Suella Braverman, the dismissed home secretary launched a personal attack on prime minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday (14), accusing him of betraying both her and the country.
Popular on the right of the party, Braverman kept quiet on Monday (13) after being sacked but published a letter to Sunak on Tuesday that could mark the start of a campaign to replace him if, as polls predict, the Conservatives lose an election expected next year.
She accused Sunak of betraying a promise to do “whatever it takes” to stop the boats and illegal migration, on the eve of a Supreme Court ruling on whether the government can go ahead with its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
She also said Sunak broke a series of promises he made to her so she would serve under him as prime minister.
“Someone needs to be honest: your plan is not working, we have endured record election defeats, your resets have failed and we are running out of time. You need to change course urgently,” Braverman said in the letter, posted on Twitter, referring to Conservative defeats in local votes under his leadership.
A spokesperson for Sunak’s Number 10 office said in response: “The prime minister believes in actions not words.”
“The prime minister thanks the former home secretary for her service,” the spokesperson said in a statement, adding Sunak was proud of bringing forward the “toughest legislation to tackle illegal migration this country has seen”.
Braverman was sacked by Sunak after an unauthorised newspaper article in which she accused police of double standards at pro-Palestinian protests.
Sunak became leader in October last year and re-appointed Braverman as interior minister just days after she was fired by his predecessor for security breaches.
Braverman said that, in return for her support for his leadership bid, Sunak had agreed to a document with “clear terms” on policies including immigration, an agreement with the European Union on post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland and others.
But she said he had broken her trust by “manifestly and repeatedly” failing to deliver on the promises he had made.
“Either your distinctive style of government means you are incapable of doing so. Or, as I must surely conclude now, you never had any intention of keeping your promises,” she wrote.
Braverman said Sunak had no “Plan B” if the Rwanda Supreme Court ruling went against the government, and that he had opted for “wishful thinking as a comfort blanket to avoid having to make hard choices”.
“This irresponsibility has wasted time and left the country in an impossible position,” she said. “I can only surmise … you have no appetite for doing what is necessary, and therefore no real intention of fulfilling your pledge to the British people.”
She also criticised Sunak’s handling of pro-Palestinian protests, saying she had become hoarse in making arguments to ban the marches when his response had been “uncertain, weak and lacking in the qualities of leadership this country needs”.
“As on so many other issues, you sought to put off tough decisions in order to minimise political risk to yourself,” she said.