Despite Suella Braverman’s devotion to the Triratna Order, a controversial religious sect founded by a sexual predator, it would appear that she is taking advice from an influential figure linked to a religious-right group with worrying connections in America.
Sacked as home secretary for leaking sensitive material to Sir John Hayes only three weeks ago, Braverman is back on the job. Strongly supported by the recipient of the material she leaked, she is proposing legislation straight out of the manifesto of a newly formed Christian Conservative group known as Orthodox Conservatives or OCG, to which Hayes has very close links.
Who is Braverman’s secret adviser Sir John Hayes?
Hayes is described as Braverman’s “secret adviser” and is largely responsible for her rise to one of the greatest offices of state. Sources close to Braverman state that she habitually consults him before making any decisions.
Described as Britain’s leading Social Conservative, Hayes like Braverman is a member of Tufton Street’s European Research Group, as well as the Bow Group and the Common Sense Group (which incidentally initiated the recent attacks on the National Trust). He is also on the advisory board of the Orthodox Conservatives. He even sponsors a room for them in parliament.
Hayes sits on the Orthodox Conservatives advisory board alongside Benjamin Harris-Quinney, chair of the Bow Group, and Dr Chad C Peck, professor of theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. According to Harris-Quinney’s biography on the Bow Group’s literature, he has “advised Hungarian and Chilean governments”. He omits to mention that he was also suspended from the Conservative Party in 2015 for, amongst other things, speaking at an anti gay rights conference in Moscow. Dr Peck has a weekly column in the American religious journal, the Catholic Herald.
Links to American religious right-wing designated hate group
Formed in 2020 by key figures of the largely ridiculed Turning Point UK, a British offshoot of an American right-wing group of the same name, the Orthodox Conservatives claim to be a “grassroots group”, but they are far from that.
In 2021, the Orthodox Conservatives published their manifesto. On the last page they thank their research team and independent contributors. One of these, ADF Legal (Alliance Defending Freedom), headquartered in Arizona, was designated as a hate group in 2017 by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
The ADF was founded in 1993 by key figures in the evangelical Christian Right in the States, to raise money to fight the American Civil Liberties Union in court cases with the aim of “defending family values”. The group has links to Amy Coney Barrett, whose controversial appointment to the US Supreme Court paved the way for the repealing of Roe vs Wade and therefore restricting women’s rights to abortion. The ADF regularly challenges the Affordable Care Act in lawsuits attempting to limit women’s access to contraception.
The ADF has grown to become the largest legal force of the religious right. Its revenue has gone from $9mn in 1999 to in excess of $65mn in 2020. It has received donations from the likes of Charles Koch, who gave $275,000 that year, and the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation, who awarded the ADF its 2022 ‘Innovation prize’ of $100,000.
Traces of ADF ideology are all over the Orthodox Conservatives’ manifesto, like fingerprints at a crime scene.
Faith, family and nationhood
In the 65-page document, the Orthodox Conservatives present their credo to promote the “pillars of a great civilization – faith, family and nationhood”. It’s a mishmash of right-wing libertarianism and significant social control. In his introduction, Harris-Quinney states that we are living in an age of “decadence and debauchery” and the manifesto is an attempt to address this crisis.
For example cannabis should be immediately criminalised, an idea tested by Braverman as one of her first acts as home secretary in October of this year.
Also, the government should “take back control of the Arts”, which the Orthodox Conservatives believe have been taken over by a dangerous mélange of “liberals, Greens, LBGT and Marxists”, collectively known as ‘Woke populists’. Art should reconnect with beauty and positively promote British artistic legacy, with funding being given to the Church to promote a “new breadth of Christian Art”. Failing this, Conservatives should shift the discourse to culture, which to them is a matter of faith and which should find its moral roots in Christianity.
This is all uncomfortably reminiscent of Hitler’s obsession with promoting and censoring forms of art and using culture as propaganda.
Inspired by Victor Orban’s Hungarian model, policies relating to family focus on the UK’s declining birth rate and seek to encourage the local population to reproduce by offering financial incentives to couples thus avoiding the “perceived necessity of abortion”.
It rejects the Scandinavian model of subsidised childcare, citing the “ethical problems of families outsourcing child care to state nurseries”. Also, immigration should not be used to bolster population as it is “harmful in terms of preserving a country’s unique culture and characteristics”.
Deliberately provocative behaviour and language
MAGA-style nativism is threaded throughout the document. It stresses that culturally Christian identity is essential to create a great civilisation, therefore restricting immigration on one hand, while on the other hand access to female reproductive rights can be used as a method of increasing the local population numbers via behavioural control.
Seen in this light, it is easy to understand how Braverman feels encouraged to use words like ‘invasion’ when she describes refugees, and to enact stunts such as making the 19-mile journey to the desperate Manston Migrant Centre in a military Chinook troop-carrying helicopter to reinforce the ‘at war’ imagery.
Vigilance around future government language concerning contraception and abortion is advisable. Both the outgoing health secretary, Therese Coffey, and the newly appointed minister for women, Maria Caulfield, are anti-abortion on religious grounds.
Labour are pushing the government to share the security risk assessments around the reappointment of Braverman with the cross-party intelligence and security committee on which, incidentally, Sir John Hayes sits.
Conservative government employing tactics of the US right
Current political lexicon (snowflake, woke, liberals) increasingly mimics that used by the US right, as does the dangerously irresponsible language employed to create divisions in our society. Braverman’s “tofu-eating wokerati” comment is a perfect example of this. She is the home secretary of the entire nation, not just Conservatives. In one sentence she dismisses whole sections of society, the security of whom she is duty-bound to ensure, and in so doing encourages deep and damaging societal divisions typically associated with the United States.
The Orthodox Conservatives Group opens its manifesto proposing a “different brand of Conservatism that has never been tried or presented to the electorate before”.
Not over here perhaps, but across the pond in 2016 that’s exactly what happened.