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  Opinion   Columnists  01 Oct 2023  Kishwar Desai | Why Suella still Tories favourite; wine boom thanks to climate change

Kishwar Desai | Why Suella still Tories favourite; wine boom thanks to climate change

Kishwar Desai, is the chair of the Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust, which is setting up the Partition Museum at Town Hall, Amritsar.
Published : Oct 2, 2023, 12:09 am IST
Updated : Oct 2, 2023, 12:09 am IST

Being anti-immigration appeals to the ultra right wing for whom Suella is a favourite.

UK Home secretary Suella Braverman. (AFP File Photo)
 UK Home secretary Suella Braverman. (AFP File Photo)


While the masters and mistresses of crime had spun their tales in the UK over the past few centuries and grabbed our imagination — now is a real life crime conundrum regarding a sycamore tree …and a very tragic tale it is, for all of us and the environment.

The sycamore tree had become a piece of history and a landmark. It has been standing in a gap in Hadrians Wall in the Northeast for centuries. It was a prime tourist attraction, which had to be seen by walking a mile or two from the nearest bit of civilisation. The tree had grown and spread out over a thousand years and filled a gap in the ancient wall. It was used as a prop in a film on Robin Hood. People stood under it to propose marriage or celebrate anniversaries or just mark the moment with a selfie! Then suddenly over the weekend, the tree was cut sometime during the night. It was a professional job because cutting down a tree of such a large size is not easy. There is shock and disbelief. Now it seems a suspect has been arrested. His motivation is yet to be established.

There has been a call that we must fill the gap left by the felling of the remarkable tree.

But what can possibly replace this historic piece of environmental heritage? Sir Antony Gormley, the sculptor who installed the giant “Angel of the North” statue, has been asked if he could design a replacement. But he said it could only be replaced by another sycamore which should be allowed to grow. Luckily, some seeds have been recovered from the felled tree. So give it another 500 years or so and you can revisit the Sycamore Gap tree.

On to politics then, where it is political party conference time. Every year parties have to hold their annual conference. Partly to show they are still around for members who pay their subscription to attend. Speeches are made, policies are debated, splits and plots are displayed. At least there is publicity. The Conservative Party is at Manchester this week. The party is in power but faces election next year while it is 30 points behind in the polls. How it reassures the public that it can deliver better policies is to be seen. There could be two if not three ex- Prime Ministers present so one can expect some fireworks, especially from Liz Truss — who believe it or not — is back to say that her policies were the best!

And if there is another mystery that needs to be resolved, it is the home secretary Suella Braverman. While of Indian origin, she barely gets any publicity in India though her speeches and policies make her appear anti-immigration. Her attitude is rather peculiar because had her parents not migrated to the UK, she would have never had the opportunity to reach where she has today. But being anti-immigration appeals to the ultra right wing for whom she is a favourite.

In her defence she says her policies are all ostensibly targeting the illegal migrants and “fake” asylum seekers but she has yet to establish a competent migration policy which does both. Just a couple of failed anti immigration policies to her credit would be … sending immigrants to Rwanda and then putting the asylum seekers on a boat off the UK shores. Hmmmm… if it sounds to you like something out of the BBC comedy show, Yes Prime Minister, you are correct.

But she remains a staunch favourite with the Conservative UK government because she carries the ultra right wing votes. The ultra right wing White British love to see a brown home secretary enthusiastically support their policies of clamping down on immigration — as it makes their agenda more acceptable. For post-colonials like us her reported admiration for the “Empire” and all it did for the good of India and other colonies is a little difficult to stomach. But, as they say, politicians will do anything to win the elections and if headlines like “more than one in five births are to foreign-born mothers” make you the politician most likely to win, then she will do it. Do these statements make the country more racist? Yes they do. But who is asking?

The good news is that this year's wine harvest is brilliant. A few years back, the very thought of English wine was difficult to contemplate. But thanks to global warming, England now has the climate at least in the southern half (which is after all not that far away from France) to grow decent vintages. Apparently a lack of winter frost and warm spring weather has produced a bumper harvest of “exceptional quality and a record breaking volume”.This is not just a one-off. Over the last five years, vineyards have expanded by 75 per cent and expected to grow by another 75 per cent by 2032. We can all drink to that.

And finally… we now have a cruise ship which is five times larger than the Titanic. Icon of the Seas will be ready for pleasure trips next year. If you get to go, you can be one of the 10,000 people on board. The first voyage next January is however fully booked! Better luck next year.

Incidentally, today, Monday, October 2, is the day for us to be at the Gandhi Statue at Parliament Square. Come and join those paying their respects to the Mahatma! Seems just the other day that our Gandhi Statue Memorial Trust set up the statue at the square — but it is almost eight years now!

Tags: suella braverman, kishwar desai