“As a petty and vindictive individual,” explained Peep Show’s Mark Corrigan of his decision to invite a love rival to his party, “I have to take extra care not to appear petty or vindictive.”
Which just goes to show that even solid, Tory-to-the-bone, averagely unhappy men like Mark can’t escape the sort of dangerously overt self-reflection encouraged by the liberal elite.
No such lily-livered introspection for the former home secretary Suella Braverman, who left high office completely of her own volition yesterday with a tour de force of passive-aggressive insinuation, blame deflection, and hull-splintering broadsides against a listing Prime Minister and government that she has, “with the greatest regret”, decided to no longer serve.
Her resignation letter, evoking all the clenched-jaw serenity of one who has recently extracted their fist from where some plasterboard used to be and told themselves to just breathe, is extraordinary: a righteous, savage blast of anger, exculpation and score-settling, somehow rendered in official departure-ese.
This high-wire exercise begins, however, with a rather humdrum demonstration of that political staple, the apology that isn’t. As she runs through the official reason for her resignation, “I sent an official document from my personal email”, stray adverbs and excuses pile up in mitigation. The document was sent to “a trusted parliamentary colleague” and had been due for publication “imminently“, with “much of it “already briefed”. She “rapidly reported” her mistake.
This only betrays a fear that a meaningful error was made, after all, and that the tracks need covering. It also runs against her overarching insistence that this was a mere “technical infringement of the rules”; the sort of minor infraction that happens all the time but only gets officiated on a whim, like doing 75mph on the motorway or being offside in rugby. In so doing, she implies that other forces and motivations were behind her fall, calling to mind the dread hand of Jeremy Hunt.
The heart and savour of the letter is a platinum-toe-capped booting of Liz Truss’s administration, and likely Truss herself. Braverman, now a saint of political decorum headed for a better place, hymns her own integrity in choosing to resign because “the business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes”. This is in contrast to those who, of late, have gone about “pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see that we have made them, and hoping that things will magically come right”. This, she says, “is not serious politics. I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.”
To be called out as not sufficiently serious by someone who while in office – and while services under their remit such as the courts, immigration and the passport office were in crisis – chose to spend parliamentary time drivelling on about “the tofu-eating wokerati”, only makes the sting keener.
But here, too, the use of semi-colons – “I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign” – where short sentences would have been more definitive, tell us that she doesn’t really think she should be going. The punctuation is crying foul, the very syntax screams “it’s a stitch-up!”. (What would Hunt look like, do you think, painted by Hans Holbein?)
Anyway, her “concerns about the direction of this government” are meant to tell us two things. First, that whatever the hell else has been going on round here in recent weeks, she hasn’t forgotten what she is about. Second, that by inviting us to think of the recent U-turns, declaring the government has “broken key pledges that were promised to our voters”, nor has she forgotten the importance of conflating the mandate won convincingly in 2019 in the general election with the mandate just about won in 2022 from the Conservative membership.
After all that, there is still time to ponder what might have been, as even “during the brief time that I have been here, it has been very clear that there is much to do, in terms of delivering on the priorities of the British people”. She invites us to think of all those long and happy years she might have spent prosecuting irrelevant and counterproductive vendettas against asylum seekers, climate protesters and bean curd, in roughly equal measure, maybe while also picking fights with key trading partners.
All gone much too soon. Braverman has been purged, like so many others, by the bin-fire of the mediocrities that is Liz Truss’s government, which continues to go on too far and too fast for the rest of us to comprehend. It does so now, alas, without Suella.