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Deepening Identity Divides in Post-Brexit Britain: The Home Office, Rhetoric and Authoritarianism

Jordan White
p. 93-117

Résumé

This paper analyses the rhetoric of Home Secretaries Priti Patel (2019-2022) and Suella Braverman (2022-), and builds on Judi Atkins’ study of former Home Secretary and Prime Minister Theresa May by examining the epideictic and deliberative style employed in their speeches to the Conservative Party Conferences of 2020 and 2022 respectively. A Rhetorical Political Analysis establishes a common trend in the rhetorical strategies used by these three speakers. By outlining the various appeals to pathos and logos, such as patriotic sentiment or disgust reflexes, this study begins to form a clearer image of the ingroups and outgroups developed through discourse. The antithetical nature of these appeals suggests an expanding outgroup—Asylum seekers, Human Rights lawyers and eco-protestors are targeted—as the ingroup seemingly shrinks beyond Leave voters to a smaller subset of “identity conservatives” (Sobolewska & Ford) or “Somewheres” (Goodhart). A comparative linguistic analysis of documents related to recent anti-immigration and anti-protest policies (the Public Order Bill and Rwanda Plan) highlights connections between the language used by the Home Secretaries and policy i.e., the connections between rhetoric and government. This analysis does not argue causation, but indicates correlation between the two, and serves to refute suggestions that rhetoric is “empty” and performative. Finally, public opinion is studied to ascertain whether the orators’ claims about the electorate, and their proposed policies, are supported. Reference to opinion polls show that certain policies (such as harsher punishments for eco-protestors granted under the Public Order Bill) appear to be supported by a significant minority of the public while opinion is divided on others (the Rwanda Asylum Plan). In most cases these policies do seem to appeal to an important subset of Conservative voters, suggesting that both rhetoric and policies are tailored to a shrinking ingroup of identity conservatives or “Somewheres”.

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Introduction

  • 1 MPs Jesse Norman and Nick Thomas-Symonds both used the term “empty rhetoric” to describe the Conser (...)

1The role that rhetoric occupies in politics is irrefutably a powerful one; the language employed by influential political actors can shape public opinion and policy. The efficacity of “rhetoric” is nonetheless sometimes understated by political commentators, who have used the term to denote performative forms of communication i.e., posturing or empty gestures.1 This article seeks to address rhetoric itself, delving into the rhetorical strategies employed by UK Home Secretaries Priti Patel and Suella Braverman in their speeches to Conservative Party Conferences in 2020 and 2022 respectively. The study builds upon previous research by Judi Atkins on the rhetoric of former Home Secretary and Prime Minister Theresa May, and seeks to establish commonalities and differences in rhetorical style across these three key figures to ascertain whether a long-term pattern or strategy can be observed. Epideictic rhetoric—ceremonial praise/blame rhetoric—is found to be a recurrent strategy as each speaker delineates ingroups and outgroups along the lines of identity divides.

  • 2 David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (London: Hurs (...)
  • 3 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 21.
  • 4 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’, 147.
  • 5 Frances Webber, ‘Britain’s Authoritarian Turn’, Race & Class 62, no. 4 (1 April 2021): 106–20, http (...)
  • 6 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

2These identity divides are consistent with existing scholarship (David Goodhart, Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford) that suggests the existence of two distinct groups: subsets of Leave and Remain voters, but more specifically, “Anywheres” vs “Somewheres” or “identity liberals” and “identity conservatives”.2 These two polarised identity groups share certain value-based and demographic characteristics; “Somewheres”, according to Goodhart, tend to be Leave voters that are older, anchored in localised rural communities, less educated and with conservative values—“Anywheres”, on the other hand, are younger, Remain voting, cosmopolitan “liberally inclined graduates”.3 Sobolewska and Ford identified a similar cleavage between what they term “identity liberals” and “identity conservatives” who are divided along the demographic lines outlined above, and importantly divided on their “system of values and beliefs” notably with regards to migration and diversity.4 These values and beliefs can also be understood on an “authoritarian scale”, with identity conservatives more likely to favour policies that increase control or restrict certain rights.5 Sobolewska and Ford suggest that identity divides on immigration and diversity could also produce the “heated and divisive argument” that constitutes a “culture war”. These arguments are typically value or morality-oriented social issues that “mobilise and polarise voters”.6 This paper examines the ways in which rhetoric is used by the Home Secretaries to exploit these identity divides, appealing to certain groups and alienating others through a praise/blame, “us” and “them” narrative. To better establish the strategy of the rhetors and the wider context, policy documents related to the immigration and protest policies (the Rwanda Plan and the Public Order Bill) are then consulted and briefly analysed.

Methodology and theoretical approach

Rhetorical Political Analysis

  • 7 Alan Finlayson, ‘From Beliefs to Arguments: Interpretive Methodology and Rhetorical Political Analy (...)
  • 8 Finlayson, ‘From Beliefs to Arguments’.
  • 9 James A. Herrick, ‘Contemporary Rhetoric II: Situation, Story, Display’, in The History and Theory (...)

3Language and rhetoric have a huge impact on the marketplace of ideas and directly affect policy and legislation, but as Finlayson highlights, studying the ideational dynamics of political communication requires further analysis of “the strategic and collective nature of political decision-making” for which we “need to examine not ideas but arguments and… reacquaint ourselves with the rhetorical tradition”.7 Finlayson outlines a possible approach of Rhetorical Political Analysis (RPA) that consists of locating discourse within its context or “rhetorical situation”; the rhetorical situation dictates the rules and conventions of speech, and the “setting of the identity of participants”.8 James Martin also highlights the importance of context/rhetorical situation for “the contingency of ideas… their fabrication and inflection for particular contexts, audiences and purposes”, building on prominent theorists like Kenneth Burke and Lloyd Bitzer, who place context as a primary consideration when analysing rhetoric.9 This article employs these principles of RPA, applying its methodology to highlight the discursive context of the two speeches analysed i.e. the rhetorical situation. By studying the content of these speeches in situ, insight can be gained about the rhetorical strategies used. This study builds upon previous research by Judi Atkins on the rhetoric of former Home Secretary and Prime Minister Theresa May, and seeks to establish commonalities (and differences) in rhetorical style across three key figures: Theresa May, Priti Patel and Suella Braverman.

  • 10 James Martin, ‘Rhetoric, Death, and the Politics of Memory’, Critical Discourse Studies 0, no. 0 (2 (...)
  • 11 Alan Finlayson, ‘Rhetoric and the Political Theory of Ideologies’, Political Studies 60, no. 4 (1 D (...)
  • 12 Finlayson, ‘From Beliefs to Arguments’.

4To understand these commonalities, rhetorical strategies and appeals are analysed. The primary strategies identified in this paper are epideictic and deliberative rhetoric; the former is “understood, somewhat narrowly, as the genre of 'praise or blame'”, while the latter is “used to persuade a group […] of voters or legislators, towards a particular course of action”.10 These strategies are complemented by appeals to pathos (emotion) and logos (logic), as well as rhetorical techniques like antithesis, in which the speaker emphasises contrast. Speakers also evoke topoi (topics) that are familiar to their ‘imagined audience’, for example the NHS, to add weight or emotional value to their arguments. These imagined audiences are “in some measure a fictive creation around which rhetorical invention is built”, giving the speaker a “conception of the audience [which] may include pseudo-empirical inventions such as ‘the working class’, ‘middle England’…”.11 The imagined audiences addressed by the three speakers can be gleaned through discourse analysis, but scholars have identified demographic trends that are recurrent and seem related to the “substantive subjects under dispute”—anti-immigration and anti-protest policies.12

5A brief linguistic analysis of policy documents is therefore carried out to ascertain whether clear links can be drawn between rhetoric and policy. A considerable methodological challenge in Rhetorical Analysis, though, is that causation is difficult to measure; the effect or influence of a given speech or rhetorical strategy is not typically quantifiable or measurable. Suggesting a causal relationship between rhetoric, policy and the actions of members of the public therefore remains problematic. At the very least, however, there is an observable correlation in this instance between rhetoric and policy, and the qualitative data goes some way to demonstrating this.

