EVEN if Suella Braverman weren’t Home Secretary, even if she weren’t jockeying to become the next Prime Minister, even if she were just another MP, she would still represent something deeply damaged in the British body politic, the national psyche.

It’s not just her callous, vindictive policies towards refugees. That’s her stock-in-trade. This cruelty is rooted in a psychologically troubling approach to the past. There is a clear trajectory between Braverman’s view of history and her policies in the present.

This week, she appeared at London’s National Conservativism Conference. Those who predicted a carnival of cruelty, conspiracy and extremism were right. The Tory MP Miriam Cates was there raving about "cultural Marxism". When Lord Mann, the UK Government’s adviser on anti-Semitism, was asked by the Jewish News if he associated "the term ‘cultural Marxism’ with anti-Semitic discourse", he replied: “It is anti-Semitism.”

Read more: Professor Sir Geoff Palmer: ‘My family were owned as slaves by Scots. It’s time this nation faced up to its history’

The Jewish News highlighted another National Conservatism speaker, Douglas Murray, who said – to audience chuckles – that nationalists shouldn’t be ashamed of their views “because the Germans mucked up twice in a century”. Margaret Hodge MP, parliamentary chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, accused Murray of “diminishing the Holocaust”. Murray, an anti-woke warrior, crusades against cancel culture. You can read him in, among others, the Spectator, Daily Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and see him frequently on the BBC. Such are the perils of cancellation.

Braverman, however, turned her attention to slavery, saying: “The defining feature of this country’s relationship with slavery is not that we practised it, but that we led the way in abolishing it.”

This is morality gone so far through the looking glass it disappears. You don’t pat murderers on the head, saying "well done" because they stop killing. You don’t praise bank robbers for charitable donations.

We started the transatlantic slave trade: among the worst atrocities in world history. The first African slaves to arrive in Virgina in 1619 were a group of 20 souls offloaded by the English privateer ship the White Lion.

Scotland doesn’t get off the hook. After our own risible attempts at Caledonian empire-building failed in the Darien swamps of Panama, we jumped into bed with England forming the Union of 1707 and became an active partner in colonialism and slavery.

So Braverman’s comments are clearly historically wrong. Yet more troubling is what her comments say about a certain British mindset and what that means for this country.

It is an act of dangerous self-sabotage for any human to deny their past, to minimise the wrongs in their life. A human can only prosper when they look the reality of their life full on. To push down the truth, to lie to yourself, to pretend, to rewrite your personal history, leaves deep psychological scars on any soul. We know this – each of us – from our own lives. We’ve all failed, done things we wish we hadn’t. Yet if we own up to those mistakes, we improve as human beings. If we bury the truth, psychologically we corrupt.

Read more: Scottish academics go head-to-head over the nation's ugly legacy of slavery

This isn’t about asking Britons of today to feel guilt for what happened in the past. Philosophically, that’s absurd. But we must acknowledge the past and factor it in to how we see our nation and our lives today. That’s the psychologically healthy approach.

It’s worth noting that many who say "well, I wasn’t alive when slavery happened", are the very folk who proclaim "we won the war". If you can take pride in the valour of your ancestors, then accept the truth of their misdeeds too. This isn’t about "white shame". It’s about recognising reality.

More deflection comes in the perennial line "well, African countries had slaves". Indeed some did, and it’s up to other nations to deal with their own historic legacies. If my neighbour commits murder, it doesn’t give me permission to do likewise.

Some Scots shout "but we were slaves too". Wrong. Scots, Irish and others suffered indentured servitude. Is this cruel and immoral? Yes. Is it chattel slavery? No. To say otherwise denigrates millions of victims. Scottish historian Dr Stephen Mullen notes in The Myth of Scottish Slaves: “Indentured servants had legal personhood whilst enslaved persons were viewed as sub-human.” Indentured servitude usually lasted seven years. Chattel slaves died slaves as did their children.

King Charles says slavery “forever stains our history”. Buckingham Palace is taking part in a study exploring the British monarchy’s relationship to the slave trade. Our current royals have direct ancestors who owned slave plantations. The King takes the matter “profoundly seriously”, describing slavery as an “appalling atrocity”. The Royal African Company, established by Charles II in 1660, was central to the development of the slave trade.

To paraphrase Macbeth, when it comes to Britain, we are steeped in blood.

Braverman’s comments denigrate the descendants of humans trafficked and sold under British slavery. Dr Terrance Drew, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, wants an apology for slavery. “Acknowledging that … something wrong was done … is a step in the right direction,” Drew said. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, called for Rishi Sunak to apologise.

Sunak, a man terrified of being dethroned by Braverman now she’s captured the Tory Party’s hard right, point-blank refused. “Trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward,” he said. To reiterate: the truth is in no way an unpicking of history, it’s the truth.

Read more: ‘Scotland didn’t have empire done to it, Scotland did empire to other people’.

Our attitude to the past eats away at our decency in the present. Psychotherapists talk of what’s called "the shadow". Each of us has it. Some psychotherapists say that entire nations can possess a shadow. The shadow is our dark side, that part of us we are too fearful, too ashamed, to acknowledge. It’s often a psychotherapist's job to help a patient confront their shadow.

Once the shadow is faced – once truth acknowledged – patients usually experience great and beneficial change in their personality. They become their real and authentic selves. Yes, they’ve learned painful truths; that’s hard. But that hard journey towards truth – to uncover the authentic self – is really what this human life of ours, that we share, is all about. We can be strong at the broken places.