Rishi Sunak, freshly jetlagged from his return flight from Japan, where he met with G7 leaders over the weekend, came home to deal with a familiar problem for the Conservatives: backseat drivers.
Many were urging the prime minister to sack Suella Braverman, who allegedly asked civil servants if she could secure a “private” speeding awareness course, after being pinged for driving too fast last year.
At the time, she was attorney general, the most senior legal authority in government. Now of course she’s just Home Secretary, in charge of policing and upholding the rules.
Braverman subsequently agreed to take the points to her license, rather than sit a speed awareness course with other members of the public.
She said today: “Last summer, I was speeding. I regret that. I paid the fine and I took the points but we’re focused now on delivering for the British people.”
Sunak’s ethics adviser was expect to brief the prime minister this morning on whether Braverman’s actions were a breach of the ministerial code. She has, let’s not forget, been sacked for breaking the rules before, during the brief tenure of Liz Truss.
You could even say the Home Secretary was trying to do too much, too quickly. Last week, only one of her suggestions for cutting immigration into the UK was accepted by the prime minister, and she is expected to come under further fire when net migration figures are released this Thursday. They are predicted to be above 700,000.
All this means Braverman and her allies are convinced the speeding row is a stitch up from “the blob”, otherwise known as they civil service, who they have long tried to paint as “woke” and against Conservative politics.
For Sunak, the problem is painful. If he sacks Braverman, he risks alienating the right flank of the party, where he is already having problems after his Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said she would only repeal some of the EU legislation still on UK statute books.
If he doesn’t force her out, he risks dragging out Labour’s attack line “one rule for them and one for us”, which was effective in the wake of the partygate scandal.
Keir Starmer has spent weeks trying to dig into the Conservative record on law and order, a strategy straight out of the New Labour playbook. A Home Secretary who only accepted punishment after trying to get a special exception would be a gift in an election campaign, one Sunak would be willing to part with.