Key Findings

  • 13 Lucia Zedner, ‘Outsourcing the Border Within: Private Citizens as Border Guards, State Sovereignty, (...)
  • 14 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

6Since Theresa May’s introduction of the Hostile Environment, the long-standing and structuring narratives—and fallacies—that propped up these policies have intensified. The policies themselves have been described as an attempt to “co-opt private citizens as agents of immigration control”, introducing such measures as requiring “private landlords to perform immigration checks on prospective tenants” and “hospital staff to check the immigration status of all those attending for non-emergency treatment, and to demand full payment in advance from those unable to show their entitlement to free treatment”. 13These policies concretised attempts to respond to identity-based questions of belonging, often related to economic concerns like housing, healthcare and education—questions further stimulated by Brexit. The Home Office continues to seek to address these scarcity concerns, policing access to welfare and other rights. Analysis of discourse and policy documents demonstrates that otherness plays an important role in said policing. Attempts at definition/differentiation go beyond exclusive categorisations based on race or ethnicity, however, and otherness seems to expand as the in-group shrinks. This is doubly important when taken in context, as the Brexit moment forms the background for a re-interrogation of national identity. Sobolewska and Ford have demonstrated this, arguing that two broad groups exist with regards to identity formation: those who hold mostly exclusive, potentially more ethnocentric views about national identity and belonging (identity conservatives), and those who hold more inclusive views (identity liberals).14

  • 15 Eleni Andreouli and Parisa Dashtipour, ‘British Citizenship and the “Other”: An Analysis of the Ear (...)
  • 16 Judi Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception: An Analysis of Theresa May’s Vision of Britain and B (...)
  • 17 Andrew Roe-Crines and Tim Heppell, ‘Legitimising Euroscepticism? The Construction, Delivery and Sig (...)

7Andreouli and Dashtipour highlight the inclusive/exclusive aspect of national identities and identity formation, notably that creation of a national identity is often necessarily contrasted with otherness.15 In such contexts, epideictic rhetoric is well adapted to perform this function. In her study of Theresa May’s speeches, Judi Atkins demonstrates that epideictic rhetoric can be used to redefine the community by “articulat[ing] shared values that, in turn, provide a starting point for the attribution of praise or blame”.16 As Atkins points out, May’s attempt to reunite the community post Brexit was unsuccessful in part because the cohesive national community that she sought to create through her discourse was based on principles that would alienate Remain voters. This is perhaps an unsurprising consequence of using epideictic rhetoric in this context, given that it “relies on […] the ability of the orator to construct a shared sense of identity or community […] to bind the audience (i.e. voters in the UK) together [which] is crucial as the construction of a unifying identity is usually achieved by contrasting it with an ‘other’ who is positioned outside of that shared community.”17 Problematically, the community May sought to “bind” was divided on the very issues of otherness and shared community—made up of “somewheres” and “anywheres”. Given this context, it stands to reason that the epideictic rhetorical strategy, compounded by othering, should result in a shrinking ingroup (and an expanding outgroup) being targeted by Conservative discourse and policy.

  • 18 These narratives of scarcity were harnessed during the Brexit campaigns, particularly by populist f (...)
  • 19 Isaac Chotiner, ‘From Little Englanders to Brexiteers’, The New Yorker, 11 November 2019, https://w (...)

8This development seems also to be an inevitable consequence of populist narratives of scarcity that characterise the immigration debate, for example that there is insufficient housing, that public services are buckling under the pressure of an increasing population, or the lump of labour fallacy.18 These appeals to logos combine with the more emotional appeals to a “Little Englander” mentality, described by historian Linda Colley as “the other side of unparalleled imperial dominion, a cleaving to the small and the relatively known in the face of… the very large and very strange.”19 The little England ideal is one of isolationism and the protection of the values and traditions of a group that may be perceived as the bearer of a restricted and exclusive identity. Some evidence of these narratives can be observed in May’s speeches; the following are some important features of May’s rhetoric identified by Atkins:

1. May’s conception of her audience is “overly narrow”— this may exacerbate the “shrinking” ingroup.

2. Although her imagined audience is Leave voters, this is not always blatantly obvious in her speech; there is some subtlety in her approach that is lacking in Patel and Braverman’s rhetorical appeal.

3. Her ingroup/outgroup positioning is based on slight differences in appeal—an example given by Atkins is May’s image of the British as having a “stiff upper lip” and references to her parents’ generation, which may appeal to older/Leave voters but not necessarily younger/Remain voters.

  • 20 Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception’.

4. May did evoke the topos of British institutions in an attempt to appeal to a broad audience, including references to the NHS. This was problematic given her government’s policy at the time.20

9It is interesting to note here that there is some balance in May’s approach; although some aspects of her rhetoric may contribute to a shrinking ingroup hypothesis (points 1 & 3), there is also some evidence that she attempts to maintain broad appeal (points 2 & 4) even if her evocation of the NHS was contradictory.

Priti Patel – Speech to the Conservative Party Conference 2020

  • 21 Martin, ‘Rhetoric, Death, and the Politics of Memory’, 6.
  • 22 Martin, 6.
  • 23 This narrative was familiar in the context of the speeches, having already been successfully exploi (...)
  • 24 Priti Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’ (Conservative Party Conference, Online, 4 Oc (...)
  • 25 Philip Hubbard, ‘Suella Braverman’s Talk of a Refugee “invasion” Is a Dangerous Political Gambit Go (...)

10Remarks by James Martin about the nature of epideictic rhetoric provide an appropriate starting point for considering the differences between May’s epideictic to the Conservative Party Conference in 2016 and Priti Patel’s in 2020. As Martin states, epideictic rhetoric is often used before audiences who “already agree” or are “not expected to weigh up any claims”, so it is revealing to study Conservative Party Conference speeches, even more so than those to the House of Commons or the wider public.21 Moreover, epideictic is “frequently regarded as the form in which the worst excesses of rhetoric can be found [and] At its worst, we may associate it with extremist political gatherings, dogmatic ideology, fawning adulation, or social media outrage” and although the core praise/blame dynamic is the same, Theresa May’s epideictic indeed appears mild when compared to that of Priti Patel.22 Some of the differences between the two are outlined presently, but to summarise, Patel’s approach is more hyperbolic, more explicit in its definition of its in and outgroups, and features more antithesis. It evokes similar topoi to those used by May, notably British institutions, but also features outrage-provoking topoi like the dangerous and violent Other.23 One might argue that Patel’s militaristic lexical field foreshadows the jingoism of later speeches by Suella Braverman; see terms like “defending”, “on the frontline”, and references to Winston Churchill and “brave” officers marching the streets.24 As pointed out by Philip Hubbard, however, Patel “was careful to avoid such dehumanising language [as used by Suella Braverman]”.25

