‘CLUMSY and crass” was the verdict of one Tory MP on Suella Braverman’s claim that for some people in the UK, sleeping on the streets was a “lifestyle choice”. Steve Brine, who chairs Westminster’s Health and Social Care Select Committee, must surely know it was nothing of the sort. As ever with the Home Secretary, it was calculated. Braverman knows exactly what she is doing, and why.

She knows there is a rough-sleeping crisis coming this winter. She knows, because the Home Office she runs is quite deliberately creating it, and preparing to lay the blame for it elsewhere. She is banking on the British public not grasping why there are suddenly so many people – non-British people – living on the streets, and believing that she had prescient solutions to this unsettling problem.

Every time it seems Braverman has positioned herself so far to the right that she can’t possibly go any further, she looks the British public straight in the eye while taking another side-step, then cocks her head as if to ask “what are you going to do about it?”.

“Not vote Tory”, would be the obvious answer, but the party is obviously calculating that a pledge to sweep homeless people’s tents from pavements will gain electoral support, even if it seems cruel and repellent to most people right now.

By outrageously framing those living in tents pitched in towns and cities as making a “lifestyle choice”, she not only attempts to stir up anger and resentment but insults the intelligence of those from whom she seeks votes. With the ravages of Storms Babet and Ciaran still fresh in the memory (and for many an ongoing nightmare as they head into winter without access to their homes), who would make the choice to live in a tent?

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Braverman began a thread of X/Twitter posts by saying “the British people are compassionate” and that “we will always support those who are genuinely homeless”, thus implicitly creating another category of not-really-homeless people who do not deserve support or compassion. What she presumably means to convey is that these people from abroad have chosen to come here despite being unable to support themselves – and are not “genuinely homeless” because their real home is in another country.

Is it a coincidence that she chose to use the word “occupied” when referring to the tents, in a sentence noting that “many of them [the people to be cleared away]” are “from abroad”? Perhaps.

At a glance, the plans reported at the weekend in the Financial Times – including fining charities for providing tents that are subsequently deemed to represent a public nuisance – look like sticking-plaster solutions to chronic problems.

Braverman claims that “weak policies” in places such as San Francisco and Los Angeles have led to “an explosion of crime, drug-taking and squalor” but that she’s going to step in now to save British cities from the same fate. No doubt the local authorities in California will be slapping their foreheads in dismay when they realise the solution to their problems was to threaten charities with civil penalties for handing out camping gear.

But what’s coming will be an acute homelessness crisis, on top of the existing, dire problem that has been exacerbated by the housing and cost of living crises. Braverman knows there will soon be a surge in the number of homeless people “from abroad” on the streets of the UK. She knows this because it will be caused by the actions of the Home Office for which she is responsible.

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The decision to quickly clear a backlog of asylum claims by the end of the year may seem, at first glance, positive – as tens of thousands of people are expected to be granted refugee status – but once this decision has been made, they will be forced to quickly leave their temporary accommodation.

In Glasgow alone, 1400 refugees are expected to face sudden homelessness, with grave fears that many will end up sleeping rough in the coldest months of the year. When this happens, the buck will be passed to the local councils that have a duty to provide temporary accommodation to homeless people. No UK Government funding is being provided to help with this housing emergency. There will be no “levelling up” funds.

Unsurprisingly, homelessness charities have responded with horror to Braverman’s language and her plans. Given the aim of restricting access to tents is to prevent people from “aggressively begging, stealing, taking drugs, littering, and blighting our communities”, what other bans might follow in England? Could it not be argued that donating sleeping bags or even soup to people sleeping rough – or even just sitting on the street – is supporting their supposed “lifestyle choice”, and potentially facilitating criminal or antisocial behaviour by people who are desperate, destitute and traumatised?

Those who sought refuge in the UK deserve far, far better than to be used as political pawns in this utterly reprehensible way. It’s vital the British public are made aware of what’s happening, and why, and are not conned into thinking Braverman is on their side.