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Westminster needs a seriousness awareness course

Braverman: “took it on the chin”. Leon Neal/Getty

“Trivial is the default mode of British politics,” says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Whether or not the Home Secretary was right to ask a civil servant if she could take a speed awareness course privately – which is fairly common for high-profile figures – is hardly the most urgent question of the day. Yet this week the supposed scandal pushed immigration, the NHS, Ukraine and the G7 off the agenda. What a joke. Like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Suella Braverman fell foul of Britain’s speeding limits. The civil servant she asked refused to help – correctly, if a little “fastidiously”. So she asked a political adviser, who inquired and was told she had to do a normal course. Braverman “took it on the chin” and paid a fine instead.

It’s perfectly reasonable to discuss whether Braverman should be in the job: she has “few qualifications for high office”, and even fewer to handle Britain’s vexed immigration challenge. But the speeding ticket “scandal” is thin stuff. People in top jobs are surely entitled to have helpers around them to “ease the borderland between work, family and moments of leisure”. If Braverman slightly misread the line between “private and public duties” that the civil service must respect, fair enough. She was told, and she listened. The whole sorry affair has followed Parkinson’s law of triviality: “the less the importance, the more the attention.” The Labour MPs trying to make this into a big deal should go on a “seriousness awareness course”.