Exeter, Devon UK • May 23, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Features An Interview with the Home Secretary

An Interview with the Home Secretary

Features Editor Callum Martin speaks to the Home Secretary.
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An Interview with the Home Secretary

Image: UK Home Office via Wikimedia Commons

Features Editor Callum Martin speaks to the Home Secretary.

Whether or not you like her policies, Suella Braverman’s impact on British politics cannot be denied. For her hardline stance on immigration, she is both lauded on the right and condemned on the left.

The role of Home Secretary is often regarded as the third most powerful position in British government, after the Prime Minister and Chancellor. Several have gone on to become Prime Minister including James Callaghan, Theresa May, and Winston Churchill, and judging by her leadership bid last year, it seems Ms Braverman intends to follow in their footsteps.

The Home Secretary was first appointed to her position under the short-lived premiership of Liz Truss and resigned soon after, when it was revealed that she sent an official, secure document from her personal email. She was reappointed a mere 6 days later when Rishi Sunak took power.

Her time in the role has largely been defined by her controversial Illegal Migration Bill and her “obsession” with sending illegal immigrants to Rwanda.

I was able to have a brief conversation with the Home Secretary as she was being driven between appointments. I was eager to ask about the hot topics – the Illegal Migration Bill, the Public Order Act, the environment (especially related to her desire to “suspend” the net zero by 2050 target), and the Rwanda policy. However, I was told I would receive no comment on any of these issues.

I was able to ask about a policy introduced by the Home Secretary in May, banning the majority of international students from bringing family members with them to the UK.

I asked if she thought the ban would make international students feel unwelcome.

“We haven’t banned anyone from doing anything. What we’ve done is we’ve restricted the number of dependents that international students are entitled to bring into the country if they are studying on certain postgraduate courses. And we believe that that is the right balance to strike given the exponential rise in international students in recent years. We welcome international students to the UK, they make a great contribution, and it’s brilliant that British Universities are so popular around the world. However, we also need to take into account that more people coming into the country places pressure on housing supply, on public services, and on local communities”.

Aside from the moral issues surrounding the policy, there has been widespread concern about the economic impact of these restrictions on both the country and more specifically our universities. It is likely that the policy will discourage a many foreign students from studying here. International students contribute an estimated £30 billion to the economy every year and are responsible for 21.5% of university income, up from 15.6% in 2016. Irene Tracey, leader of the Russell Group Institution has recently said that universities are facing a “perilous” financial future, and the Financial Times says that between 30 and 40 institutions are facing “financial difficulties”.

I asked the Home Secretary if, considering these facts, her policy would take much-needed funding out of the university system and affect services for both foreign and domestic students.

“No, I think that if you look at the numbers of people going to university, they are incredibly high, and you know we do also need to ensure that universities provide value for money. That’s why the Prime Minister recently announced much more rigour in the assessment of courses. University education costs a lot of money. It’s incredibly expensive for most people. Ultimately when people complete their university degree, they need to be employable in the workforce and what we’ve found is that there is an increasing number of courses that don’t offer value for money. They’re incredibly expensive and the job prospects afterwards are very low. That’s not good. That’s not good for the students who are saddled with debt and don’t have prospects for employment and it’s not good for society. That’s why the Prime Minister is absolutely right to ensure that universities discharge a lot more responsibility towards their students in offering value for money courses that will place them in a strong position when they reach the workforce.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming general election, the prospects for the Tories are not good. According to polls by The Economist the Conservatives are trailing Labour by 19%.

I asked why, considering that young people historically lean towards Labour, she would say that young people should vote Conservative.

“I joined the Conservative Party when I was about 16 so I am not part of that trend that you described. I joined the party because of their values of aspiration. Aspiration to me is the message and the belief that it doesn’t matter where you come from, what your parents did, what school you went to, or what your background is, there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you apply yourself with an attitude of personal responsibility, hard work, community service, and dedication. The Conservative values will reward personal enterprise and we are about empowering young people, enabling them to own their own homes, get a good education, acquire skills, be safe and that’s the Conservative vision that very much inspired me as a young person.”

Again, whether or not you are a supporter of hers, there’s no disputing that Suella Braverman MP has had plenty of success in politics. With this in mind, to end, I asked her if she had any advice for any of our readers wanting to get involved in politics.

“Well, it’s definitely important that young people take an interest in politics because it affects their lives, it affects their families, and it affects their communities. Voting and taking part in elections is the first step to being engaged in politics and democracy. The second thing that I really encourage young people to do is to join a party. It doesn’t matter which party but it’s important to try and learn about the different parties, learn about their philosophies, their history, their policies today and identify which one most aligns to your own personal values. And join a party. Joining a party is an important act and in doing so you have an opportunity to campaign, to learn more about local politics and to be part of a bigger team which can be incredibly enriching. When you turn 18 you have the right to vote. It’s an important privilege that many people around the world do not enjoy.”

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