Be a brave man Rishi and sack failed Suella

It’s long been a convention in British politics that when abroad on an official visit you don’t slag off your country and certainly not your party. It seems that wretched woman (and I’m trying hard to moderate my language) Suella Braverman hasn’t heard of that rule, or more probably chooses to ignore it.


Thus we have the spectacle of the Home Secretary on a trip to the US saying that multiculturalism in the UK has failed; that being persecuted for being gay or a woman, or worse both, doesn’t give the right to asylum here and that we should leave the European Court of Human Rights.


Let’s take her first assertion about multiculturalism. It’s not something a white politician could have said, other than Enoch Powell, Farage, and the sad mad show-off Lawrence Fox, of course. But Braverman, the product of a Mauritian mother and Kenyan Indian father and married to a Jew, thought she could get away with it. And she is right, sacking his Home Secretary is the last thing the prime minister needs on the eve of his party conference and with the polls still so gloomy.


So we must expect more from this ambitious extremist, already jockeying to be the next Tory leader if, and probably when, the Conservatives lose the general election. If she succeeds then it really will be the Nasty Party, a long, long way from the ‘One Nation’ Conservatives of Disraeli and more recently Cameron and May. Voters will scurry away in even larger droves.


In the main the UK has benefited enormously from the coalition of cultures we now have and nowhere more so than in Northern Ireland. I spent every summer in Co Antrim from the age of six until we moved back there from Cambridge when I was 13. In those days the only cultures were Protestant/Unionist or Catholic/Nationalist.


I cannot remember one non-white face on the streets of Belfast in the ‘60s, not one. Except at school where there were boarders from Asia and Africa as well as from all over the island of Ireland and from England and Scotland. We were a shining, if privileged, example of multiculturalism and the school still is but more so now.


Northern Ireland has changed beyond recognition with every nationality now living in the province, and we can thank the Good Friday Agreement for that. (Irish humour being the one great vehicle through adversity had the old joke about the Jew being asked if he was a Jewish Prod or a Jewish Papist. Now it’s being asked of Muslims.)


Later this month a wide-ranging reshuffle of the cabinet is expected and I hope Rishi Sunak, himself a shining example of multiculture, is brave enough to remove Braverman. By then we should know the Supreme Court’s ruling on the legality, or otherwise, of her Rwanda plan and we will know if the Tories have held the seat daft Dorries vacated in Mid Beds.


Whatever the outcome of these two events, Sunak should be resolute. Braverman only holds sway among the headbangers in his party like Truss, Lee ‘Ordinary Bloke’ Anderson, Priti Patel and the increasingly ridiculous Rees-Mogg. Oh, and the Daily Mail. Meanwhile, many normal decent Tory MPs, including her cabinet colleagues, have complained to Sunak and to the whips about that US speech.


Braverman has failed as Home Secretary (as her floundering around over the small boats crisis proves) and is a distraction Sunak doesn’t need. He should despatch her to the wilderness in his reshuffle and maybe she will find a new home in Loopy Lawrence’s Reclaim Party.


We spent last weekend in Somerset and Dorset and very fine it was. We were there for the memorial wake of an old and dear friend who died far too early this year. His family took over his village pub at lunch and then a particularly good Indian restaurant in the evening. Our pal Ian would have loved it and it was exactly what he had planned in the last months of his varied and very successful life.


He lived in a village named Shepton Montague and it reminded us of the splendid variety of place names in Somerset. Temple Cloud for instance, and Mudford Sock, Queen Camel, Tinker’s Bubble, Sticklepath, Velvet Bottom and, best of the lot, Nempnett Thrubwell.


In fact a resident of Nempnett Thrubwell, one Jonathan Hayward, wrote to The Times during the week, complaining that he had booked two seats on a KLM flight, one for him and one for his daughter’s cello. The poor chap was very miffed that the airline upgraded the cello. But not him!    


I am distressed that Country Boys, the everyday story of queer folk, is no more. Teddy’s buggered off, so to speak, and Oliver is back home with mother in Corby (why couldn’t she live in Velvet Bottom?)


 1 October 2023