A former Tory chairman has accused Suella Braverman of using “racist rhetoric” over her comments on sexual grooming by British-Pakistani men.
Baroness Warsi said the home secretary’s “extreme views” meant she was “not fit for high office”.
Her comments follow remarks made by Braverman as the government announced a crackdown on grooming gangs who target young girls.
Speaking on Sky News, the home secretary said: “What we’ve seen is a practice whereby vulnerable white English girls, sometimes in care, sometimes who are in challenging circumstances, being pursued and raped and drugged and harmed by gangs of British Pakistani men who’ve worked in child abuse rings or networks.
“It’s now down to the authorities to track these perpetrators down without fear or favour relentlessly and bring them to justice.”
Her comments came despite the fact that a Home Office into group-based child sexual exploitation (CSE) in 2020 said the majority of perpetrators were actually white.
Writing in The Guardian, Baroness Warsi – who served as co-chair of the Conservatives for two years when David Cameron was prime minister – said Rishi Sunak “should not want to be remembered for presiding over a government that engaged in racist rhetoric”.
She said: “Braverman is a trained barrister. If somebody who is trained to be an advocate cannot communicate on serious issues in a thoughtful, reasonable, evidence-based way, that’s an issue of incompetence.
“Whether this consistent use of racist rhetoric is strategy or incompetence, however, doesn’t matter. Both show she is not fit to hold high office.”
Warsi – who has previously described Braverman as a “Trump tribute act” – added: “As a straight-talking Yorkshirewoman now in my 50s, I’ve spent my career drawing attention to issues that were seen as taboo, from forced marriages to FGM, and indeed child sexual exploitation.
“Criticising Braverman’s language is not about shutting down important debate about policy, or being culturally sensitive. It’s about demanding a home secretary who makes policy announcements that are accurate and based on fact and evidence, which Braverman has failed to do.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The home secretary has been clear that all despicable child abusers must be brought to justice.
“And she will not shy away from telling hard truths, particularly when it comes to the grooming of young women and girls in Britain’s towns who have been failed by authorities over decades.
“As the home secretary has said, the vast majority of British-Pakistanis are law-abiding, upstanding citizens but independent reports were unequivocal that in towns like Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford cultural sensitivities have meant thousands of young girls were abused under the noses of councils and police.
“That’s why we have announced a raft of measures, including a new police taskforce and mandatory reporting, to ensure this horrific scandal can never happen again, and bring members of grooming gangs to justice for the victims.”