  • 26 Toye, Rhetoric, 32.
  • 27 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 75–76.
  • 28 Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception’, 221; Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

11Some analysis of Patel’s 2020 speech reveals the objects of praise and blame that constitute her imagined ingroup and outgroup. Patel’s approach distinguishes her rhetoric from Theresa May’s epideictic, as it contains elements of deliberative rhetoric, which is “used to persuade a group […] of voters or legislators, towards a particular course of action”.26 This deliberative rhetoric targets her ingroup; the linguistic strategies she uses mirror their values as she perceives them. Specific appeals are outlined below, but these values are centred mostly around a ‘respect for tradition’ narrative. Appeals to these values are scattered throughout the speech and can help sketch the outlines of the audience to which she attempts to appeal. Lamenting a perceived disrespect of British tradition is an emotional appeal tailored to an older in-group that features several times.27 To give another simple example, Patel appeals to this ingroup with positive references to institutions, a “recurring topos in the rhetoric of Britishness”; she attributes praise to the police, while attaching to them traditional, quintessentially British colloquialisms like “bobbies on the beat”.28

  • 29 Semiotically speaking it can also communicate/signify the relation between people and place, the ju (...)
  • 30 Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Populism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University P (...)
  • 31 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.
  • 32 Helena Knupfer and Jörg Matthes, ‘An Attack against Us All? Perceived Similarity and Compassion for (...)
  • 33 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.
  • 34 Patel.

12Not only is the language of Patel’s speech rousing and emotive, but it is expressed in a manner that is equally so, which typifies the ceremonial aspect of epideictic rhetoric. The compound effect of these three aspects therefore facilitates receptivity: the language is emotive, expressed in a rousing manner and communicated in a rhetorical situation where communication is unilateral as there is no reciprocal interaction between audience and speaker. Similarly, Patel uses a term common among populists to garner support from her audience: “the people”. Citing “the people” is rhetorically effective as it reduces the audience to its broadest relational unit, implying coherence and hegemony.29 Indeed, the vagueness of the term is key as “it is exactly the fact that ‘the people’ is an ‘empty signifier’ that makes populism such a powerful political ideology and phenomenon.”30 But Patel mentions “the people of our country”, and the “British people” particularly at intervals where differentiation is possible with an ‘other’ i.e., to distinguish between “us” and “them”.31 This “us and them” narrative is developed throughout this speech via antithesis (contrast), which is significant given that “If individuals feel like the [similarity] overlap between self and other is high, this person is more likely to be treated as an ingroup member.”32 It allows the speaker to develop two arguments at once, assigning praise and blame, for example: “Which means on the one hand supporting the hardworking majority who play by the rules. And on the other hand, taking tough action against a minority who do not.”33 Using such general terms allows for flexibility of definition, as one can reasonably pose the question: who are “the people”? When addressing the concerns of “the British people”, this allows Patel to present a subset of the electorate that shares certain values—her ingroup of “Somewheres”—as constituting the entire nation, suggesting that “Our new British points-based immigration system […] is what the British people have demanded…”34

13Appeals to pathos are Patel’s principal strategy in driving the divide between ingroup and outgroup. Emotive language often stimulates base primal emotions like disgust and anger, so the issues raised by the rhetor are mostly sensitive ones. There are two notable appeals to emotion/outrage in Priti Patel’s speech:

1. “There is no excuse for pelting flares at brave police officers. There is no excuse for throwing bikes at police horses. There is no excuse for disrespecting the Cenotaph or vandalising the statue of Sir Winston Churchill.”

  • 35 Patel.

2. “[illegal immigration has] plagued… […] elbowing women and children […] Trampling over the weak. […] laugh[ing] in the face of the British people.35

  • 36 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 43.
  • 37 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.
  • 38 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh (Basic Books, 1999), 486–515.
  • 39 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.
  • 40 Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception’, 218; Paul A. Chilton, Analysing Political Discourse: The (...)
  • 41 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

14The first plays on empathy for the objects of aggression i.e., “brave” police officers, innocent horses and the collective memory of Sir Winston Churchill. It is also revealing with regards to the values held by the ingroup. Patel is aware that her imagined audience “regret the passing of a more… tradition bound world” and consider Churchill to be a positive symbol of British tradition, and of British institutions, a uniting topos for that audience.36 The second appeal to emotion is rather more negative; by using the verb “plague”, the speaker stimulates disgust reflexes.37 Immorality is often “conceptualised [metaphorically] as a disease”, so associating “illegal immigration” with “plague” and immoral action (violence), the speaker is able to extend the metaphor. If immorality is “a plague that, if left unchecked, can spread… it follows that immoral people must be kept away from moral people”; the bodily root of this metaphor is therefore leveraged to justify action (anti-immigration policy).38 Negative emotion, then, is a powerful tool for persuasion in deliberative rhetoric, as well as epideictic. To harness this sentiment, the violent imagery that Patel conjures seemingly has no subject, the verbs “elbowing” and “trampling” are implicitly associated with the notably absent ‘other’, rather than with the personified “broken asylum system”.39 Here, then, one can observe the duality of praise/blame structures central to epideictic oratory. Finally, assigning blame to the ‘other’ or the “outgroup” is achieved by assigning reprehensible moral values, and the absence of clarity allows for deliberate conflation. Importantly, absence or omission in rhetoric “can reveal much about the speaker’s aims and their intended audience” as “the non-explicit meanings, as well as, or possibly even more than the explicit ones, have functions that in the context of political communication can be seen as legitimising or emotionally coercive”.40 Presenting a list such as “the traffickers, the do-gooders, the leftie lawyers, the Labour Party” as a cohesive group, to give another example, associates criminality (human trafficking) with the rest of the rather large outgroup, creating false equivalence.41

Suella Braverman– Speech to the Conservative Party Conference 2022

  • 42 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’
  • 43 Sobolewska and Ford.

15 Braverman’s rhetoric shows a logical progression from that of Priti Patel, and she is Patel’s successor in more than chronology. Just as the Hostile Environment policies laid the groundwork for increasingly exclusive Home Office policy post-Brexit, many of Theresa May’s rhetorical strategies were adopted by Patel, who amplified existing anti-immigration narratives with increasingly divisive language. The distinction between May and Patel is to a lesser extent the same distinction between Patel and Braverman; the core strategies are the same, but the execution is more explicitly divisive. Where May subtly delineates her Leave-voting ingroup, and Patel extends this delineation with appeals to a select subset of identity conservatives, Braverman seems to double down on the most polarising, yet low-salience issues that may constitute the “culture wars” anticipated by Sobolewska and Ford.42 If Brexit Britain can be said to be in the midst of a culture war, Braverman’s strategy shows her to be on the exclusive side of the debate—sceptical towards diversity and in opposition to immigration.43

  • 44 Victoria Canning, ‘UK Immigration: Creating a Spectacle around People Seeking Asylum Generates Fear (...)
  • 45 Suella Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’ (Conservative Party Conference, Birming (...)
  • 46 Marina Hyde, ‘Suella Braverman Aboard a Chinook: Proof That in Politics, Standards Can Always Get W (...)
  • 47 Toye, Rhetoric.

