When Suella Braverman was born in 1980, Britain was gripped by Dallas, the American TV series starring Larry Hagman as Texan oil magnate J R Ewing who is gunned down by a mystery assailant.
Mrs Braverman’s mother Uma was so hooked on the programme she named her daughter after JR’s long-suffering, shoulder pad-wearing wife Sue Ellen: it morphed into Suella after her teachers objected to the hyphen she placed between her Christian names.
Last week Mrs Braverman was at the centre of her own drama in Westminster when she was sacked as Home Secretary by Rishi Sunak for making outspoken criticism of the policing of pro-Palestinian marches.
The tensions came to a head over a newspaper article Mrs Braverman wrote earlier this month in which she accused the police of ‘double standards’ for giving the go-ahead for a pro-Palestine march on Armistice Day, arguing that they appeared to care more about avoiding ‘flak’ than ensuring public safety.
In her first interview since leaving the Home Office on Monday – and firing off a devastating letter a day later in which she accused Mr Sunak of reneging on a secret deal she struck with him before supporting him as leader – Mrs Braverman describes her sacking as ‘a bit odd’ because Downing Street had agreed she should write the article.
When Suella Braverman (pictured) was born in 1980, Britain was gripped by Dallas, the American TV series starring Larry Hagman as Texan oil magnate J R Ewing who is gunned down by a mystery assailant
Mrs Braverman’s mother Uma was so hooked on the programme she named her daughter after JR’s long-suffering, shoulder pad-wearing wife Sue Ellen (right, portrayed by Linda Gray): it morphed into Suella after her teachers objected to the hyphen she placed between her Christian names
Mrs Braverman, who received the call from the Prime Minister on her way into Parliament at breakfast time on Monday, reveals that Mr Sunak told her the article ‘wasn’t the right thing to do’.
She says: ‘It was a bit odd because on the Wednesday we had agreement with Number 10 that I should write an article for The Times. We had put a draft together and exchanged versions with the team at Number 10 so I find it all very confusing.
‘On the one hand they gave us permission and then the reason that he cited in the call was that he wasn’t happy with the op-ed in The Times.’
She adds: ‘I was making it clear that after a month of these marches, the police needed to do better and they were letting down the British people, they were letting down the majority, they were letting down the Jewish community and I can only conclude that the Prime Minister didn’t agree with that sentiment.’
Shortly after her sacking, Mr Sunak dropped the bombshell of David Cameron’s return to Government as Foreign Secretary, which allies of Mrs Braverman believe was arranged before The Times article as part of a long-term plan to remove her.
She delayed releasing her devastating letter until the news of Cameron’s appointment had subsided, ensuring maximum impact.
Mrs Braverman spoke to The Mail on Sunday as she toured a market in her Fareham constituency in Hampshire, looking delighted – and relieved – as a series of locals congratulated her for ‘standing up to Sunak’.
In her interview, she accuses the Prime Minister of a lack of ‘moral leadership’, warning of a bleak electoral outlook for the party if he did not change direction.
She also reiterates her calls for the UK to leave the ‘straightjacket’ of human rights laws which have derailed Mr Sunak’s plan to send boat migrants to Rwanda and stymied efforts to deport foreign criminals, and demands new laws to criminalise anti-Semitic chants such as, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.
Even under existing laws, she says, police had the power to arrest pro-Palestinian demonstrators who called for a ‘jihad’.
She says: ‘I felt there had been a lack of moral leadership over the last four weeks. We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets on a weekly basis chanting anti-Semitic slogans, celebrating terrifying acts of terrorism, threatening community cohesion and undermining British values.
Last week Mrs Braverman was at the centre of her own drama in Westminster when she was sacked as Home Secretary by Rishi Sunak (pictured) for making outspoken criticism of the policing of pro-Palestinian marches
The tensions came to a head over a newspaper article Mrs Braverman wrote earlier this month in which she accused the police of ‘double standards’ for giving the go-ahead for a pro-Palestine march on Armistice Day (pictured), arguing that they appeared to care more about avoiding ‘flak’ than ensuring public safety
In her interview, she accuses the Prime Minister of a lack of ‘moral leadership’, warning of a bleak electoral outlook for the party if he did not change direction
Dramatic soap plot that had the nation gripped
As Suella Braverman’s parents were nursing their newborn daughter in April 1980, there was only one question on the lips of any TV viewer: who shot J R?
The third series of Dallas – the Texas-based drama as famous for its twisty, improbable plotlines as its cowboy hats and diamante-studded shoulder pads – had just ended, with its most scorching cliffhanger yet.
Now one of the most memorable moments in television history, the final scene – broadcast in the US just weeks before the former Home Secretary’s birth – saw the show’s leading man, oil baron John Ross ‘J R’ Ewing, played by Larry Hagman, crumple to the ground after being shot by an unseen assailant.
The whodunnit captivated audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, who had to wait six months to find out whether J R had survived – and, crucially, to begin piecing together which of the CBS drama’s characters had hated him enough to commit the crime.
There were, naturally, plenty of candidates, but top of many amateur sleuth’s list was Sue Ellen Ewing, J R’s long-suffering wife.
Linda Gray as Sue Ellen in Dallas, 1980
The character, later described as ‘the original Desperate Housewife’, battled alcoholism and loneliness in her marriage, pursued affairs with J R’s nemesis Cliff Barnes and rodeo cowboy Dusty Farlow, and was forced to perform a blood test to prove that her son, J R Junior, was her husband’s child.
But while she is later arrested on suspicion of carrying out the shooting, 83 million Americans tuned in to find out that the trigger had actually been pulled by – spoiler alert – J R’s sister-in-law Kristin Shepard.
Actress Linda Gray, who played Sue Ellen until 1991, described her character as ‘this neurotic, psychotic, alcoholic weirdo. But I still say she was the most interesting female on television in the Eighties.’
