Suella Braverman: Civil servants demand apology over small boats email

Suella Braverman must apologise to civil servants for accusing them of blocking efforts to stop small boat crossings, a union leader has said. An email to Tory supporters, signed by the home secretary, accused civil servants of being part of a left-wing “activist blob” with the Labour Party.

No 10 said Ms Braverman “did not see, sign off or sanction” the text. But FDA union chief Dave Penman said she should withdraw the “insulting” message and apologise to her staff.

He said officials at the Home Office were “livid” at being accused of political bias – and worried that this kind of “incendiary” rhetoric could make them a target for protesters.

The government has blamed Conservative campaign headquarters (CCHQ) for sending the email without getting it signed off by the home secretary. CCHQ said it was now reviewing its internal procedures.

A government source said civil service leaders “acted quickly to raise and address this issue” and Ms Braverman thanked Home Office staff on Tuesday for their work on the illegal migration bill.
The email was sent out by CCHQ on Tuesday to promote Ms Braverman’s plans to stop migrants arriving in the UK on small boats.

It said: “We tried to stop the small boat crossings without changing our laws. But an activist blob of left-wing lawyers, civil servants and the Labour Party blocked us.” In a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Mr Penman said the statement was “factually incorrect” and a “direct attack on the integrity and impartiality of thousands of civil servants who loyally serve the Home Office”.

“This cowardly attack on civil servants, whom the home secretary knows are unable to publicly defend themselves, also risks further stoking tensions over a matter which has previously resulted in violent clashes with protesters,” said Mr Penman.

He accused Ms Braverman of breaking the ministerial code, which states that “ministers must uphold the the political impartiality of the civil service”. The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said: “The home secretary did not see that email before it went out.”

She said Rishi Sunak had been “very clear….that he is grateful to work of both the cabinet secretary and civil servants in the Home Office and more widely in the government”.

The prime minister had “personally gone over to the Home Office” before Christmas to thank them for their work on the small boats measures announced at the end of last year, added the spokeswoman.

She said Tuesday’s email was a “product” of Conservative campaign headquarters and that they would “have to review what happened operationally”.

“There would have to be ministerial sign-off usually on things where their name is included on it or it goes out in their name, but I think on this occasion there was obviously operationally the process was not followed.”

But Mr Penman told BBC News said it was “not good enough” for the government to blame Conservative central office and Ms Braverman must personally apologise to civil servants and withdraw the message.

The PCS union, which last year published a pamphlet proposing a “humane alternative” to the government’s policy of deporting migrants to Rwanda, also criticised the Tory email.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The home secretary’s disgraceful and disrespectful comments come as no surprise to us. Her government has, for years, treated hard-working civil servants with disdain and contempt, taking them for granted.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “This was a CCHQ email and the wording wasn’t seen by the home secretary. We are now reviewing our internal clearance processes.

Source: BBC

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