16When addressing these topics, Braverman uses jingoistic language. This trend of intensifying militaristic rhetoric is identified by Victoria Canning, who argues that “the Conservative government […] has progressively militarised its approach to migrants and used spectacle to do so”.44 Indeed, jingoistic vocabulary can be traced throughout Braverman’s speech to the Conservative Party Conference in October 2022. Speaking of “the left”, she describes an outgroup that is “attacking our profound, elemental values”, using the terms “militant”, “anarchist” and “extremist” and choosing the heavily-connoted “guerrilla warfare” to describe protests.45 Braverman’s rhetoric demonstrates here that her antithetic approach is not limited to migrants. The objects of blame are many, and importantly define the outgroup with relation to their values—values opposed to those of the imagined ingroup, the “Somewheres” or “identity conservatives”. This ingroup is signalled by Braverman at the end of October, when she judged that “the British people deserve to know which party is serious about stopping the invasion on our southern coast”, repeating the term used by Patel, “the British people” to inflate the ingroup. Functioning as part of a party-wide strategy, might this strategy garner support from a small but important (perhaps referendum-deciding and election-winning) ingroup? The possible significance of Braverman’s speech in the wider context of an intentional government strategy should be considered, although the aforementioned methodological limitations mean that causational links between these are difficult to prove. One further observation that may be made, however, is that the visual communication strategies used by Patel and Braverman seem to complement their rhetoric; Patel donned a flak jacket in May of 2021 and in November 2022, Braverman arrived at an immigration processing centre in Kent by Chinook.46 Militarisation is thus not limited to rhetoric, but is also present in visual signifiers, which could have a compound effect when one takes into account the importance of performance to epideictic “display rhetoric”.47

  • 48 Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’.
  • 49 Braverman.
  • 50 Toye, Rhetoric.

17In fact, the praise aspect of Braverman’s epideictic may lend credence to this thesis. She signposts the coherence of a wider strategy via praise: first to Theresa May for “deport[ing] Abu Qatada, the Islamist extremist”, then to Priti Patel for “negotiat[ing] a ground-breaking deal with our partners in Rwanda” and finally, to Boris Johnson, stating that she is “grateful for the foundations that they laid”.48 This endorsement indicates explicitly that she intends to continue steepening the authoritarian trend—and in doing so, deepen identity divides. She goes on to mimic some of the language and antithesis used by Patel, referring to the “mob” and creating opposition between a “law-abiding majority” and disruptive, violent “minority”.49 Similarly, she uses deliberative rhetoric via the collective “our” when referring to policies or legislation proposed by the Home Office, furthering a sense of belonging to the ingroup to persuade. If her epideictic follows patterns established by May and Patel, Braverman’s speech deviates slightly in this aspect. It features a strong deliberative element, even more so than Patel’s speech. This serves to “persuade […] towards a particular course of action” that is in some cases more authoritarian than the majority of voters consider appropriate.50

  • 51 Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’; Lakoff and Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh. (...)
  • 52 Waqas Tufail, ‘Rotherham, Rochdale, and the Racialised Threat of the “Muslim Grooming Gang”’, Inter (...)
  • 53 Chilton, Analysing Political Discourse, 118.
  • 54 Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’.

18To convince her audience, the deliberative elements of Braverman’s speech rely heavily on negative emotion signified by extreme language. She stimulates disgust/danger reflexes, choosing “poison” instead of Patel’s “plague” to evoke immediate threats to the body rather than abstract threats.51 Building on this sense of threat, Braverman cites the “grooming-gangs” in Telford and Rochdale, aware that child abuse is a heavily emotive subject likely to elicit a reaction; these scandals also connote racially othering “us and them” narratives that are a mainstay in tabloid newspapers and are typical of a “culture war” issue.52 This strategy of emotional coercion, as Chilton outlines, “can occur when certain vocabulary or certain propositions receive mental representations that are in some way linked (neurologically, in fact) to emotion centres of the brain (the limbic system). For instance, some kind of fearful response may be stimulated by such terms as ‘urgency’, ‘national danger’ and ‘evil’, terms which are dispersed through the text.”53 By using terms like “chronic”, Braverman furthers the disease/disgust narrative, appealing to tribal reactions (pathos) and reinforced by terms like “fear” and “common sense instincts”.54

  • 55 Braverman.
  • 56 Danny Dorling, Ben Stuart, and Joshua Stubbs, ‘Brexit, Inequality and the Demographic Divide’, Brit (...)
  • 57 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’; Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 15.

19Identity-affirming buzzwords serve to reinforce these tribal divisions. Braverman laments the undermining of the “sovereignty of our borders” by the ECHR, and uses the words “control” and “borders”—linguistic vestiges of the Leave campaign slogan “take back control”.55 Given the decline in the salience of this issue, Braverman’s choice here supports a shrinking ingroup hypothesis. While explosive topics like immigration, protest and border control are Braverman’s primary strategy for drawing the dividing lines between ingroup and outgroup, she borrows subtle appeals from Theresa May. References to her parents and traditional “British values” appeal to older sections of the electorate who voted in support of Brexit (64% of over 65s) and who have a high turnout, in stark contrast with the majority remain-voting 18-24s.56 While on the surface “British values” does not seem exclusive, some of these may contrast with the values of the “Anywheres” or “identity liberals”, who place “a much lower value on group identity, tradition and national social contracts (faith, flag and family)”.57

20What emerges from this analysis is a trend of form and content, as the epideictic and increasingly deliberative character of the two speeches permits the transmission of radical messages due to its ceremonial nature. This ceremonial aspect is enhanced by the context of the speeches: the makeup of the audience suggests an assumed consensus of values, while dissenting voices are absent. Fertile ground for receptivity and persuasion is thus created, optimised by the strategies of the two orators, who use emotive language to elicit emotional responses from their audiences. Such an approach puts forward a series of emotionally charged problems, stimulating fears and concerns, before proposing solutions in the form of authoritarian policies that are purportedly justified by the threats represented by otherness. Compassion towards those excluded and affected by these policies is also reduced through the creation of a binary ingroup/outgroup narrative. Difference is the anchoring theme of the two speeches, which both present positive majority/negative minority divisions, despite increasingly narrow conceptions of their ingroups; the “British people” are necessarily conflated with a group identity structured around conservative values i.e., tradition, respect for authority and institutions, rule of law and patriotism (arguably nationalism). These values are all represented in the two speeches.

Policy

  • 58 Mark Townsend, ‘Lawyers Claim Knife Attack at Law Firm Was Inspired by Priti Patel’s Rhetoric’, The (...)
  • 59 Kieran Kelly, ‘Fifteen Arrests after Police van Set on Fire in “violent Protest” Outside Asylum See (...)
  • 60 Knupfer and Matthes, ‘An Attack against Us All?’
  • 61 Hyde, ‘Suella Braverman Aboard a Chinook’; Webber, ‘Britain’s Authoritarian Turn’.
  • 62 Golec de Zavala, Guerra, and Simão, ‘The Relationship between the Brexit Vote and Individual Predic (...)
  • 63 Golec de Zavala, Guerra, and Simão.

