The Conservative MP for Fareham (near Portsmouth) attended an event on Friday night, during which she was confronted by a child survivor of the Holocaust who challenged the Tory on her language used around immigration.
The Holocaust survivor, who has not been named, introduced herself as someone forced to flee Belgium – the country where she was born – in 1943 and travel “across war-torn Europe and dangerous seas” before coming to the UK in 1947.
“Now, when I hear you using words against refugees like ‘swarms’ and an ‘invasion’, I am reminded of the language used to dehumanise and justify the murder of my family, and millions of others.
“Why do you find the need to use that kind of language.”
A pretty powerful testimony from someone who has experienced the horrors of war, and yet Ms Braverman responded by saying she “won’t apologise for the language that I’ve used” to “demonstrate the scale of the problem” around immigration.
In the edited video of the interaction, shared by the charity Freedom from Torture, she said: “We mustn’t shy away from saying there’s a problem. I will not shy away from saying we have a problem with people exploiting our generosity, breaking our laws and undermining our system.”
\u201cBREAKING: a Holocaust survivor just confronted Suella Braverman to say: your hateful language has consequences\u201d
— Freedom from Torture\ud83e\udde1 (@Freedom from Torture\ud83e\udde1)
Such an “utterly shameful” response from the home secretary has since been slammed on social media, while the tweet sharing the encounter has been viewed more than seven million times.
“Even when confronted with a Holocaust survivor, Suella Braverman can’t show empathy or compassion. What a truly evil woman to the core,” reads one reply.
Chris Bryant, Labour MP for the Rhondda, commented: “What an utter horror. If you can’t even hear the cries from history, what chance do you have of building a nation based on decency and humanity for the future?”
John Nicolson, the Scottish National Party’s MP for Orchil and South Perthshire, said Ms Braverman’s response “shows a cruel cham of coldness where empathy should be”.
Good Morning Britain presenter Adil Ray asked: “Why is it so hard for Braverman to just say ‘yes I will choose my words carefully. But it doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem?’
“Many of us don’t see it as the same problem as she does but at least show some empathy?”
Meanwhile LBC broadcaster James O’Brien wrote: “This is gross. Utterly gross. It’s possible that the full, unedited answer might offer some mitigation but Braverman’s defence of using Nazi vocabulary to talk about refugees, in response to a Holocaust survivor, is just horrific.”
And of course, with the video only showing a snippet of what was a longer conversation, the Home Office released a statement this afternoon saying the footage has been “heavily edited” and “doesn’t reflect the full exchange”.
“The home secretary listened carefully to the testimony. She thanked her for sharing her story. The home secretary also expressed her sympathy and set out why it is important to tackle illegal migration.
“Since the footage misrepresents the interaction about a sensitive area of policy, we have asked the organisation who posted the video to take it down.”
A completely normal response – one to which Twitter users have replied saying she “still said those words”, that the Home Office’s statement is “also an edited version” of events, and asked the department to “point to the part of the exchange where the home secretary didn’t refuse to apologise”.
At the time of writing, the video is still up for all to see.
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