Rishi Sunak told MPs yesterday that Suella Braverman:
“Made an error of judgement, but she recognised that, she raised the matter, and she accepted her mistake.”
The new prime minister was defending his decision to appoint Ms Braverman as home secretary, just six days after she was forced to resign.
Why did Suella Braverman resign?
Ms Braverman’s previous tenure came to an abrupt halt last week after she admitted emailing details of a yet-to-be-announced immigration policy to a backbench MP, Sir John Hayes, who was not authorised to see it.
Hearing Mr Sunak’s claim yesterday that she “raised the matter”, you’d be forgiven for thinking Ms Braverman was the one who sounded the alarm on her own breach of the ministerial code.
But evidence in the public domain suggests otherwise.
The Sunday Times reports that the home secretary accidentally copied in “someone she thought was [Mr] Hayes’s wife but was actually an assistant to Andrew Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole.”
The report continues: “After taking advice from colleagues, Percy spoke to the chief whip, Wendy Morton, who referred the issue to [the cabinet secretary, Simon] Case.”
Liz Truss, who was prime minister at the time, then held a meeting with Ms Braverman at Downing Street at which the home secretary’s rule breach was discussed.
Jake Berry MP, then-chairman of the Conservative party, said yesterday that while he wasn’t at the meeting himself, he understands that “the evidence was put to [Ms Braverman] and she accepted the evidence – rather than the other way round.”
Mr Sunak’s spokesperson was asked at this morning’s lobby briefing of political journalists why the prime minister had said Ms Braverman reported her mistake when the evidence suggested otherwise.
The spokesman pointed to Mr Sunak’s words in the Commons and said he would not go into details, conversations or timelines on the issue. The spokesman added that the home secretary had made an error, recognised the mistake and took accountability for it.
Did Suella Braverman apologise?
If you’ve been following TV and radio news this week, you might have heard Mr Sunak’s cabinet colleagues, James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, claim that Ms Braverman has apologised for her error.
Mr Cleverly (who’s been reappointed as foreign secretary) made this claim four times on yesterday’s Today programme, as well as once on BBC Breakfast and once on Sky News.
And today, minister without portfolio Mr Zahawi repeated the claim on Sky News: “She resigned and she apologised”.
While she acknowledged that she made a “mistake”, at no point in Ms Braverman’s resignation letter did she offer an apology to the then-prime minister or say she was sorry. She described her behaviour as constituting a “technical infringement of the rules”.
The home secretary has not apologised in any other public forum.
It’s possible Mr Cleverly and Mr Zahawi are referring to an apology Ms Braverman has made in a private conversation. Though the details of any such conversation, if it happened, have not been made public.
We asked the Foreign Office about Mr Cleverly’s comments but have not received a reply.