21An argument that remains to be addressed with regards to this display rhetoric, is whether it amounts to empty, performative gestures, as some commentators argue, or whether it has an effect on policy, the state of the nation and how people live. Though epideictic rhetoric may appear ineffective—and many of the policies implemented since the speeches have thus far proved ineffective—the messaging analysed in the first section is nonetheless reflected in policy documents. Moreover, this messaging may have at times influenced loud minorities and individuals that have subsequently, and tragically, resorted to the very violent activism that Patel and Braverman denounce elsewhere; one such example is the knife attack on a law firm in 2020 just after Patel’s comments about “activist lawyers”.58 Only very recently, further incidents of violence and intimidation have been reported against asylum seekers—such as the hard-right mobilisation in Merseyside—and footage of eco-protesters being dragged to the roadside by frustrated motorists has become commonplace on social networks.59 By making difference (whether cultural, racial, political) a more salient issue, epideictic rhetoric can reduce “perceived similarity” which in turn can mean that “individuals not only treat ingroup members favourably, but also show stronger responses to threats directed at ingroup members compared to outgroup members.”60 The incident in Merseyside attests to this, particularly given the aforementioned racialised scandals perpetuated by news media. Additionally, a broader argument about the influence of rhetoric can be put forward: since the Brexit vote in 2016, the Overton Window has been left ajar, if not thrown open altogether. Several policies might be considered here, but in the scope of this article the following have been chosen: the Rwanda Asylum Plan, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and the Public Order Bill. Regardless of the perceived success of these policies, their implementation itself marks a shift in what is possible in the political climate of Brexit Britain. This is outlined in detail by Frances Webber.61 The issues largely identified as priorities in the Home Secretaries’ speeches were immigration, border control, and protest. In both cases, the heart of the problem was identified as a need for control, a buzzword from the referendum campaign. Indeed, the EU referendum has been argued by scholars to have demonstrated a divide along a libertarian—authoritarian scale, where those with more authoritarian-leaning values were more likely to vote Leave.62 There is some significance in the demands for control because it is an authoritarian trait, and the ingroup targeted by the speakers would appear to favour more authoritarian values as outlined in previous research.63Analysis of the policy documents shows, therefore, how these authoritarian values are borne out concretely by government action.

The Public Order Bill and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act

  • 64 ‘Public Order Bill: Factsheet’, GOV.UK, accessed 11 April 2023, https://www.gov.uk/government/publi (...)
  • 65 ‘Public Order Bill’.
  • 66 ‘Public Order Bill: Equality Impact Assessment’, GOV.UK, accessed 11 April 2023, https://www.gov.uk (...)
  • 67 ‘Public Order Bill’; ‘By 51% to 42%, Londoners Don’t Trust the Metropolitan Police | YouGov’, acces (...)

22The Public Order Bill was first introduced on the 11th May 2022. The gov.uk factsheet outlines the key aims and methods of the bill, echoing much of the language used by Patel and Braverman. Under the heading “what are we going to do”, the document states that “new measures are needed to bolster police powers”, before referencing “guerrilla tactics” and repeating the “small minority” vs “hard-working majority” value judgement established in the conference speeches.64 Under this bill, police can search for and seize “items […] made, adapted or intended to be used in connection with protest-related offences”, which raises questions about implementation, some of which are answered by the inclusion of a new “suspicion-less power” which “will allow a constable to conduct a stop and search without the need for suspicion”, a measure which could aggravate an already significant issue.65 In fact, the government also published an Equality Impact Assessment of the bill, which features significant findings; for example, the fact that from 2020-2022, “Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people were 3.5 times more likely to be stopped and searched than White people. For Black people specifically, this was 7 times more likely, and Black people were also 14 times more likely than White people to be searched under suspicion-less stop and search powers granted under […] the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.”66 The Impact Assessment goes on to claim that “there is no evidence to suggest that the use of stop and search powers in relation to the public order offences in scope of this Bill will have a disproportionate impact on people on the grounds of race if the use of these powers is fair and based on evidence and intelligence and not based on the protected characteristics of those attending a particular protest,” but Yougov polling indicates that this may not reassure members of BAME communities.67

  • 68 ‘Public Order Bill’.

23The function creep of this authoritarian policy is further demonstrated by the Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, which grant the following powers: “…prohibiting an individual from being in a particular place, being with particular people, having particular articles in their possession and using the internet to facilitate or encourage a person to commit a protest-related offence.” These powers are incompatible with the right of peaceful assembly granted under article 11 of the ECHR—though the ECHR and Human Rights have already been discredited in Patel and Braverman’s speeches. This incompatibility is acknowledged in the gov.uk factsheet, which argues that “these are sensible proportionate measures designed to allow the police to better balance the rights of protestors and the public.”68 Here one can observe another use of antithesis as seen in Braverman’s speech, with the suggestion that protesters and the public are opposed, and not one and the same.

The Rwanda Plan

  • 69 Home Office News Team, ‘Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership - Home Office in (...)
  • 70 Home Office News Team.
  • 71 ‘Shortage of Safe and Legal Routes’ for Migrants, Suella Braverman Told by Tory MP, 2022, https://w (...)

24Ideas of opposition and balance referenced in the factsheet for the Public Order Bill are revisited on the gov.uk factsheet for the “Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda”.69 The purpose of the policy cited by the factsheet is to “redress the imbalance between illegal and legal migration routes,” a statement that appeals to logic through language that initially appears rational.70 However, the language used presents a false equivalence; the “illegal routes” here relate to routes used by asylum seekers to arrive in the UK, whereas the “legal routes” proposed, as demonstrated later in the factsheet, are routes to Rwanda. Presenting this policy as one of redressing imbalance is therefore potentially misleading, given that the policy seeks to redirect or relocate—it does not promote new or existing “legal” routes to the UK. Indeed, a key criticism levelled at recent governments by political commentators is the lack of viable “legal” routes for those seeking asylum in the UK. Footage of MP Tim Loughton questioning Braverman at a Home Affairs Committee, for example, showed the latter apparently unable to give an example of a “safe and legal” route to the UK outside of the specialised schemes put in place for certain countries e.g., the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS).71

  • 72 Home Office News Team, ‘Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership - Home Office in (...)
  • 73 A flaw in this argument is that it leaves no case in which a ‘legitimate’ asylum seeker could reach (...)
  • 74 Home Office News Team, ‘Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership - Home Office in (...)
  • 75 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

25Another appeal to logic in this factsheet evokes a narrative of scarcity, before developing more emotional appeals: “And because the capacity of our asylum system is not unlimited, the presence of economic migrants which these illegal routes introduce into the asylum system inhibits our ability to properly support others in genuine need of protection.”72 The factsheet uses the term “economic migrant”, also favoured by Patel in her conference speech, suggesting the existence of two separate groups. The “economic migrant”/‘genuinely needy’ migrant distinction stems from the implication that those truly in need would not come to the UK, and by extension, those who do come to the UK in small boats fall into the category “economic migrants”.73 By contrasting these two imagined groups, the language used creates an antithesis that assigns reprehensible moral values to the “economic migrant” who, according to the scarcity narrative, “is diverting resources away from those that are genuinely in need”, a situation designed to evoke an emotional response (outrage).74 This moral reprehensibility exiles the ‘other’ to the outgroup, as they are portrayed as selfish, and Patel makes this same argument when she talks about asylum seekers “shopping around for where they claim asylum”—the decision to undertake dangerous channel crossings reduced to a flippant one through a lexical field of leisure/materialism/commercialism.75

  • 76 ‘Nationality and Borders Act 2022’, Pub. L. No. c. 36, § 16 (2022).

