Saturday 11 November 2023

After Braverman's Bovver Boys

In politics, chains of causation are often fuzzy. They are subject to countervailing tendencies and the pressures of concurrent actions, movements, and affects. The relationship between Suella Braverman's repeated smears against Palestinian solidarity marches and the white riot of far right thugs by the Cenotaph was not one of them. Her comments, embellished and amplified by fash-adjacent commentators like Douglas Murray and Matthew Goodwin conjured up a mob who, without anyone to kick off against, attacked the police. Braverman got the ugly scenes on Remembrance Day that she wanted, except it was supposed to be the other people who were to go on a violent rampage. Not upstanding citizens who, in their patriotic fervour, screamed "where's your fucking poppy?" at the plod.

In the end, the figures speak for themselves. 92 arrests from the thousand or so fascists at the memorial, while the Met reported "no issues" on the Palestinian solidarity march. This was supplemented by some confrontations with a 150-strong group toward evening, but that's it. From a demonstration of between 700,000 and a million people. The biggest since Iraq, eclipsing the so-called People's Vote marches of several years ago. And whereas the Iraq demo was a mass, if sullen affair by all accounts today's marches in London, Glasgow, and Cardiff were more politically clued up and angry. The rarity of stupid and antisemitic signs, broadcast by social media's placard police as "proof" the whole demo was a racist endeavour, demonstrates the increased level of self-understanding as consciously anti-imperialist and solidaristic rather than simply being a "war is bad" mobilisation. No wonder it will continue to give the establishment the heebeegeebees.

But the immediate consequence is not only pressure on the government and opposition (after all, these are as much demonstrations against Labour Party policy as they are the Tories' backing of Israeli genocide), but a real falling out among the political establishment too. As last week wore on, more and more Tories and their allies were showing concern about the Home Secretary. When even Keir Starmer delivered a damaging broadside against Braverman and, by extension, Sunak too, he was speaking for plenty on the government benches who think the Pennywise clown show at the Home Office has gone on long enough. And yet where are the signs of her demise? In Sunak's statement put out this evening, he said there were bad people on both sides. Nothing, as you would expect, on Braverman's responsibility for the scenes in front of the Cenotaph.

Is he going to sack her then? The problem Sunak has got is while she is useful because she says the things he won't, it's obvious her perpetual campaigning has made her a liability. If the Prime Minister sticks by her, he's open to the not-entirely-accurate barbs that he's too weak to giver her the heave ho. And should he submit to the pressure, like his predecessors in the leader-centric game of Westminster politics, that invites further erosion of his authority. He's in a justly deserved position of exquisite political pain. No wonder she's apparently pleading with Sunak behind the scenes to call an election on stopping the boats. Her brand of toxicity would be indispensable for such a lurch into the gutter.

Unfortunately for Braverman and Sunak, her future is more than a matter of internal Tory politics and electoral strategy. Her week's worth of far right-enabling antics, on the streets and in the Jewish Chronicle's sheets, open insubordination, and unprecedented public criticism of the police is accumulating nothing but opposition among elite layers and opinion formers. If Sunak clings onto her, sooner rather than later he could face the kind of revolt he helped initiate against Boris Johnson.

Image Credit


The Laughing Lemon said...

I don't remember the march on February 2003 as being a "sullen affair", although it was cold and overcast. I do remember going underneath Charing Cross Bridge and a wall of sound as all the drums and whistles (including my own) went off. It was deafening.
We did spend a while waiting along the Embankment forming up into a column, about half an hour, and then we set off. I started a few hundred yards upstream from Temple station and it took about ten minutes from the start until we got to Embankment Station. We then went under Charing Cross Bridge, turned right onto Northumberland Avenue and the only slope that day up to Trafalgar Square. We swung left around the back of the Canadian High Commission onto Haymarket and into Piccadilly Circus. This was less at a marching pace, and more at a leisurely amble, almost a shuffle. There were a LOT of people, all creeds, colours and ages; a lot of prams. One or two flags, a lot of banners from peace associations, and such, but mostly placards. Then it was along Piccadilly to Hyde Park, about two miles in total that seems to take ages, but was probably just shy of an hour and a half, given how slow we were walking.
I remember walking onto the overpass at Hyde Park Corner and looking back along Piccadilly. There was a sea of people, to a vanishing point, and the end of the march didn't get to Hyde Park before dark. Yeah, about a million.
The end might have been a damp squib, given that it was cold and gloomy. Standing around listening to Tony Benn when you had the kids complaining of being cold wouldn't have appealed to the average Joe and Joanna. Still, I enjoyed it and everyone else seemed to.
Subsequent marches were less well attended and had a greater police presence, but no less good humoured. On one, we seemed to be marching all over Central London, covering the South Bank and up past the Cenotaph into Trafalgar Square. I think they were trying to wear us out.
And there were no counter-marches, either. Well done, Ms Braverman.

Anonymous said...

Looks like this is how they're planning on dealing with it?

Sean Dearg said...

A weekend is a long time in politics. Braverman has been sacked, and, astonishingly, David Cameron appointed as Foreign Sec to fill the gap from Cleverley's move to replace her. Who saw that one coming! Looks like Sunak has found his bottle and decided to stick it to the right. Or just is so clueless he can't see a problem with it. Or has so few options because the barrel has been scraped and now the bottom has dropped out so he's looking under stones to see what might crawl out. Whatever the reason, it signals the desperation and the absence of any coherent strategy other than hang on for as long as possible.