And the problem for Sunak is that the collision of events facing him this weekend includes one that brings his judgment into question, and the ability of foreign Governments to trust the UK into the less likely category. Because, despite all caution and advice to the contrary, he reappointed Suella Braverman, aka Leaky Sue, to the role of Home Secretary.
Ms Braverman had previously resigned from the role because she had been using a personal email account to send classified material, including to someone who should not have seen it. But today, Michael “Oiky” Gove rocked up on Laura Kuenssberg’s BBC politics hour and trotted out the official line that she had said sorry, she had resigned, and that we should get over it.
The problem was that there was rather more to it, as Byline Times’ political editor Adam Bienkov noted. “Michael Gove says Suella Braverman immediately owned up to her ‘mistake’ and then informed officials … The BBC then shows him a leaked email showing her asking a recipient to ‘delete the message and ignore’ it, hours before officials were eventually told”.
In other words, it appears that Ms Braverman, or someone on her behalf, has been seriously economical with the actualité. And those touring the TV studios are effectively covering it up by claiming that there is Nothing To See Here. But a more explicit, and worse cover-up, appears to have occurred concerning the person who first made Ms Braverman Home Secretary.
Liz Truss, in her previous cabinet incarnation as Foreign Secretary, had her phone hacked: “Spies suspected of working for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, gained access to sensitive information, including discussions about the Ukraine war with foreign officials … It also claimed private conversations between Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng criticising Johnson fell into the hackers’ hands, leaving them at risk of blackmail”. And it got worse.
“The breach was discovered when Truss, then the foreign secretary, was running for the Tory leadership in the summer, but details were suppressed by the then-prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the cabinet secretary, Simon Case”. Not to ease her way into Downing Street, surely?
Once again, it is the willingness to cover it up, to hope it all goes away and the Tories’ political opponents don’t notice. But Labour’s Chris Bryant has noticed, asking “Have I got this right? The Foreign Secretary’s phone was compromised by [Russia] and Braverman as attorney general and Home Secretary compromised national security and the two Prime Ministers covered it up. The UK is not safe in their hands”. There was more.
After the Guardian’s Pippa Crerar noted “Boris Johnson and Simon Case ‘suppressed’ details of Liz Truss’s phone hack with allies fearing it could derail her Tory leadership campaign”, Liz Gerard added “This also shows why it matters that [Braverman] … was sharing state matters on her personal account (quite apart from the leaking)”. But still she remains in post.
So not only is the pressure maintained on Sunak to do something, and thus quell the talk of his agenda being sidetracked because of perceived sleaze within his own cabinet, but also the suspicion that Perfidious Albion once again cannot be trusted will gather force among all those countries with which we are supposed to have close, and indeed trusting, relationships.
The idea that getting rid of disgraced former alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, and his habit of leaving his mobile number lying around, together with those visits to the Lebedev palazzo in Umbria where he was for some reason not accompanied by his security detail, would stop any talk of information getting into the wrong hands is no longer credible.
Sunak can make the sacking decision now. Or he can watch his credibility diminish, only to have the decision forced on him later. Decisions, decisions.
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