Braverman insists it is not hypocritical of her to push for lower migration

The Home Secretary praised her immigrant parents’ embrace of British values as she railed against the ‘unexamined drive towards multiculturalism’.

Sophie Wingate
Monday 15 May 2023 16:09 BST
Home Secretary Suella Braverman (Joe Giddens/PA)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

Suella Braverman has insisted it is not hypocritical for her, the child of migrants, to push for lower migration.

Addressing the National Conservatism Conference, the Home Secretary also argued that “you cannot have immigration without integration” and “the unexamined drive towards multiculturalism” is a “recipe for communal disaster”.

Ms Braverman was the star attraction of the first day of the three-day gathering in Westminster, but her speech, like that of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s earlier, was interrupted by protesters who were quickly hauled out.

She set out the Conservative philosophy instilled in her by her parents, whose arrival stories in the UK she recounted in a wide-ranging speech that will be seen in the context of her leadership ambitions.

She said: “Ours, like my parents’, is a politics of optimism of pride, national unity, aspiration, and realism.

“The left’s is a politics of pessimism, guilt, national division, resentment, and utopianism.”

Ms Braverman said that people who come to the UK “must not commit crimes”, “need to learn English and understand British social norms” and “cannot simply turn up and say: ‘I live here now, you have to look after me’”.

Her parents “embraced British values”, she said, adding that “you cannot have immigration without integration”.

She said: “And if we lack the confidence to promote our culture, to defend our values and venerate our past, then we have nothing to integrate people into.”

She argued that Britons should not feel “terrible about our past” and that “white people do not exist in a special state of sin or collective guilt”.

Ms Braverman said that while preventing “illegal migration” in the Channel is the Government’s priority, they “must not lose sight of the importance of controlling legal migration as well”.

She said: “It’s not racist for anyone, ethnic minority or otherwise, to want to control our borders.

“I reject the left’s argument that it’s hypocritical for someone from an ethnic minority, like mine, to know these facts or to speak these truths.”

Her speech will be seen as a warning to Cabinet colleagues against relaxing immigration visa rules in a bid to boost growth, and comes as Rishi Sunak grapples with signs of discontent and division with his party’s ranks.

There has been speculation of a split in Mr Sunak’s Cabinet on immigration, with some members – including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt – more keen than others to stress the benefits of migration for economic growth.

It comes ahead of official figures released later in May that are expected to show net migration of between 650,000 and 997,000.

Downing Street insisted Ms Braverman’s comments on cutting net migration were in line with the Government’s approach.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “She continues to represent the UK Government views on all issues relating to the Home Office, as you would expect.”

The spokesman added: “We want to see employers make long-term investments in the UK domestic workforce instead of relying on overseas labour as part of building a high-wage and high-skilled economy and we are supporting those industries in doing that.”

Sir Keir Starmer earlier urged Ms Braverman to cancel her planned speech on immigration and “get back to the office”.

The Labour leader told LBC radio: “Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is today making a speech about what she thinks ought to happen on immigration. She is the Home Secretary.

“They’ve been in power for 13 years. This is like (Mikel) Arteta… doing a speech this afternoon on what Arsenal ought to do.”

In her speech, Ms Braverman also praised the “common sense approach” of Conservatives who are “sceptical of self-appointed gurus, experts and elites”.

She added: “Measuring diversity only on the basis of skin colour, sex and sexuality is mindbogglingly myopic. Identity politics is the politics of grievance and division.”

Earlier, Mr Rees-Mogg attacked the Government’s decision to scale back post-Brexit plans to scrap EU laws as “pathetically under-ambitious”.

The former cabinet minister criticised the Prime Minister for breaking his promise to complete a “bonfire” of remaining EU-era laws by the end of the year.

The conference will also feature speakers including Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove, outspoken Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson and former Brexit negotiator Lord Frost.

The surrender to the blob risks exposing the Government to ridicule

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Mr Rees-Mogg, whose speech was interrupted early on by a protester warning about “fascism”, said the Government’s “U-turn” over scrapping EU laws was a “defeat of ambition, prosperity and democracy”.

“Rishi Sunak made a specific promise to scrap thousands of EU laws,” the Tory MP for North East Somerset said.

“He’s broken that promise. This is very unfortunate as one of his virtues is his trustworthiness and the surrender to the blob risks exposing the Government to ridicule.”

Mr Rees-Mogg said that while the Government “needs to be more ambitious”, it was essential to support it because “the alternative is far worse”.

The loyalist of former prime minister Boris Johnson also appeared to describe the introduction of voter ID as “gerrymandering”.

As a minister, Mr Rees-Mogg defended the introduction of voter IDs in Parliament.

Tory MP Miriam Cates opened the conference with a call for families to be encouraged to have more children, as she claimed “cultural Marxism” was “destroying our children’s souls”.

The conference comes only days after a similar gathering of Tory MPs and grassroots members in Bournemouth, and after a difficult set of local elections that saw the Conservatives lose nearly 1,000 councillors.

But Mr Sunak is planning his own charm offensive on Monday evening, with Tory MPs invited to a Downing Street reception that will see pies served from the PM’s own North Yorkshire constituency.

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