Who is Suella Braverman, the new Attorney General ready to take on the judiciary?

Posted On: 
13th February 2020

The appointment of Suella Braverman to Attorney General is the strongest signal yet Number 10 is intent on taking on the judiciary.

Suella Braverman was a surprise choice to replace Geoffrey Cox as Attorney General
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A former Brexit minister, the 39-year-old barrister has recently declared the executive should “take back control" from judges "trespassing" on politics.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly suggested the role of judicial reviews should be looked at, and the Tory manifesto included a pledge to “constitution, democracy and rights commission”.

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He and his most senior aide Dominic Cummings were said to be further angered by the successful legal challenged to the deportation flight sending convicted criminals to Jamaica this week.

The man Braverman replaced as Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, had indicated he would like to head up the commission, which he said could also look at interviews with MPs for prospective Supreme Court justices.

But he probably ruled himself out this week when he said there will be no “rush, headlong, into impetuous reform”.

And, in a thinly-veiled jibe at Mr Cummings, added: “So colourful comments reported from those inside the Government, whether they are accurate or not, I don’t think are going to affect the calm and deliberative way that this government will embark on the process of this review.”

Cox, who before joining Government was the highest-earner in the Commons through his work as a top QC, had also clashed with both Mr Johnson and his predecessor Theresa May over his Brexit legal advice.

But Braverman was a surprise choice to replace him, with former Solicitor General and qualified QC Lucy Frazer tipped for the role in the reshuffle.

Her elevation to the Cabinet-level position fits in with Number 10’s stated aims though, writing last month that “the political has been captured by the legal”.

She also said: “Today, our courts exercise a form of political power. Questions that fell hitherto exclusively within the prerogative of elected Ministers have yielded to judicial activism.

"Foreign policy, conduct of our armed forces abroad, application of international treaties and, of course, the decision to prorogue Parliament.

“Judicial review has exploded since the 1960s so that even the most intricate relations between the state and individual can be questioned by judges."

Born in Harrow in North London, she grew up in nearby Wembley to parents who arrived in the UK in the 1960s from Kenya and Mauritius.

She studied Law at Queens' College, Cambridge, where she was president of the university Conservative Association, and completed a masters at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Braverman was called to the Bar at Middle Temple, and after completing her pupillage was based at No5 Chambers, where she specialised in judicial review and immigration law.

Like her new fellow Cabinet colleagues Rishi Sunak, Oliver Dowden and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, she is part of the 2015 intake of MPs, taking over her Fareham seat from Tory ex-minister Mark Hoban.

Originally known in the Commons as Suella Fernandes, she changed her name after her wedding in 2018, and her and husband Rael welcomed their first child, George, to the family last year.

She states on her own website that “aspiration is my inspiration”, and threw herself into education matters after joining Parliament, sitting on the select committee and taking a strong interest in financial education in schools.

A committed Brexiteer, she campaigned to leave in 2016 and was made chair of the European Research Group of pro-Leave Conservative MPs a year later.

But she had to relinquish that position in January 2018 when she was appointed a minister at DExEU, however she lasted just nine months in the role.

On the day Mrs May’s draft withdrawal agreement was published she and her boss Dominic Raab resigned in protest, saying the Northern Ireland Backstop "robs the UK of the main competitive advantages from Brexit."

She later backed Raab, not Johnson, in the Tory leadership contest last summer, which is probably why she has not been brought back into Government sooner, but she now has a powerful role as the current administration looks to fundamentally alter the function of the courts.

Her appointment has already ben criticised, with the Liberal Democrats labelling her “unfit to serve as Attorney General.

The party’s justice spokesperson Daisy Cooper said it is “the latest shocking step in Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings’ assault on the rule of law”.