Outrage as Suella Braverman brands Pride flag flying ‘a horrible political campaign’

Suella Braverman is facing a backlash after launching an extraordinary attack on the LGBT community, describing government buildings flying rainbow flags as “occupied territory”.

In a speech to burnish her leadership credentials with the Tory right, the ex-home secretary said the Progress version of the Pride flag represented “a horrible political campaign I disagreed with” and described trying to have it removed from her Marsham Street office.

And, in the incendiary speech, she said the flag symbolised support for “the mutilation of children in our hospitals”, something which she said “physically repulsed” her.

Former Labour culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “Suella Braverman reveals the true face of the Tory right with her bitter fury about LGBT people. We exist. Get over it.”

Braverman said the Progress flag represented ‘a horrible political campaign I disagreed with’ (Alamy/PA)
Braverman said the Progress flag represented ‘a horrible political campaign I disagreed with’ (Alamy/PA)

And Labour MP Stella Creasy said: “Everyone has to stand up to this bile polluting our politics, not just Tories who get vote in contest, because equality benefits and liberates us all.”

Ms Braverman has also faced criticism from her own party, with former candidate and LBC presenter Iain Dale tweeting: “What a disgusting speech.

“And she seriously thinks she has a chance of leading the Conservative party. Not while I have a breath left in my body. Moderate Conservatives need to stand up and be counted. This will not stand.”

It came after Ms Braverman said: “We Tory ministers, nominally in charge of the system, completely failed. The Progress flag flew over our buildings as if they were occupied territory. I couldn’t even get the flag of a horrible political campaign I disagreed with taken down from the roof of the government department I was supposed to be in charge of.”

As the row raged, historian and TV presenter David Starkey apeared to fan the flames, telling a PopCon (Popular Conservatism) gathering in central London that it was “deranged” that a Conservative prime minister would cite enabling same-sex marriage as his greatest achievement.

The former home secretary is widely expected to run for the leadership (PA)
The former home secretary is widely expected to run for the leadership (PA)

At the same event, Ms Braverman hit out at an ex-Tory MP who compared Reform UK events to Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies and said her party was “weak” and “squeamish” over immigration.

She called on it to adopt a policy to leave the European Court of Human Rights and axe the Human Rights Act, as she also attacked what she said was the “lunatic woke virus”.

During her speech in Washington, she also blasted the “entitled Tories”, setting out what went wrong during the general election in a bid to frame her leadership bid.

The outspoken right-winger also said that the Conservatives had yet to wake up to the existential threat of Nigel Farage and his Reform party – despite the scale of the election defeat.

In a blistering speech, she told the audience that at the election: “We were slaughtered. Shellacked. Given a good hiding. Kicked while we were on the ground. Headbutted by reality.”

She said her party was “older than most countries, most constitutions, and most ideas, good or bad. But we got socked in the face. We lost half our votes from the previous election, and two thirds of our MPs. It was brutal.”

But she said “of course” her party was not learning the hard lesson of the defeat.

She accused Mr Sunak of rolling out a policy programme “our new Labour government today could quite happily do”.

Former Labour MP Ben Bradshaw is among those condemning Braverman for her comments (PA)
Former Labour MP Ben Bradshaw is among those condemning Braverman for her comments (PA)

She hit out at “farcical gimmicks”, like the proposed smoking ban, and “nonsense… like letting criminals out early and scrapping shorter sentences for lower level crime – undermining confidence in our criminal justice system, letting down victims”.

She also attacked “garbage” claims that “a mysterious, implacable entity in the administrative state stops politicians from doing the things we claim we’ll do when we’re asking for your votes” of the kind promoted by Liz Truss.

And she said: “Tories act as if they’re entitled to Conservative votes, regardless of whether or not they do Conservative things”.

Ms Braverman is expected to be a frontrunner in any contest, although no one has formally launched a campaign to replace Rishi Sunak.

Back home, her leadership hopes have suffered an early blow as a key backer reportedly prepares to back Robert Jenrick instead.

Her campaign has been described as “dead before it has even started” as right-wing MP Danny Kruger is said to support ex-immigration minister Mr Jenrick.

The former home secretary was one of three potential leadership candidates to appear on the Sunday morning political shows last weekend, along with Mr Jenrick and ex-health secretary Victoria Atkins.

The Tories won just 121 seats, their worst result in the party’s 190-year history, as millions of their voters switched to Mr Farage’s Reform.

Mr Sunak has announced he will quit but will stay on as leader until his replacement is found. On Monday, former business secretary Kevin Hollinrake suggested any leadership race could drag on until the end of the year, adding that “I don’t think there is any rush”.