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Sunak’s Braverman dilemma: What’s more important – being right or being strong? | Politics News

Until the formal confirmation of a reshuffle, we won’t know for sure whether Rishi Sunak intends to oust his home secretary Suella Braverman on a charge, effectively, of disobedience.

We do know, however, it has been discussed. And we don’t know the resolution yet. One Whitehall source put the odds as high as 90% on Sunday afternoon that it would be a Monday reshuffle, although – despite the punchy prediction – we really don’t know.

But what we are sure about is the arguments behind, rehearsed at the top of government for and against.

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First, the case for sacking her. Sunak has spent months having to respond to Braverman’s language. Despite being the most socially conservative prime minister possibly since Margaret Thatcher, the punchier language of his home secretary has endlessly left Number 10 in a dilemma.

Whether it was the “hurricane” of migrants, the “lifestyle choice” to be homeless or the criticism of police bias, she makes it look like he is dancing to her tune. There’s a growing worry among some Tory MPs that he must endlessly respond to her, rather than looking strong and having his own view dominate.

The fact they agree on most policy issues may actually put Braverman in a weaker position. On most home affairs topics, the PM agrees on the substance, with the two apparent exceptions being the extent of legal migration the country should allow, and what should happen in the event the government loses the Supreme Court judgment on Wednesday.

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There are signs she wants immediate action to override the European Convention on Human Rights – perhaps a pre-election bill; Sunak would be slower, mindful such a move would blow up the Windsor framework he negotiated that normalised relations with the EU. Again a further reason for ditching her now: fail to act at the start of this week and on Wednesday, when the Supreme Court verdict on the Rwanda policy is released, she may resign anyway if they disagree.

The next reason for dismissal would be the jeopardy done to the working relationship with the police, who she accused of bias in The Times article.

Politics latest: Braverman hits out at ‘sick’ and ‘clearly criminal chants’

The leaked WhatsApp conversation between Tory MPs to Sky News on Friday revealed the depth of division over this specific point – some saw it tantamount to a challenge to democracy; others a necessity for ensuring sensible policing. However it is certainly unusual and unprecedented and for Sunak, far from on brand to have a minister doing such a thing.

Then there is the charge of insubordination. Few members of the public would care about the internal governance process to clear an article for publication – almost no one noticed that the home secretary published words that were not authorised by Number 10. However by sacking her for disobedience by publishing The Times article that Number 10 objected to, rather than the content itself – which the Met themselves said made policing more difficult – they can attempt to avoid accusations that Braverman was simply too tough a home secretary for this PM.

Read more:
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Shapps ‘won’t make prediction’ on Braverman’s future
Is Braverman digging her own political grave?
Why Met chief has firmer grasp on liberal democracy than Braverman

However, there is also a credible case for keeping Braverman as home secretary. There are anecdotal signs that among the voters that matter – 2019 Tory voters who have drifted away – Braverman is a draw. There’s a view that you cannot be too tough on law and order, even if – as Tory MPs Danny Kruger and John Hayes would argue – this means criticism of the police.

Some think it mad to act before the Rwanda decision on Wednesday. If this goes the government’s way and the Supreme Court gives the green light, then Sunak and Braverman are united, and coupled with the likely success on meeting the PM’s inflation goal, the sense of trouble could disappear within days.

Talk of resignations if she goes

Then there is the question about how much Tory turmoil Sunak would have to endure. There’s talk of resignations if she goes, and setting himself for a conflict with the right is a challenging dynamic at this stage of the electoral cycle.

We have already had a flavour: some MPs inclined to back Braverman are already attacking chief whip Simon Hart suggesting he’s out of touch with the party and the party chairman Greg Hands for not understanding the realignment in politics – Cameron-style big tent politics is dead, they claim. Some MPs sympathetic to her even believe Sunak is “jealous” of her ability to communicate. Do you want all this amplified through a megaphone?

That is the dynamic Sunak must weigh up. What is more important – being right (on the issues) or being strong (with his team). The civil service is ready for a reshuffle – the packs to brief new ministers were prepared on Tuesday night and Wednesday last week, even before this latest cycle of tumult developed. The grid is free-ish on Monday and Wednesday. But the decision is Sunak’s alone. Which way will he go?

UK weather: Storm Babet to bring heavy rain and strong winds to UK as Met Office issues warning | Weather News

Storm Babet is set to hit the UK this week, bringing heavy rain and strong winds, with “significant and widespread disruption” possible in Scotland.

The Met Office said the storm, named on Monday, is forecast to bring “impactful heavy rain” to the UK from Wednesday.