26While policy makers may argue that the Rwanda Plan does “redress the balance” by providing a “safe and legal” route, the Rwanda plan is only one of several hurdles deliberately put in place between asylum seekers and their safe access to the UK’s asylum system—one element of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 that has raised eyebrows is the government’s argument that if asylum seekers have “connections” to other safe countries, they could be considered “inadmissible” for the UK asylum scheme.76 Under part 2, section 16 of the Act, five conditions are laid out in which a claimant would be deemed to have a connection to a safe third State. These conditions drastically reduce the likeliness of an asylum claim being deemed admissible, given that geographically, accessing the UK would be vastly complicated for the majority of asylum seekers without first passing through a “safe State”—this has been a key point of contention in debates on small boat Channel crossings. Where May’s Hostile Environment policies sought to coercively remove those already in the country, recent policies aim to reduce arrivals in the UK. The conditions outlined above create a loophole in which removal would be facilitated; because asylum claims could be deemed inadmissible rather than being rejected, claimants would be unable to appeal the decision. This would prevent the intervention of Human Rights lawyers who, as outlined above, have been targets of various Conservative cabinet members’ ire, variously labelled “lefty” and “activists”. The totality of these measures would provide extensive powers to the Home Office, and represents another step in the increasingly authoritarian trend of rhetoric and policy for which the Home Secretary has become a figurehead—and which seems to appeal to a minority ingroup.

Discussion & Conclusion

  • 77 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford, eds., ‘Divided Over Diversity: Identity Conservatives And Identit (...)

27The previous section of this paper argued that by tracing the various appeals and value judgements found in the Home Secretaries’ epideictic speeches, it is possible to identify an imagined ingroup targeted by the orators. It argued that these appeals and values signified a shrinking ingroup, as they subtly yet increasingly exclude others by emphasising difference along the lines of apparent incompatibility. These incompatibilities are developed via antithesis, as the speakers imply binary oppositions on the basis of various identity categories such as political affiliation. To signal these oppositions, the speakers prioritise contentious issues that broadly divide the identity groups underpinning the Brexit vote proposed by scholars: identity conservatives and identity liberals.77 An examination of opinion poll data may give some further indication of who constitutes the ingroup targeted by the Home Secretaries’ rhetoric and help to evaluate the shrinking ingroup hypothesis. This evaluation therefore uses data measuring approval for the policies studied in this paper to approximate adherence amongst certain groups to the positions and values expected of the imagined ingroup.

  • 78 ‘Three Weeks into Motorway Climate Change Protests, Public Opposition Has Only Grown | YouGov’, acc (...)
  • 79 ‘This Morning Climate Protesters Attempted to Stage a Demonstration by Standing on Top of a Tube Tr (...)

28As the frequency and intensity of eco-protests in Britain increase, public opposition to them has also increased. Yougov polls from 2019 show that 54% of the general public opposed protests that disrupted roads and public transport, which increased to 72% in 2021.78 This increase was observed across the board, and those most likely to be opposed—Conservatives, Leavers, 50-64s and over 65s—went from 77%, 73%, 61% and 69% to 90%, 85%, 75% and 83% respectively. Rhetoric and policy addressing this issue should then hypothetically appeal most to these (at times overlapping) demographics. Another poll from Yougov that yielded high percentage scores across these groups asked the following question: “This morning climate protesters attempted to stage a demonstration by standing on top of a tube train in Canning Town, but were dragged off the top of the train by commuters. Do your sympathies lie more with [the protestors or commuters]?” 85% of Conservative voters and 82% of Leave voters felt more sympathy for the commuters, as did 77% of over 65s and 71% of 50-64s, findings that indicate a potential propensity towards in/outgroup thinking; 63% of the general public felt more sympathy towards the commuters.79

  • 80 ‘Britons Broadly Supportive of Public Order Bill’s Measures to Criminalise Certain Forms of Protest (...)
  • 81 ‘Policing Bill: Britons Support Proposed New Police Protest Powers | YouGov’, accessed 11 April 202 (...)
  • 82 ‘The Government Has Agreed a Deal Where Some People Who Have Entered Britain to Apply for Asylum Wi (...)
  • 83 ‘A Large Majority of Britons Disapprove of the Government’s Handling of Immigration | YouGov’, acce (...)

29Turning towards policy, while Conservatives and older voters were “much more likely to say police should be tougher on protests” in 2022, these two groups were only slightly more likely than average to be in favour of imprisonment for blocking motorways. Britons in general were in favour of measures brought in by the Public Order Bill, but the measure with the lowest percentage of support was the extension of stop and search powers (51% support).80 The trend outlined above continues, however, with regards to policy. Conservatives, Leave voters and those in the 50-64 and 65+ age groups were broadly more supportive of the increasingly authoritarian measures brought in by the Public Order Bill than the general public, including: making it a criminal offence to attach to buildings, obstructing transport works, causing disruption by tunnelling, introducing preventative measures, and extending stop and search powers. In all cases, support amongst these groups was higher than the total average, and consistently highest amongst those who voted Conservative in 2019 and those who voted Leave. This was also the case for 2022 Yougov polling data that measured support for all measures introduced across the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill.81 2022 Yougov polling data measuring support for the Rwanda plan found much lower levels of support than for the Public Order Bill and the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, though support did increase slightly from April 2022 to October 2022 (from 35% total average to 42%).82 This increase in support was more pronounced amongst Conservative voters and Leave voters, who went from 59% and 57% to 73% and 70% respectively, and similar increases 43% and 50% in April to 50% and 62% were found amongst the two older age groups, 50-64s and over 65s respectively. Another poll in December 2022 found, however, that when given other choices, only 17% of Conservative voters preferred the Rwanda scheme to increasing asylum applications from overseas (24%) or turning small boats around (36%).83 Nevertheless, although support for specific measures is at times limited amongst the ingroup demographics outlined, support for the overarching policies themselves is consistent amongst these groups. Therefore, in terms of appeal, promoting these policies and the values that they represent through epideictic rhetoric could be effective in creating or sustaining an ingroup that is receptive or “already agrees”.

  • 84 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

30The opinion poll data raises several questions with regards to policy, appeal and group identity. While it goes some of the way to identifying an ingroup that is potentially targeted by Conservative rhetoric and policy—an ingroup that has already been outlined by Brexit scholars—it also demonstrates that there is some consensus on certain issues across demographic groups that might be expected to disagree. However, polling data does not give enough qualitative data to be able to establish what this apparent consensus is founded upon, and consensus on one issue (tackling disruptive protests) does not indicate that there is no polarisation on other Home Office policies, as shown by poll data on the Rwanda plan. Moreover, this latter issue is an enduring one, with immigration at the heart of identity divides preceding the EU referendum. Though immigration itself has become less salient, divisive issues that constitute the immigration debate such as race, culture and diversity remain relevant, and are signalled by referencing the small boats crossings, especially via constant mentions of costs to the tax payer.84 Combining hard-line positions on these already divisive issues with other cultural ones, like the ongoing protests and statue debates, gradually adapts appeal to a smaller subset of voters already within a demographic subset; an older, conservative and Leave-voting minority. As these appeals become increasingly targeted and specific, they may have a funnelling effect, alienating a greater number of previous ingroup members, thus expanding the outgroup. Simply put, the greater the number of radical or authoritarian views one is required to have, the less likely one is to align with the ingroup on all of these viewpoints. Given the radical nature of such policies, disagreement becomes more probable and may reasonably lead to disavowal of the ingroup, or at least withdrawal of support for certain policies or the political actors espousing them.

