Voices: Listening to Suella Braverman is like being sucked into a viral Facebook scam

“I made a mistake, I took responsibility, I resigned,” said Suella Braverman, standing at the despatch box of the House of Commons. The words she chose were a direct quotation from her own resignation letter, which she sent to the now ex-prime minister less than two weeks ago.

And yet somehow, by some weird alchemy, she still is the home secretary. Here she was, praising her own moral courage for having admitted her mistake, and doing the decent thing and resigning as home secretary, all while being the home secretary.

In some ways, it was almost relaxing to witness. The Rishi Sunak era was meant to be the end of self-parodying government, of a country being run as a clumsily written farce. We’ve become so used to it now that one wonders whether we’d cope if things ever actually did go back to normal. But we don’t need to worry because they absolutely haven’t.

The position Braverman had to defend was entirely indefensible but she made no attempt to defend it. Quite the opposite, in fact. She went very aggressively on the offensive, but against both herself and her government. To watch the full hour was to be reminded of an infamous football match played in the Madagascan premier league in 2002, in which Stade Olympique de l’Emyrne deliberately scored 149 own goals just to spite the referee.

Some background. Since she resigned two weeks ago, two further charges against Suella Braverman have come to light. One is that she sent confidential information to her own personal email account six times (she was only in the job for six weeks).

The other is that she prevented asylum seekers from being moved out of a makeshift detention centre at Manston airport in Kent, meaning that 4,000 people were held there for weeks. Its capacity is for 1,600 and it is not intended for anyone to remain there more than a few hours – 48 at the most. There have been outbreaks of diphtheria, of scabies, of MRSA and also of violence.

None of this especially matters though, apparently, because the home secretary did the decent thing and resigned and if you want to point out that she’s already the home secretary again then you’re being very unfair.

To listen to her speak was to be reminded of those mad viral Facebook scams about how students should get their debt written off by declaring themselves bankrupt, or people who smash up Covid vaccine centres can render themselves immune from prosecution by declaring themselves to be freemen of the land under the Magna Carta. The home secretary can’t resign for her own gross incompetence because she already has resigned, so there. Suck it up, losers.

On the subject of Manston airport, she simply insisted it hadn’t happened. That she’d never blocked the use of hotel rooms as a means of easing congestion at Manston. The MP for the constituency where the airport can be found, Sir Roger Gale (a Conservative), rose to very politely point out that this was quite hard to believe. There had been no problems at all at Manston airport as recently as five weeks ago, a few days after the home secretary had been appointed (for the first time).

She stood there and spoke of asylum seekers as having launched “an invasion of our southern coast”. Five minutes later she accused Labour of using “inflammatory language”. To the best of my knowledge, she did not resign and get reappointed within this narrow window. Though she may have forgotten that the first part of her statement involved providing an update on the man who had attacked the asylum centre with petrol bombs over the weekend.

Later, the entirely bone-headed member for Ashfield, Lee Anderson, would rise to ask her whether, if asylum seekers aren’t happy, they could just “get on a dinghy back to France”.

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“My honourable friend is right,” she said. She and her halfwit pals are correct that many of the people arriving on small boats in Kent are seeking a better life for themselves, as opposed to fleeing war and persecution. But not all. The man who tried to kill them at the weekend, before killing himself instead, did so by attaching his petrol bombs to fireworks. One doubts such devices are capable of aiming only at the people the home secretary wishes to dehumanise.

She spoke of the enormous bill the government is currently paying to house asylum seekers in hotels, more than £6m a day. The astronomical size of that number is testament only to her own government’s failure. She stood there and said that “illegal immigration is out of control”. She said this as a representative of a party that has governed for the past 12 years.

It’s well known that she’s only in the job because she did a deal with Rishi Sunak last weekend. The new prime minister knows very well that the tide has gone out on his party and he’s only got two years to persuade it to come back again.

If he’s serious about that, or about any of his promises on the subject of “professional, accountable government”, then he’ll have to find the courage to make himself look slightly – but briefly – ridiculous and get rid of his home secretary for the second time as soon as he possibly can.