Suella Braverman has dramatically quit as home secretary with a scathing broadside at Liz Truss, declaring that she had “serious concerns” over repeated breaches of key pledges to voters.
Former transport secretary Grant Shapps is thought to be in line to replace her, in the latest response by the prime minister to intense backbench pressure to broaden political representation in her cabinet, which initially excluded all supporters of her leadership rival Rishi Sunak.
The development added to the impression of disarray at the heart of the Truss administration, following the dramatic dismissal of Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor last week.
The immediate cause of the resignation was the breach of security rules after Ms Braverman admitted inadvertently sending a sensitive document from her personal email.
But a letter to the PM, released by Ms Braverman on her social media feeds, amounted to an assault on Ms Truss’s five-week record in office.
“It is obvious to everyone that we are going through a tumultuous time,” she said.
“I have concerns about the direction of this government. Not only have we broken key pledges that were promised to our voters, but I have had serious concerns about this government’s commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers and stopping illegal migration, particularly the dangerous small boats crossings.”
Ms Braverman acknowledged that sharing a draft ministerial statement on immigration policy on her mobile phone constituted a “technical infringement of the rules”.
But she added: “Nevertheless it is right for me to go… I have made a mistake; I accept responsibility; I resign.”
Her comments will be seen as a scarcely-veiled attack on the prime minister, who days ago admitted “mistakes” over her mini-Budget but insisted she would remain in post.
Ms Braverman said that “the business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes”, adding: “Pretending we haven’t made mistakes, carrying on as if everyone can’t see we have made them and hoping that things will magically come right is not serious politics.”
She notably gave no promise to support the prime minister from the backbenchers, fuelling expectations that she will mount a challenge for the leadership as the champion of the right if Truss is toppled.
The prospect of a Braverman leadership bid will shake hopes among critics of the PM that they will be able to find a single “unity” candidate to engineer the coronation of a new leader, rather than being forced to go to a vote of Conservative members.
The bombshell news comes just five weeks after the standard-carrier for the Conservative right was appointed to the highly-sensitive Home Office post on Ms Truss’s arrival in 10 Downing Street.
At the time, Ms Truss excluded all Sunak supporters from her team, telling Mr Shapps that there was no place for him even though she regarded him as one of the government’s most effective performers.
The pair clashed over immigration, breaking with the government line by saying she wanted a return to David Cameron’s target of fewer than 100,000 immigrants a year, while Ms Truss made clear she was ready to see numbers rise to boost economic growth.
And Ms Braverman raised hackles on Tuesday by saying in the House of Commons by accusing opposition parties of being a “coalition of chaos”, adding: “It’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati, dare I say, the anti-growth coalition that we have to thank for the disruption that we are seeing on our roads today.”
Her departure gives Ms Truss an opportunity to respond to backbench calls to broaden her cabinet, after she excluded all supporters of leadership rival Rishi Sunak from her frontbench team last month. If Sunak-backing Mr Shapps was appointed, it would follow the appointment of Jeremy Hunt as chancellor and trade minister Greg Hands, neither of whom backed Truss for leader.
Speculation was raging in Westminster after the PM suddenly cancelled a planned visit to a defence company in Hertfordshire for what No 10 would describe only as reasons of “government business”.