Some 12 hours before Boris Johnson finally accepted the inevitable and announced that he was stepping down as prime minister, accepting that no fewer than 59 ministerial resignations in less than 48 hours meant that the “herd” had indeed turned against him, the first candidate to succeed him had already made herself known.
Speaking to ITV’s Robert Peston, attorney general Suella Braverman said that she planned to stay in her post for the greater good of the country but denounced Mr Johnson for his mishandling of the Chris Pincher sexual harassment scandal that ultimately proved his undoing.
The PM had conducted himself “appallingly” in recent days, Ms Braverman said, adding: “The balance has tipped now in favour of saying that the prime minister – it pains me to say it – but it’s time to go.”
She then signalled her own intention to run for the leadership, saying: “I love this country, my parents came here with absolutely nothing and it was Britain that gave them hope, security and opportunity. This country has afforded me incredible opportunities in education and in my career. I owe a debt of gratitude to this country and to serve as PM would be the greatest honour, so yes, I will try.”
Within hours of Mr Johnson’s ungracious resignation speech the following afternoon, she already had a Twitter account promoting her campaign up and running.
Tory MP Sir Desmond Swayne became the first to tweet his support for her challenge.
Tom Tugendhat has since signalled his own intention to run, with campaigns likewise expected from such party big beasts as downfall-instigators Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid, new chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, foreign secretary Liz Truss and perhaps Steve Baker, Jeremy Hunt and Grant Shapps, although trade minister Penny Mordaunt and defence secretary Ben Wallace are said to be the bookmakers’ early favourites.
Ms Braverman, 42, may find herself an outsider in the contest but she certainly has her supporters, drawn to her passionate support for Brexit and willingness to swing an axe in the culture wars, readily denouncing “woke nonsense” at every opportunity.
She was born Sue-Ellen Cassiana Fernandes in Harrow on 3 April 1980, her parents Christie and Uma Fernandes arriving in Britain in the 1960s from Kenya and Mauritius respectively but of Indian origin, her father working for a housing association and her mother a nursed turned councillor in Brent.
Ms Braverman was raised in Wembley, attended Heathfield School in Pinner and went on to read law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where she also served as chair of the Cambridge University Conservative Association.
She then spent two years studying in France thanks to the opportunities presented by the Erasmus Programme – which the UK no longer participates in as a result of its withdrawal from the EU, a cause she continues to champion nonetheless – earning a master’s degree in European and French law at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University.
Ms Braverman was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 2005, specialising in commercial litigation, judicial review, immigration and planning law, while also contesting Leicester East in that year’s general election, losing out to Labour’s Keith Vaz.
She was again unsuccessful in Bexhill and Battle five years later, before finally winning a seat in Fareham, Hampshire, in 2015, which she has held ever since.
From 2015 to 2017, she served on a series of parliamentary select committees supporting education and financial literacy while campaigning for the Leave cause.
After the Brexit referendum, she became chair of the right-wing European Research Group within the Conservative Party, before her promotion to parliamentary private secretary to the Treasury saw her replaced by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The January 2018 reshuffle saw her become parliamentary under-secretary of state for exiting the European Union, although she resigned the following November alongside Dominic Raab and other “Spartans” in protest at Theresa May’s draft Brexit deal.
That same year, she married Rael Braverman, an executive at Mercedes-Benz.
After another reshuffle in February 2020, she succeeded Geoffrey Cox as attorney general, serving until March 2021 before taking maternity leave and then resuming the role last September after Michael Lewis had stepped in.
Emily Thornberry scorns Suella Braverman’s bid to stand for PM
She was criticised over her apparent inexperience when she was first given the job and has since attracted further controversy over alleged political meddling, notably over the activists who tossed a statue of slave merchant Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour in June 2020 and over Mr Johnson’s plans to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol.
When the European Court of Human Rights intervened in June to ground a planned deportation flight sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, Ms Braverman responded by saying that it was “time to complete Brexit and let the British people decide who can and cannot stay in our country”, stating her “significant reservations” about what she derisively called the ongoing influence of the “Strasbourg Court”.
She has also drawn plenty of heat for her comments in interviews, notably a recent piece in The Times in which she expressed her pride at being “a child of the British Empire”, which she maintained had been a “force for good”, and called on schools not to “pander” to trans children, citing her admiration for Harry Potter author JK Rowling, whom she called a “heroine” for her stance on the issue.
“If I get trolled and I provoke a bad response on Twitter I know I’m doing the right thing,” she told the newspaper, anticipating the backlash her provocations were warmly inviting.
“Twitter is a sewer of left-wing bile. The extreme left pile on is often a consequence of sound conservative values.”
In July, she told The Daily Telegraph that the reason Brexit was backfiring economically was because some civil servants with a “Remain bias” were actively resisting implementing reforms as they could not imagine “life outside of the EU”, a conspiracy-minded remark with more than a hint of Trumpian “deep state” paranoia about it.