Strong winds will accompany the storm.

There is a “chance of extremely heavy rain to cause flooding and disruption” – as well as “strong south-easterly winds”, which would “exacerbate” any impacts, the forecaster added.

A yellow weather warning has been issued by the Met Office for central and eastern Scotland, where some “exceptional” rainfall levels could build up over two or three days.

Check the latest five-day forecast where you are

Yellow rain warnings are in place from 6am on Thursday until midnight on Saturday, mainly in the Grampian region.

Scotland saw heavy flooding last week with major travel disruption and 10 people airlifted to safety after extreme rainfall caused multiple landslides.

Deputy chief meteorologist Steven Keates said the rain forecast for Scotland later this week could fall on ground “already saturated after recent heavy rainfall”.

“This could lead to some significant and widespread disruption,” he said.

The Met Office said the worst of the rain was expected over higher ground and further warnings would likely be issued later in the week.

Sky News meteorologist Chris England said: “Gusty winds will bring a risk of severe gales to parts of northern and eastern Scotland, especially to the lee of the mountains.”

He added that while there is the chance of localised flooding, details are uncertain at this point.

Read more from Sky News:
Full list of storm names for 2023/24
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The rest of the UK will see a change to “milder but much more unsettled conditions from midweek”, he said, with strong winds and prolonged heavy rain expected across much of the country.

Storm Babet is the second named storm of the season, after Storm Agnes swept through the UK and Ireland in late September.

Storms are named when they are deemed to have the potential to cause ‘medium’ or ‘high’ impacts.

Tens of thousands of homes without power as Storm Otto brings strong winds to UK | UK News

Tens of thousands of homes are without power as Storm Otto brings winds of more than 80mph to parts of the UK.

Energy company SSEN said that, as of 11am Friday, 30,000 properties in Scotland were without power and it could be more than two days before supply is restored.

The network has a number of faults on its high voltage network due to fallen trees, branches and other windblown debris.

Mark Rough, operations director at SSEN Distribution, said power has been restored to 10,000 properties so far.

He added: “Despite the widespread nature of the storm, coupled with ongoing adverse weather conditions and challenges with access, our teams have made good progress restoring power to homes impacted.

“With wind speeds expected to subside from around midday, we expect to make significant progress throughout the course of today.”

In England, around 1,300 homes in Ripon and 1,330 homes near Chester-le-Street, County Durham, are without power, with Northern Powergrid also reporting supply cuts in Northumberland, Darlington and Leeds.

The Met Office recorded wind gusts of 83mph at Inverbervie in Scotland’s north east, while winds elsewhere reached up to 75mph.

Schools were closed in some parts of Scotland, particularly in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire, and the roof of a school in Carnoustie, Angus, was damaged by the wind.

In Aberdeenshire, the council said several GP practices were operating emergency services only, as they were among those to have lost power supply.

Train operator Scot Rail is also running an emergency timetable with speed restrictions.

Read more on Sky News:
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This year expected to be warmer than 2022 and one of the hottest on record

Yellow weather warnings for wind are in place covering parts of north and north-east England and southern Scotland until 2pm, while a warning for snow and ice in parts of Scotland starts late tonight and lasts until 9am tomorrow.

In other Otto-related disruption on Friday:

• A1(M) affected by a number of closures or delays due to overturned lorries – between J48 and 49, and 60 and 59
• A1(M) closed to high-sided vehicles in both directions between J47 and 56
• Leeds Bradford Airport is open but there is disruption to flights, a spokesperson said
• Some services cancelled by London North Eastern Railway
• Tree blocking the rail line between Harrogate and Knaresborough in Yorkshire
• Reports of trees blocking roads in Harrogate and Leeds

A person walking a dog on Tynemouth beach on the North east coast, as Storm Otto hits parts of Scotland and north-east England as it moves across the UK on Friday.
Image:
Tynemouth beach

A Met Office spokesperson said: “The strong winds from Storm Otto will ease through the day as the low pressure moves out into the North Sea.

“After a relatively dry day with good sunny spells in places, cloud will build from the west this evening before rain and snow move across most parts overnight.”

Check the forecast in your area

Forecasters said snow is likely to fall in locations over 300 metres, with 2-5cm possible across the warning area, and 5-10cm over the highest locations.

“Rain and hill snow will ease in the early morning of Saturday, with some brightness, though rain will return later from the west. There will be some drizzly rain further south, but it will be mild with a few brighter spells by afternoon.

“Wet and windy conditions will return for the north of Scotland on Sunday as an area of low pressure skirts to the north of the UK.”