Suella Braverman is facing the sack for her “irresponsible” and “divisive” comments after defying Downing Street to write an article for the Times [paywall] that accused police of favouring pro-Palestinian protestors over right-wing demonstrators.
In the piece, the home secretary criticised the Metropolitan police for taking a biased approach toward protestors, saying its officers “largely ignored” the “pro-Palestiinian mobs” “even when clearly breaking the law”.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson stated: “The content was not agreed by No 10,” while adding Sunak has “full confidence” in the home secretary.
But time is ticking for Braverman who sparked a fresh – and yet another self-inflicted – row within and far beyond the Conservative party after defying Sunak by publishing the article without getting sign-off from No 10. That is a clear breach of the ministerial code which states all major interviews and media actions should be “agreed with the No 10 Press Office”.
Conservative chairman of the Commons justice committee Sir Bob Neil MP called her position “untenable”. Neil told LBC: “I think she has gone over the line. It’s part of a history of ill judgement and loose words, and, of all the jobs in government, home secretary is one of those where you have to be particularly careful.”
Sir Keir Starmer said the home secretary is “undermining” the police and said Sunak is “too weak to do anything about it”. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called on Sunak to sack her.
Reports are growing the prime minister may bring forward his cabinet reshuffle, planned for before Christmas to get rid of his home secretary. Deputy PM and former chairman of the Conservative party Oliver Dowden is an early favourite to replace her.
Writing in the Times, Braverman accused the Met of acting more favourably towards pro-Palestinian marchers than right-wing demonstrators, comments
The Met police has resisted pressure from the government to cancel the next protest on Saturday that is calling for a ceasefire and peace in the Israel-Gaza war. Braverman has called the pro-Palestinian protests “hate marches” and has been accused herself of stoking division and increasing tensions ahead of the march.
In the Times article, the home secretary accused Met police of bias, writing: “Right-wing and nationalist protesters who engage in aggression are rightly met with a stern response yet pro-Palestinian mobs displaying almost identical behaviour are largely ignored, even when clearly breaking the law.”
Braverman has been further denounced as a “pound shop Enoch Powell” by leader of the SDLP Colm Eastwood following her remarks about Northern Ireland in the same Times article, which he called “aggressive ignorance”.
In the opinion piece, Braverman described the London protests as an “assertion of primacy by certain groups – particularly Islamists – of the kind we are more used to seeing in Northern Ireland”.
She claimed the “hate marches” are “disturbingly reminiscent of Ulster”.
Most people, including former NI secretary Peter Hain, thought she was referring to the Orange Order marches, held from Easter Monday through to September. The confusion forced Braverman to clarify that she was in fact referring to dissident republicans, as reported by the BBC quoting a “source close to” the home secretary.
An Alliance party MP said the “comparisons to Northern Ireland are pathetic” while Sinn Féin’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Matt Carthy, said they showed Braverman has “as much knowledge about the situation in Northern Ireland as she seems to have about the situation in Palestine at the moment”.
Eastwood, the MP for Foyle and leader of the party once led by Nobel peace prize winner John Hume, said: “The comments comparing the proposed Armistice Day protests against the appalling bombardment of civilians in Gaza with the marching tradition in Northern Ireland are an exercise in what can only be described as aggressive ignorance.”
He continued: “Ignorance of the conditions faced by the civilian population in Gaza, ignorance of the role of the Met police, ignorance of the complex history and traditions of marching and protest in Northern Ireland. She has managed to offend just about everyone – no mean feat in a divided society.”
Eastwood said the “comments are far below the standard that should be expected from a senior government minister”, adding the “only appropriate action now is her removal from office but given the systemic weakness of this government, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she remained.”
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald called the remarks “extraordinary” and “a distraction from a situation that could not be more serious.”
However, Braverman has received some backing, notbaly from DUP MP Ian Paisley who called the criticism “pant-wetting” Paisley told the Commons: “The home secretary is correct to call this out and to say it as she sees it and this House is right to back her.”
Separately, Braverman was condemned earlier this week over her claims that some people were homeless as a “lifestyle choice”.