Firebrand Tory Mimics US Culture-War Rhetoric to Stoke Support

Suella Braverman lowered her voice and leaned in to the lectern to emphasize her point: “The future could bring millions more migrants to these shores; uncontrolled and unmanageable.”

(Bloomberg) — Suella Braverman lowered her voice and leaned in to the lectern to emphasize her point: “The future could bring millions more migrants to these shores; uncontrolled and unmanageable.”

The UK home secretary’s views on immigration are well known but she was still one of the biggest draws at this week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester. That’s in part because she’s made no secret of her ambition to lead the party. It’s also because she’s unafraid to use the type of US-style culture war rhetoric that grassroots Tory activists increasingly like to hear.

“The luxury beliefs brigade sit in their ivory towers telling ordinary people that they are morally deficient because they dare to get upset about the impact of illegal migration,” said Braverman, whose Indian-origin parents migrated to the UK from east Africa. Politicians “have been far too squeamish about being smeared as racist to properly bring order to the chaos.”

She also warned that Britain “would go properly woke” if poll-leading Labour Party leader Keir Starmer became prime minister. “Things are bad enough already. We see it in parts of Whitehall, in museums and galleries, in the police, and even in leading companies in the City.”

Braverman got a standing ovation at the end of her speech and stood for several minutes for photos. Her following is the envy of many in the Conservative Party, and her approach is increasingly catching on.

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On Monday, Transport Secretary Mark Harper tapped into fringe conspiracies about so-called 15-minutes cities as a way of attacking local government efforts to tackle road congestion and vehicle emissions.

Then Claire Coutinho, a key ally of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak who was recently elevated to the Cabinet as energy secretary, accused Labour of planning to introduce a tax on meat, echoing a common claim among climate change deniers. Labour has no such plan. 

“It’s no wonder Labour seems so relaxed about taxing meat — Sir Keir Starmer doesn’t eat it,” she told delegates, referring to the opposition party leader being a pescatarian.

On Tuesday, Science Secretary Michelle Donelan railed against “woke” scientists, and the Conservative Party posted on the social media site X that the Tories are “safeguarding scientific research from the denial of biology and the steady creep of political correctness.” 

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Steve Barclay announced that under government plans, trans women could be prevented from using female-only hospital wards.

The language is tailored to the party’s base, which will be crucial in the countdown to a general election expected next year. It is the same group that will likely ultimately decide who leads the Tories if they lose, and the jostling to take Sunak’s place in that scenario has already begun.

Sunak himself appears comfortable with the party’s shift to the right on his watch. In a GB News interview, he suggested former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage — who is no stranger to culture wars and is attending the conference — would be welcome in the Conservative Party’s “very broad church.” 

Hundreds of delegates also queued to hear a speech by former premier Liz Truss, whose disastrous 49-day tenure has not dented her appeal on the right of the party.

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The risk is that embracing a culture war risks alienating more moderate voters, and other Tories. Andrew Boff, a Conservative member of the London Assembly, heckled Braverman during her speech. She later said on social media he should be “forgiven and let back into the conference.”

(Updates with Tory post on scientific research in ninth paragraph. A previous version of this story corrected the length of Truss’s tenure in the penultimate paragraph.)

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