Flickr / Socialist Appeal

In February 2022 The Guardian published an article documenting a ‘recent history of Tories flirting with far right-rhetoric’. However, with the promotion of Suella Braverman to Home Secretary in October 2022 right-wing expression has reached new levels of visibility and vocality in British politics. Braverman’s recent tirade of right-wing, especially anti-refugee, propaganda speeches including one in Washington where she accused some of those claiming refugee status as “purporting to be gay” to “game the system” and remarks made at the Tory Conference on the apparent “hurricane” of mass migration (in just one of many worrying speeches made during the Conference) questions must be asked about whether the troublesome moral record of the leading party, and British politics as a whole, has now taken an even darker turn.

Of course, Braverman is just one of many in the Conservative party (and UK politics generally) who strongly back an end to the meagre British provisions for refugees. Right-wing Tory rhetoric surrounding refugees was invigorated by Johnson’s premiership and the famed ‘Rwanda Policy’ spearheaded by Priti Patel. Moreover, the effects of such circumstances in fostering mainstream anti-refugee attitudes, which have found a safe home under British politics’ ever-expanding umbrella of prejudice, signal the embedded nature of such attitudes, unquestionably incentivised by the Brexit referendum.

Nevertheless, Braverman’s recent outbursts are reflective of the alarming malignancy of radical anti-immigrant and far right rhetoric in the mainstream, displaying further troubling signs for the future. On 26th September, at the speech to a Washington right-wing think tank, she added to her disparaging comments about the right for persecuted individuals to claim asylum by calling for the overturn of the UN refugee convention. Furthermore, she attested that multiculturalism had “failed” in Europe and even went as far as to argue that several refugees “pursue lives aimed at undermining the stability and threatening the security of our society”, an alarming right-wing impression of those seeking refuge.

Without a doubt this speech is not really a surprise to those who have watched the right-wing progress to the forefront of Conservative leadership, nevertheless the newfound confidence of political figures to use such divisive language is disturbing. Arguably Braverman’s ability to proceed in office after such comments, including her conception of an “invasion” of migrants, fact-checked by migration experts for its inaccuracy and being linked to Nazi rhetoric by a Holocaust survivor, is concerningly reflective of the ever-increasing acceptance of intolerance within political circles and society as a whole. It is not only politicians who need to stand up for the rights of refugees against the diatribe of prejudice they face (not only from Tories but increasingly from Labour leadership) but people who need to stand up to others about the rights of other people who, for one reason or another, ‘face serious threats to their life or freedom’ and require refuge.

The distressing levels of support amongst British society for the harsh treatment of ‘illegal migrants’ undeniably enables such dangerous rhetoric to pervade widespread condemnation necessitating political response; the BBC reporting a statement from a source close to Braverman that “The home secretary speaks for the concerns of the majority of the British people…”. Any argument that these claims are completely erroneous may be rebuffed in consideration of the recent rise of right-wing demonstrations and increasing support for far-right politicians.

This growth of support for the political right-wing is not just a British phenomenon, instead Italy’s election of far-right candidate Giorgia Meloni to the presidency, who also is also playing a hand in the advances of the Spanish ‘Vox’ party, and the rise of right-wing governments in Finland and Greece is reflective of the current hard-right wave sweeping Europe.

However, prominent right-wing politics, during wartime prided as something apparently outside UK boarders, is now undeniably endemic to British society and it is discrimination within the mainstream which enables right-wing thinking to thrive. With 52% of surveyed public demanding a reduction in immigration and 32% saying that it was a ‘bad or very bad thing’ it is no wonder plans such as that of the ‘Rwanda Project’ to send refugees to a country with a questionable human rights record and a barge to house asylum seekers, described by the Fire Brigade’s Union as a “death trap”, are put into effect. Bare in mind, that these percentages come despite asylum seekers only making up 8 per 100,000 of the population in 2020/21.

Nonetheless, there are still many who abhor the dangerous move towards the far right that British politics is currently signposting, which not only puts refugee rights at further risk. Moreover, members of Braverman’s own party are distancing themselves from backlash that she is facing for her comments, even Priti Patel, a staunch right-winger, clapped back at her rival by arguing that the country should be “proud” of diverse communities and boiling Braverman’s comments down to attention-seeking, despite her role in spearheading the ‘Rwanda Project’. Furthermore, agencies, charities, and people who consider the refugee crisis a human rights crisis, such as the Amnesty International UK Chief Executive Sacha Deshmukh, who described Braverman’s comments as a “display of cynicism and xenophobia”, reflect the hope that is to be found within British society in the promotion of tolerance and acceptance of those fleeing persecution and violence. However, there is undeniably strong reason to fear the rise of right-wing rhetoric in the mainstream by parliamentarians and the future which this may indicate for our society.