‘She tells it how it is. It’s the truth’: A day on the campaign trail with Suella Braverman

Suella Braverman and her canvassing team brave the elements in Fareham
Suella Braverman and her canvassing team brave the elements in Fareham - Tim Stanley

I’m out canvassing in Fareham, Hampshire, with Suella Braverman, and it’s pouring with rain. The candidate smiles through the deluge. I advise her that she’s got a bit of garden in her hair.

One door – marked “Beware of the Cat” – is answered by Phil and Maggie Woods, whose excitement is plain. “Big fans of yours,” says Phil. “Yeah, definite,” confirms Maggie. “We’re not fans of Rishi though… We don’t vote for him, we vote for you.” Why? Because “she tells it how it is. It’s the truth. It’s what everybody is mostly thinking”.

I’m thinking I’d like a towel and a cup of hot cocoa, but Mr and Mrs Woods are worried about “immigration” and tick off the categories of foreign workers we don’t need: “Uber drivers, taxi drivers, fast-food people…”

“Barbers,” adds Suella.

“These people are only taking from our country,” says Mrs Woods.

“We love our country,” declares Suella – and the Woods now simply have to have a photo. “I am the way I am because of people like you,” says their hero. “I have really tried, even if it’s got me in trouble a few times, to speak for you.”

There’s the rub, observes Mrs Woods: “You’re not just fighting Labour. You’re fighting half the people in your own party.”

I met Suella earlier in a pub on Fareham High Street. She wore a blue blazer and the hair, pre-soak, was perfect. Suella is a million miles from the “Cruella Braverman” image sold by the Left. She is thoughtful, she is kind. If she causes controversy, it’s not from calculation but honesty: you ask a question, she talks. After an hour, I could easily have filled three newspapers with her opinions, as well as a book and a short TV series. Let’s start at Cambridge University, where our paths crossed as undergraduates.

Suella Braverman meets some of her loyal supporters in Fareham
Suella Braverman meets some of her loyal supporters in Fareham - Tim Stanley

“I couldn’t believe that I was at Cambridge,” she said. “I went to a state primary school in Brent in the 1980s” and there were endless strikes. “I liked it! They always seemed to fall on a Thursday, and I couldn’t wait for strike day.” It meant she got to stay at home and enjoy her mother Uma’s “undivided attention”.

Uma is from Mauritius; Christie Fernandes, her father, is Kenyan. I asked why she doesn’t make more of her mixed-race heritage? Rachel Reeves is introduced at Labour rallies as the “first female chancellor” yet Suella refuses to mention her gender, race, that she’s married to a Jewish man or is herself a Buddhist. “I refuse to go down the route of identity politics. I want to be judged on my character alone.” She is simply British. “My parents were imbued with a sense of gratitude to the British empire.”

Her father was “grateful” for the “legal system, the parliamentary system, civil service” the Brits left in Kenya, and had her mother remained in Mauritius “she probably would’ve had an arranged marriage, she probably would not have had an education”. Both flourished in the UK and her mother served as a councillor. They scraped together to put Suella through private education on a partial scholarship – a success story Labour would now tax to death. She qualified as a lawyer and was selected to fight Fareham in 2015. Land of hope and glory, indeed.

“It saddens me when I see British history denigrated, constantly criticised… It starts with people saying Britain’s past is racist… The next stage is applying that view to public services”. It ends in “institutional capture”, a phenomenon she experienced as home secretary (appointed in 2022; resigned/sacked in 2023). “We had chief constables coming out and confessing to institutional racism, when it categorically was not true.”

The result? “We now see falling rates of stop and search” because it’s seen as discriminatory, and thus “you see knife crime rise, you see more young kids getting killed on our streets”. Is she saying that political correctness can kill? “Basically, yes… It starts with these Black Lives Matter marches, the net zero zealots… the Palestinian hate marchers and the anarchists and the Corbynistas… and it gets to another 12-year-old kid being murdered”. As for gender theory: “Children have been mutilated and subjected to irreversible and devastating treatment because it started with the be-kind brigade.” An academic folly led to “industrial-scale child abuse, which has been state-sanctioned”.