And judging by Suella Braverman’s birth certificate, her parents appear to have agreed.
‘There had been tepid and timid statements from the Prime Minister throughout the course of this issue and I felt there was a real opportunity for the Prime Minister to demonstrate some moral leadership, to demonstrate that this is not what Britain stands for, that we are an inclusive, tolerant and respectful nation whereby violence on the streets of Britain is unacceptable. I felt that was wholly lacking.’
Mrs Braverman believes Mr Sunak should have given an address to the nation on the steps of Downing Street about the marches.
‘When the Met came out and said we are not going to ban the marches, I thought that was a great opportunity for the Prime Minister to give a speech setting out a unifying vision for Britain and making it clear that vitriol and violence on the streets of Britain on Armistice Day of all days would be totally unacceptable.’
Despite criticism of her attacks on police, Mrs Braverman insists: ‘I back the police but I also speak for the British people and as we’ve seen over a month, over October, the police let down the British people, let down the Jewish community.
‘Someone needs to speak up and say more needs to be done. When we saw the Met Police come out and set out various interpretations of the word jihad, that for me was a low point.
‘They did that within their operational independence, I didn’t interfere with that. But I think it represented the point that I was making about double standards within policing, whereby a soft touch was being taken towards pro-Palestinian marches.
‘I subsequently received legal advice from many senior lawyers who made it clear that chanting jihad in that particular context did constitute an arrestable offence. So, in my view they got it wrong.’
She is – so far – declining to release the documentary proof she says sets out the ‘clear terms’ of a pact she had with Mr Sunak in exchange for her support for him to become Premier last October, containing his ‘firm assurances’ on key issues including migration, the small boats crisis and Brexit.
In her letter, she claimed that since entering No 10, Mr Sunak had ‘manifestly and repeatedly failed to deliver on every single one of these key policies’. Is the world going to see that document at some stage?
‘You’d have to ask the Prime Minister, he’s got a copy of it, there were witnesses as well,’ she says.
‘I’ve got a copy. But to be honest I’ve made the point; I don’t need to keep going over events of a year ago and if the Prime Minister wants to dispute what I’m saying he is able to do that or he can confirm because he will have a copy of the document.’
Mrs Braverman is dismissive of Mr Sunak’s efforts to override last week’s Supreme Court judgment ruling against his Rwanda plan by drawing up a treaty with the African country and introducing new legislation declaring Rwanda safe, saying the party is ‘running out of time’ before the D-Day of the general election.
Witheringly, she says: ‘I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that he wants to introduce emergency legislation, something for which I’ve been calling for several months, which he blocked.
‘I’m very glad he changed his view in the last few days but this needs to be meaningful change in the law and tweaking and fine- tuning is not going to cut it… and we will not get flights off before the next general election.
‘We need to exclude elements of the Human Rights framework, whether that’s the ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights], the Human Rights Act or other international laws which have so far thwarted our ability to control our borders.’
She says she has been encouraged by polling data since her departure and reaction from some Tory MPs, particularly in Red Wall seats. ‘Polling I’ve seen says voters agreed with the things I’ve been saying about immigration, about policing, and I’ve been incredibly heartened by the positive response from colleagues,’ she says.
Asked about the war which has raged between the Right of the party and the One Nation centrists since her departure, she says: ‘It was all the Prime Minister’s responsibility, his decision. He decided to dismiss me, he has to take responsibility for the consequences.’
Even under existing laws, she says, police had the power to arrest pro-Palestinian demonstrators who called for a ‘jihad’ (pictured: Palestine Day of Action demonstration in London today)
Despite criticism of her attacks on police, Mrs Braverman insists: ‘I back the police but I also speak for the British people and as we’ve seen over a month, over October, the police let down the British people, let down the Jewish community (pictured: Pro-Palestinian protesters in Manchester today)
Mrs Braverman finishes with a final blast at Mr Sunak’s leadership and claims No 10 stole the credit for legal measures the Home Office had drawn up to tackle the protests. ‘Over the last year I’ve met a lot of resistance from the Prime Minister to really allow meaningful work to take place,’ she says.
‘I’ve been blocked on many occasions over the last year to try and take action, whether it’s on preparing a cogent Plan B to make flights take off or whether it’s giving the police more powers.
‘I’ve been arguing for greater powers for the police so that they can use the Terrorism Act offences in a more muscular way, we can change some of the glorification of terrorism offences, we should be able to have greater powers to ban marches, we should have much more focus on the laws of anti-Semitic content, for example the chant ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.
‘There needs to a be a specific legal provision that addresses anti-Semitic hateful language, there needs to be more transparency. The behaviour of the counter-protesters should also be condemned in the strongest possible way.
‘What we need as well is a new category of ‘groups of concern’ which are not quite meeting the threshold of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000, but are still fomenting and propagating extremist views, whether non-violent or violent.
‘These marches represent an inflexion point that we haven’t seen since 9/11 where the threat of radicalisation and extremism has never been higher in the last 20 years. What we’ve seen on the streets of Britain really reflects a very high risk of radicalisation, extremism and anti-Semitism.’
Tory former leader Michael Howard said Mrs Braverman acted out of ambition to lead the party but she claims the only circumstances under which she could take over would be if Mr Sunak loses the election – and ‘no one wants to be Leader of the Opposition’.
She adds: ‘He is the leader right now, we need to back this team as much as possible to get it right and win the election. I have concerns about the direction the party is heading in and we need to ensure that we have a positive record of delivery and an inspiring vision of the future to present to the British people before we go to an election. It’s a very serious situation.
‘The Prime Minister’s plan is not working, he needs to change course urgently. Our prospects are looking bleak and we need to start delivering on a whole range of issues.’