31Though some political commentators have argued that the Home Secretaries’ rhetoric is simply performative, discourse analysis has shown that it plays a role as part of a wider party strategy. Moreover, this analysis of the rhetorical strategies employed by Priti Patel and Suella Braverman has highlighted the ways in which epideictic rhetoric can be used in tandem with policy to influence public perception of particular issues, notably issues pertinent to identity debates. Appeals to emotion and logic developed through epideictic and deliberative rhetoric have served to maintain the support of an ingroup defined along increasingly demographic-specific lines, described by some scholars as “identity conservatives” or “Somewheres”, and to convince said ingroup of proposed policies that follow a steepening authoritarian trend. These policies seek notably to augment centralised power and various forms of control, reflecting the shift towards increasingly radical rhetoric and policy since the Brexit vote, which is borne out in the authoritarian Public Order Bill and Rwanda plan. Despite expressions of doubt about the efficacity of such policies, policy documents express that the policies in question are both necessary and supported by the British public, mirroring language used in Patel and Braverman’s conference speeches. While the impact assessment for the Public Order Bill attempts to reassure readers that it will not disproportionately affect certain minority ethnic groups, this article highlights the potential for such policies to further entrench societal divisions, a reality of which opinion polls show BAME Britons are aware. However, despite widespread reservations about efficacity, polling data shows that the public is less divided than might be expected in their support of additional anti-protest powers. Support for these policies, and tighter immigration control, is however greater among those over 50, Conservative voters and Leave voters, whose support has also increased since 2019. To strengthen the validity of this indicative paper, a larger study of the trends identified would be necessary, including a wider database of polling data, and analysis of a greater corpus of speeches and policy documents.

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Notes

1 MPs Jesse Norman and Nick Thomas-Symonds both used the term “empty rhetoric” to describe the Conservative Government’s communications strategy, the former referring to Boris Johnson and the latter to Priti Patel. Commentator James Melville described Patel’s immigration promises as “hot air and rhetoric”, while journalist Marina Hyde described Braverman’s strategy as “poses/vibes/moods” and as having “achieved less than nothing”. Such descriptions dismiss rhetoric as insincerity, but the rhetoric itself is worthy of deeper consideration.

2 David Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics (London: Hurst & Company, 2017); Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford, ‘British Culture Wars? Brexit and the Future Politics of Immigration and Ethnic Diversity’, The Political Quarterly 90, no. S2 (2019): 142–54, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12646

3 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 21.

4 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’, 147.

5 Frances Webber, ‘Britain’s Authoritarian Turn’, Race & Class 62, no. 4 (1 April 2021): 106–20, https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396821989181 ; Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, Rita Guerra, and Cláudia Simão, ‘The Relationship between the Brexit Vote and Individual Predictors of Prejudice: Collective Narcissism, Right Wing Authoritarianism, Social Dominance Orientation’, Frontiers in Psychology 8 (2017), https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02023

6 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

7 Alan Finlayson, ‘From Beliefs to Arguments: Interpretive Methodology and Rhetorical Political Analysis’, The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 9, no. 4 (1 November 2007): 546, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-856x.2007.00269.x

8 Finlayson, ‘From Beliefs to Arguments’.

9 James A. Herrick, ‘Contemporary Rhetoric II: Situation, Story, Display’, in The History and Theory of Rhetoric, 6th ed. (Routledge, 2017); James Martin, ‘Situating Speech: A Rhetorical Approach to Political Strategy’, Political Studies 63, no. 1 (March 2015): 25–42, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9248.12039

10 James Martin, ‘Rhetoric, Death, and the Politics of Memory’, Critical Discourse Studies 0, no. 0 (22 June 2022): 6, https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2022.2090977 ; Richard Toye, Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction, 1st ed, Very Short Introductions 346 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 32.

11 Alan Finlayson, ‘Rhetoric and the Political Theory of Ideologies’, Political Studies 60, no. 4 (1 December 2012): 751–67, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00948.x

12 Finlayson, ‘From Beliefs to Arguments’.

13 Lucia Zedner, ‘Outsourcing the Border Within: Private Citizens as Border Guards, State Sovereignty, and Civil Peace’, in Privatising Border Control: Law at the Limits of the Sovereign State, ed. Mary Bosworth and Lucia Zedner (Oxford University Press, 2022), 0, https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780192857163.003.0012 ; Frances Webber, ‘On the Creation of the UK’s “Hostile Environment”’, Race & Class 60, no. 4 (1 April 2019): 76–87, https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396819825788

14 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

15 Eleni Andreouli and Parisa Dashtipour, ‘British Citizenship and the “Other”: An Analysis of the Earned Citizenship Discourse’, Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 24, no. 2 (2014): 100–110, https://doi.org/10.1002/casp.2154

16 Judi Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception: An Analysis of Theresa May’s Vision of Britain and Britishness after Brexit’, Politics, 12 March 2021, 0263395721991411, https://doi.org/10.1177/0263395721991411

17 Andrew Roe-Crines and Tim Heppell, ‘Legitimising Euroscepticism? The Construction, Delivery and Significance of the Bruges Speech’, Contemporary British History 34, no. 2 (2 April 2020): 9, https://doi.org/10.1080/13619462.2019.1669019

18 These narratives of scarcity were harnessed during the Brexit campaigns, particularly by populist figures like Nigel Farage, whose arguments were often constructed around the lump of labour fallacy, unemployment and low wages—see Crines and Heppell (2017).

19 Isaac Chotiner, ‘From Little Englanders to Brexiteers’, The New Yorker, 11 November 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/18/from-little-englanders-to-brexiteers

20 Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception’.

21 Martin, ‘Rhetoric, Death, and the Politics of Memory’, 6.

22 Martin, 6.

23 This narrative was familiar in the context of the speeches, having already been successfully exploited by Nigel Farage and other high-profile proponents of anti-immigrant discourse such as Tommy Robinson or former BNP leader Nick Griffin.

24 Priti Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’ (Conservative Party Conference, Online, 4 October 2020), https://www.ukpol.co.uk/priti-patel-2020-speech-at-conservative-party-conference/

25 Philip Hubbard, ‘Suella Braverman’s Talk of a Refugee “invasion” Is a Dangerous Political Gambit Gone Wrong’, The Conversation, 2 November 2022, http://theconversation.com/suella-bravermans-talk-of-a-refugee-invasion-is-a-dangerous-political-gambit-gone-wrong-193638

26 Toye, Rhetoric, 32.

27 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 75–76.

28 Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception’, 221; Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

29 Semiotically speaking it can also communicate/signify the relation between people and place, the jus soli and jus sanguinis arguments of belonging and citizenship anchored in British history (see Tabili, 2005).

30 Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser, Populism: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2017), 9.

31 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

32 Helena Knupfer and Jörg Matthes, ‘An Attack against Us All? Perceived Similarity and Compassion for the Victims Mediate the Effects of News Coverage about Right-Wing Terrorism’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 0, no. 0 (1 June 2021): 1–26, https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2021.1923623

33 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

34 Patel.

35 Patel.

36 Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 43.

37 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

38 George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh (Basic Books, 1999), 486–515.

39 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

40 Atkins, ‘Rhetoric and Audience Reception’, 218; Paul A. Chilton, Analysing Political Discourse: Theory and Practice (London ; New York: Routledge, 2004), 111.

