Braverman’s tenure shows that having a diverse figurehead does not result in diverse thinking

Braverman could have been a role model to many and done a lot of good

The sacking of the former home secretary did not come as a shock to many. Throughout her time in office, Suella Braverman has been a divisive force.

Braverman was one of the most senior and influential ministers in government, responsible for law enforcement, national security, immigration and MI5.

She was in charge of the UK’s borders and was therefore responsible for creating a culture within Britain that is conducive to all, akin to an HR lead within an organisation.

There is no doubt Braverman is an intelligent person who was in a substantive role in government, having previously been a barrister and the attorney general during which time she was made QC.  

As only the fifth woman and second person of ethnic heritage being appointed into the post of home secretary, Braverman could have brought diverse viewpoints into the Conservative Party and into politics as a whole.

Do diverse hires lead to more inclusive policies?

She is of Indian heritage, married to Rael Braverman of the Jewish faith and is a member of the Buddhist community, so has a rich mix of cultural and religious understanding.

However Braverman has a chequered history of taking extreme perspectives on a range of issues, often leaning into a far-right narrative.

Braverman has been quoted as saying: “I get a lot of abuse. I get trolled, Twitter has a very strong left-wing bias” and “it’s got to the point where if I get trolled and I provoke a bad response on Twitter I know I’m doing the right thing.”

Throughout her tenure as home secretary, Braverman’s positions have been contentious and questionable at best and discriminatory at worst.

Despite coming from a diverse background, she claimed in a speech in the US that multiculturalism in Europe has failed.

Braverman has described herself as a child of the British Empire, regarding the British Empire overall as a force for good, itself a position that many who suffered under colonial rule globally will disagree with.

Inheriting Priti Patel's plan of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, Braverman described this as her dream and obsession, but was thwarted by laws, prompting her to hint at changes to the Human Rights Act and modern slavery legislation.

On illegal immigration, Braverman, herself a Brexiter, had referred to a hurricane of migration and an invasion, echoing far right tropes about loss of identity, stirring up hatred for migrants, a ploy often used to distract from governmental failings at home from years of austerity impacting public services.

What do inclusive cultures really look like?

She has falsely claimed child grooming gangs in the UK were almost all British Pakistani, at odds with the Home Office’s own research which concluded the offenders were mainly from white backgrounds.

Prior to her removal, Braverman had referred to homeless people sleeping on the streets as having made a lifestyle choice and was proposing a change in law to limit the use of tents by the homeless.

On the ongoing situation in Gaza following the Hamas attack last month, Braverman encouraged the police to consider whether certain chants 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free' and waving a Palestinian flag, may be intended to glorify acts of terrorism, conflating the Palestinian people with Hamas and the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

The last straw was her suggestion that pro-Palestine marches were hate marches, comparing them to marches in Northern Ireland. This incitement led to far-right supporters coming to ‘defend’ the Cenotaph with the intent of clashing with the pro-Palestine demonstrators and when denied, attacking the police.

Braverman’s dismissal does not come as shock, nor did her scathing letter of resignation, attacking Rishi Sunak and thereby setting the foundations for her own leadership bid.

Given her track record, it is questionable why it took so long to reach this point. She was emboldened and empowered to stir up hatred for minority groups, lean into far-right narratives and alienate many without restraint or filter.

As a person of ethnic heritage, I often don’t see people who look like me in senior positions holding power. Given Braverman’s rich diverse background, she could have been a role model to many and done a lot of good during her time. It is a missed opportunity.

Rethinking workplace diversity

In many organisations, there is a rush to appoint a diverse person onto boards and senior leadership teams. This is good for representation, but being inclusive and championing belonging is not achieved through simply making appointments.

It is about ensuring equity and treating all people like people, and not others.  

As leaders, we sometimes turn a blind eye to unacceptable behaviour or are not brave enough to confront it.

In doing so, we create our own monsters by giving permission to allow that behaviour to continue. We defer and defer and defer, but that difficult conversation never gets easier.

James Cleverly now replaces Braverman as home secretary. Although the first man of black heritage, I am somewhat less excited about his appointment having learnt the hard lesson that having a diverse appointment does not always mean diverse thinking.

Shakil Butt is founder of HR consultancy HR Hero for Hire