What a sovereign smile Suella Braverman wore as she gazed out on the Tory faithful in Manchester. It was the smile of someone confident she is among her own people.
She thinks she is on her way to becoming the next Conservative leader because she can express the prejudices of the Conservative rank and file better than any of her rivals.
With what contempt she spoke of the “luxury beliefs brigade” who “flock to Labour”, are soft on immigration and smear as racist anyone who opposes them.
Her most impertinent act was to quote Shelley’s famous lines:
Rise like lions after slumber
in unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew:
Which in sleep had fallen on you.
You are many, they are few!
Those lines were written by Shelley in response to the Peterloo Massacre, which occurred in 1819 in Manchester, a few yards from where Braverman was speaking.
His outcry against the forces of reaction has been recited on innumerable occasions from Labour platforms to convey the reassuring message that they are the true radicals, who stand for the many, not the few.
And here with unbelievable cheek was Braverman saying that on the contrary, she speaks for the disregarded British people: “We stand with the many…against the few, the privileged woke minority.”
Braverman presented herself as the voice of sanity from outside the Westminster bubble, who sees, as the British people do, that mass migration will soon reach intolerable proportions:
“The wind of change that carried my own parents across the globe in the 20th century was a mere gust compared to the hurricane that is coming.”
There was not much in her speech about what she proposes to do about this. To differentiate herself from Labour, and from her rivals in the as yet undeclared Conservative leadership race, she considered it enough to show she recognises “the scale of the problem”.
She admitted the politicians of the last 30 years have been “far too squeamish about being smeared as racist to properly bring order to the chaos.”
An interesting choice of period: 30 years takes us back to 1993, when John Major had won a general election but seen his Government’s credibility destroyed by Black Wednesday.
Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and every Conservative leader from Major onwards are damned as “far too squeamish”.
Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister from 1979-90, escapes criticism, and so does Enoch Powell, who made his Rivers of Blood speech warning against unrestrained immigration in 1968.
Here was Braverman showing that like Powell and Thatcher, she is “not squeamish” about voicing the kind of opinions about immigration which are not heard in polite society.
“We will soon begin closing down asylum hotels,” she announced, and was applauded by a claque of her supporters near the front.
“That is not nearly enough,” she went on. “I accept that. But it is a start. And it’s a hell of a lot more than Labour would do.”
She can differentiate herself from her rivals by going one step beyond where they are prepared to go. She will be more tasteless than they feel able to be.
Braverman remarked that “under Rishi Sunak’s leadership things are changing”. What she meant is that under her leadership things would change.