41 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

42 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

43 Sobolewska and Ford.

44 Victoria Canning, ‘UK Immigration: Creating a Spectacle around People Seeking Asylum Generates Fear and Chaos, Not Solutions’, The Conversation, 11 November 2022, http://theconversation.com/uk-immigration-creating-a-spectacle-around-people-seeking-asylum-generates-fear-and-chaos-not-solutions-194229

45 Suella Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’ (Conservative Party Conference, Birmingham, 4 October 2022), https://www.ukpol.co.uk/suella-braverman-2022-speech-to-conservative-party-conference/

46 Marina Hyde, ‘Suella Braverman Aboard a Chinook: Proof That in Politics, Standards Can Always Get Worse’, The Guardian, 4 November 2022, sec. Opinion, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/nov/04/suella-braverman-chinook-home-secretary-priti-patel

47 Toye, Rhetoric.

48 Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’.

49 Braverman.

50 Toye, Rhetoric.

51 Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’; Lakoff and Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh. ; The “nation as a human body” metaphor is common in political communication, as demonstrated by Andreas Musolff (2017).

52 Waqas Tufail, ‘Rotherham, Rochdale, and the Racialised Threat of the “Muslim Grooming Gang”’, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 4, no. 3 (January 2015): 30–43, https://www.crimejusticejournal.com/article/view/766 ; Ella Cockbain and Waqas Tufail, ‘Failing Victims, Fuelling Hate: Challenging the Harms of the “Muslim Grooming Gangs” Narrative’, Race & Class 61, no. 3 (1 January 2020): 3–32, https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396819895727 ; Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’.

53 Chilton, Analysing Political Discourse, 118.

54 Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’.

55 Braverman.

56 Danny Dorling, Ben Stuart, and Joshua Stubbs, ‘Brexit, Inequality and the Demographic Divide’, British Politics and Policy at LSE (blog), 22 December 2016, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/brexit-inequality-and-the-demographic-divide/ ; Braverman, ‘Speech to Conservative Party Conference’.

57 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’; Goodhart, The Road to Somewhere, 15.

58 Mark Townsend, ‘Lawyers Claim Knife Attack at Law Firm Was Inspired by Priti Patel’s Rhetoric’, The Observer, 10 October 2020, sec. Politics, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/oct/10/lawyers-claim-knife-attack-at-law-firm-was-inspired-by-priti-patels-rhetoric

59 Kieran Kelly, ‘Fifteen Arrests after Police van Set on Fire in “violent Protest” Outside Asylum Seeker Hotel in Merseyside’, LBC, accessed 8 March 2023, https://www.lbc.co.uk/news/demonstration-by-far-right-protesters-turns-into-riot-outside-merseyside-asylum/

60 Knupfer and Matthes, ‘An Attack against Us All?’

61 Hyde, ‘Suella Braverman Aboard a Chinook’; Webber, ‘Britain’s Authoritarian Turn’.

62 Golec de Zavala, Guerra, and Simão, ‘The Relationship between the Brexit Vote and Individual Predictors of Prejudice’.

63 Golec de Zavala, Guerra, and Simão.

64 ‘Public Order Bill: Factsheet’, GOV.UK, accessed 11 April 2023, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-order-bill-overarching-documents/public-order-bill-factsheet.

65 ‘Public Order Bill’.

66 ‘Public Order Bill: Equality Impact Assessment’, GOV.UK, accessed 11 April 2023, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/public-order-bill-overarching-documents/public-order-bill-equality-impact-assessment

67 ‘Public Order Bill’; ‘By 51% to 42%, Londoners Don’t Trust the Metropolitan Police | YouGov’, accessed 14 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2023/02/10/51-42-londoners-dont-trust-metropolitan-police ; ‘Stop and Search: How Do Ethnic Minority Britons Feel about Police Powers? | YouGov’, accessed 14 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/04/29/stop-and-search-how-do-ethnic-minority-britons-fee

68 ‘Public Order Bill’.

69 Home Office News Team, ‘Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership - Home Office in the Media’, Home Office in the Media (blog), accessed 15 March 2023, https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/04/14/factsheet-migration-and-economic-development-partnership/

70 Home Office News Team.

71 ‘Shortage of Safe and Legal Routes’ for Migrants, Suella Braverman Told by Tory MP, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Nhl87CLU70

72 Home Office News Team, ‘Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership - Home Office in the Media’.

73 A flaw in this argument is that it leaves no case in which a ‘legitimate’ asylum seeker could reach the UK. “Legal routes” are underdeveloped or inexistant, meaning that illegal routes are taken by necessity, and this allows for a value judgement to be taken based on legality and morality.

74 Home Office News Team, ‘Factsheet: Migration and Economic Development Partnership - Home Office in the Media’.

75 Patel, ‘Speech at Conservative Party Conference’.

76 ‘Nationality and Borders Act 2022’, Pub. L. No. c. 36, § 16 (2022).

77 Maria Sobolewska and Robert Ford, eds., ‘Divided Over Diversity: Identity Conservatives And Identity Liberals’, in Brexitland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020), 57–84, https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108562485.003

78 ‘Three Weeks into Motorway Climate Change Protests, Public Opposition Has Only Grown | YouGov’, accessed 11 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2021/10/08/three-weeks-motorway-climate-change-protests-publi ; ‘Climate Change Protesters Have Been Carrying out Their Aim of Disrupting Roads and Public Transport, Aiming to “Shut down London” in Order to Bring Attention to Their Cause. Do You Support or Oppose These Actions? | Daily Question’, accessed 13 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/science/survey-results/daily/2019/10/15/470b6/1

79 ‘This Morning Climate Protesters Attempted to Stage a Demonstration by Standing on Top of a Tube Train in Canning Town, but Were Dragged off the Top of the Train by Commuters. Do Your Sympathies Lie More With…? | Daily Question’, accessed 12 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/science/survey-results/daily/2019/10/17/e5c22/2

80 ‘Britons Broadly Supportive of Public Order Bill’s Measures to Criminalise Certain Forms of Protest | YouGov’, accessed 11 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/11/09/britons-broadly-supportive-public-order-bills-meas

81 ‘Policing Bill: Britons Support Proposed New Police Protest Powers | YouGov’, accessed 11 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/03/16/policing-bill-britons-support-proposed-new-police-

82 ‘The Government Has Agreed a Deal Where Some People Who Have Entered Britain to Apply for Asylum Will Be Flown to Rwanda, in Africa, for Their Asylum Applications to Be Processed. If Their Application Is Successful, They Would Be Granted Asylum in Rwanda, and Would Not Be Entitled to Return to Britain. Do You Support or Oppose This Proposal? | Daily Question’, accessed 20 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/survey-results/daily/2022/10/31/3c056/2

83 ‘A Large Majority of Britons Disapprove of the Government’s Handling of Immigration | YouGov’, accessed 20 April 2023, https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/12/19/large-majority-britons-disapprove-governments-hand

84 Sobolewska and Ford, ‘British Culture Wars?’

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Jordan White, « Deepening Identity Divides in Post-Brexit Britain: The Home Office, Rhetoric and Authoritarianism »Observatoire de la société britannique, 30 | 2023, 93-117.

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Jordan White, « Deepening Identity Divides in Post-Brexit Britain: The Home Office, Rhetoric and Authoritarianism »Observatoire de la société britannique [En ligne], 30 | 2023, mis en ligne le 01 janvier 2024, consulté le 18 juin 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/osb/6060 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/osb.6060

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Doctorant en civilisation britannique à l’Université Le Havre Normandie

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