She took the points and the fine. That’s your resignation issue right there. Forget about all the other stuff, the frankly overblown arguments about abuse of office. The fact is that Britain’s home secretary, a woman with open ambition to lead the country, cannot even make the right call when presented with a choice between going on a three-hour speed-awareness course or taking penalty points on her driving licence and paying a fine for going too fast.
There are academics who call being prime minister an “impossible job”. Home secretary is only a little easier. Life-and-death decisions, and certainly quality-of-life issues, are made on a routine basis. They say there are no easy choices once you get to the very top of politics. Well, this was one and she fluffed it.
There are, of course, plenty of other good reasons why Suella Braverman should go, the main one being that she shows absolutely no evidence of being up to the job. Her entire output so far seems to be complaining that she is not to blame for the failings of her department and indeed her prime minister.
But unlike some, I do not believe that on the basis of current information, Braverman’s efforts to secure a special speed course that she could take on her own is a sacking offence. I’m not even sure it is terribly wrong. If she were trying to avoid sanction, that would be a different matter.
On the other hand, her decision to take the points is patently grounds for instant dismissal. Nobody, literally nobody, with any faculty for deliberation makes the choice she did. You do not willingly take penalty points on your licence along with the inevitable increase in your insurance premium, when you have been offered the chance to wipe the slate clean by attending a three-hour course — one which can often be done online. As decisions go it is like being offered antibiotics for a septic toenail but opting for amputation instead. Admittedly it could be worse. She could have asked Chris Huhne to pretend he was driving.
This — this right here — is what is now wrong with British politics. Forget Brexit; forget economic stagnation; forget tax hikes. The underlying problem is that the talent pool is so depleted that senior ministers are chosen from the ranks of people who cannot even get this decision right. The comic Suzy Eddie Izzard has a routine called “cake or death” in which victims of an English version of the Spanish inquisition are offered a choice between these two punishments. The Braverman saga demonstrates that the UK is now run by those who are not entirely sure about choosing cake.
Some suggest she did not want the news of the offence to get out, though voters are untroubled by minor motoring breaches. Indeed, two of her Home Office ministers are currently banned from driving. She’s practically the departmental swot when it comes to the Highway Code. Robert Jenrick was banned doing nearly 30mph over the limit. That’s fast enough for a spot on Top Gear.
Braverman will have been only slightly over the speed limit. Maybe that was the cause of her embarrassment. Braverman revels in her reputation as a steely rightwinger. Perhaps she felt a true hardliner should be more foot to the floor.
But whatever her reason, the judgment shown is so bone-headedly witless, so bafflingly divorced from the behaviour of any normal, rational voter, that you have to stop and marvel. This is Olympian-level foolishness. Forget about whether she breached the ministerial code — she trashed the basic bloody common-sense code. Braverman’s defenders naturally sense a plot by the woke, liberal establishment. Perhaps they should be asking if their chosen champion is quite the political colossus they imagine. At Westminster, political opponents are asking if she broke the rules. In the wider world, where almost every driver has been offered this choice, people will just wonder if she is mad.
Mind you it would have been fun to watch her on the course.
Instructor: Can anyone tell me the speed limit on this road? Yes, that’s right, it’s 30mph. Yes Suella?
Braverman: “And what’s the speed limit for home secretaries?”
Follow Robert on Twitter @robertshrimsley and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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