“One of our biggest failures [as the Conservative Government] was not changing the Equality Act when we had the chance. Labour will go gangbusters with the [woke] agenda if they get in and do untold damage.” This was not the only Tory mistake we touched upon. I wanted to know why immigration is up to historic levels. The answer: asylum from Ukraine and Hong Kong, for sure, but Rishi and Boris also liberalised the student visa scheme and the salary threshold fell. The graduate route – “Rishi’s brain child” – became a “back route” to migration that permitted students to bring their family with them. “We used the points-based system in precisely the way that was not promised in the 2019 manifesto or that people voted for in the Brexit referendum.”

‘I was blocked’

Suella is convinced that had the Tories reduced immigration significantly, the Reform Party would not now be surging in the polls. Incredibly, “we are even getting attacked on immigration from the Left” – by Labour. “I urged the PM for years to take some action on illegal immigration… I was blocked” and so long as Britain remains in the European Convention on Human Rights, the Rwanda scheme faces problems. Does she believe flights will take off after the election? “They might get a token flight.” Will they get regular flights? She shrugs. Can Rishi, as he has promised, remove all 90,000 illegal immigrants currently in the country? “No. I don’t believe that’s possible under the plan the PM’s designed… You have to block off all the individual challenges before they happen in primary legislation.”

To summarise: “It’s difficult to defend elements of our record.” Suella is loyal to the party, has campaigned for other MPs and talks up the qualities of the PM, such as his successful war on inflation. Nevertheless, Reform overtaking the Tories in a YouGov poll is “predictable” and “depressing”. Maybe the party can recover: “This is Rishi’s campaign. I’ve been wrong on some things. Hopefully I’ll be wrong about this too.” But “we shouldn’t have this split on the Right. If we’re a proper Conservative Party that just does what we promised to do, like cut migration and cut taxes, we would not have this division… and we’d have another 15 per cent added on to our polling right now.” Under such circumstances, would even Nigel Farage vote Tory? “I think so.” She would welcome him as a party member “if he was supporting the Conservatives and wanted the Conservatives to win”.

Many Tory candidates are hoping that their personal brand will get them through Nigel’s Flood; Fareham, with a whopping majority of 26,000, is probably high enough ground for Suella to survive. The town centre is attractive – with many hairdressers, it’s true – and dotted with war memorials. Fareham is popular among retired military personnel. We have “a very strong, cohesive sense of community and patriotism”, said Suella, and her face lit up at the memory of the recent D-Day celebration. There were “lunches and bunting and there were bands and people dressed up in 1940s vintage garb, and showing their vintage cars… We had Glenn Miller playing non-stop, it was just wonderful!”. This happy land has become her private “haven” from “the madness of London and the metropolitan elites” with their week-in, week-out anti-Israel protests.

“You’re not going to get people here in Fareham marching,” said Suella. But if they were formerly in the military, I asked, surely they’d have done lots of marching? “For a very different reason!”

A brand that attracts death threats

We hopped into a large black car, with the robustness of a tank, to visit the constituents – mostly retirees in bungalows – flanked by enthusiastic activists in t-shirts that read “I heart Suella”. Almost all the voters we met said they would stick with the Conservatives; one waverer seemed won over by Suella’s work on the local hospital. The afternoon was so positive, I half wondered if actors had been hired to impress me. But when Mrs Woods said that “even in my age”, she would gladly take up arms for her country, I realise no one could make this up. Forget the PC, self-flagellating world of Westminster – this is what real Britain is like.

Who, I ask, are the burly men who drive us about and hover in the background? They are my security, says the candidate. Why does she need that? “Because I’m Suella!” – and this is a brand that attracts death threats.

Spare a thought for the politicians who speak their mind. They pay a price.

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