, despite it never having gone away.
Just sort of casually announcing what everybody already knew – that it was always just an entirely corrupt scam and everyone around the cabinet table knew it – is the sort of thing that used to be shocking, but we’re all so worn down by it it’s hard to tell if anyone even cares anymore.
The “keynote address” on day one came from Suella Braverman. The home secretary has never been one to be bound by the conventional rules of politics. In the last days of the Johnson government, she announced on live TV that she was running to be party leader, but without quitting the cabinet first, and without actually calling on Johnson to resign.
This is the sort of thing you can only do if your understanding of how politics works does not exceed that of a particularly dim gerbil, which is ordinarily the kind of handicap that prevents people from reaching the highest echelons of politics. Braverman, on the other hand, is empowered – not crushed – by her own stupidity.
Two different protesters tried to stop her, but what’s the point? No one can. Braverman always ploughs on, entirely unencumbered by any kind of contact with reality.
She reckons that “Keir Starmer could be Labour’s first ever female prime minister”. This was intended as some kind of trans-based gag, but was actually just an accidental admission that the next election is already lost. This isn’t the kind of thing home secretaries tend to do, because home secretaries have never before been so unfathomably dense.
We would hear how “it’s not xenophobic to say that mass rapid migration puts pressure on housing, on public services”. Which it isn’t. But when you’ve been in government for 13 years and all anybody can recall is 13 years of utter failure to deal with the housing crisis, and have to contend with public services which are all entirely broken, it’s not so much xenophobic to blame it all on immigrants, it’s just entirely shameless, and everybody’s already seen straight through it.
It’s all to be expected, in a way. Whenever parties lose, they go mad for a bit and eventually find their way back again. William Hague had to drive around in a big white van promising to keep the pound before David Cameron politely guided them back to the centre.
What happens to the Tories post-2024 will be intriguing to watch. They already, in effect, lost in 2016, when they took the country out the EU by accident, so they’ve been having their obligatory mad phase while in office, which is not normal.
There is not much more madness out there to find. They’ve been testing the boundaries of it for a very long time already. But it will be fascinating to watch them try. They really might even think that Suella Braverman has the answers. She doesn’t, but she absolutely doesn’t understand the question either, so it’s not a bad place to start.