Braverman Admits Email Attacking 'Activist' Civil Servants Was Sent In 'Error'
Suella Braverman has admitted she was unaware of an email sent out to Tory members in her name attacking civil servants.
The email blaming an “an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party” for blocking previous attempts to tackle illegal migration, signed by the home secretary, has drawn widespread criticism.
Braverman was accused of potentially breaking ministerial rules by questioning the impartiality of public servants in the Conservative Party message, which followed the publication of the government bill cracking down on asylum seekers.
Braverman later confirmed that the email was sent in error and said she had been “incredibly impressed” with the dedication and hard work of officials in the Home Office.
“I didn’t write that email, I didn’t see it. It was an error really that it was sent out,” she told ITV’s Peston show.
“I didn't write that email, I didn’t see it & it was an error that it was sent out in my name”@Peston challenges @SuellaBraverman on a CCHQ email which said activist civil servants blocked action to stop small boats.
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— Peston (@itvpeston) March 8, 2023
HuffPost UK has reported that Braverman on Wednesday sent an email to all Home Office staff thanking them for their work on the illegal migration bill.
In it, she praised the “outstanding support from the whole department” and said officials’ work had been a “credit to the department and the civil service”.
The Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ), which distributed the email, admitted that “the wording wasn’t seen by the home secretary” and said it is “reviewing” its internal clearance processes.
No 10 sought to distance her from the campaign communication, with prime minister Rishi Sunak’s press secretary telling reporters on Wednesday: “She did not see, sign off or sanction that email being sent out.”
Sunak’s press secretary indicated there had been “operational issues” at CCHQ that “we’ll have to review”.
“Obviously there would have to be ministerial sign-off usually on things where their name is included on it or it goes out in their name,” she said, suggesting that on this occasion the process was not followed.
She stressed that Braverman “had a busy day” launching the legislation designed to toughen asylum rules and deter migrants from crossing the Channel in small boats.
Asked if CCHQ had apologised to the home secretary for the blunder, the press secretary said she was not aware of any further “conversations” with Braverman.
The remarks in the fundraising message appeared to prompt anger among Home Office staff, who have since received an email from Braverman praising them for their work.
One called the accusation that civil servants had scuppered asylum policy a “slanderous claim”, according to a screenshot of an anonymous internal Q&A shared on Twitter by Sam Freedman, a senior fellow at the Institute for Government.
A government source said: “Civil service leadership acted quickly to raise and address this issue. You’ve seen the subsequent words from CCHQ and yesterday the home secretary thanked the Home Office teams for all their work on the bill.”
Earlier, Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, said the email amounted to a “direct attack on the integrity and impartiality” of public servants working in the Home Office.
Civil service union Prospect sent its own letter to the prime minister accusing Braverman of breaching the ministerial rules.
Sunak reinstalled Braverman in his Cabinet days after she was forced to resign, having been found to have breached ministerial rules by sending a sensitive document to a backbench Tory MP through a private email address.