The defence secretary, Grant Shapps, has blasted the Labour Party over suggestions that Suella Braverman’s comments inadvertently led to scuffles between police and far-right protestors. While pressure mounts on the PM to sack the home secretary, the government, at least for now, appears to stand by Braverman. But, speaking on GB News, Shapps refused to offer an opinion on whether he believed the home secretary would still be in her job a week from now.
In the aftermath of clashes between police and far-right counter-protestors at the Cenotaph, Labour blamed Braverman’s rhetoric for inciting violence and sowing divisions. Shapps insisted that the far-right group, consisting predominantly of football hooligans, had planned a march to confront the Pro-Palestine rally before the home secretary’s comments. Her criticism of the police for displaying favouritism toward left-wing protests and her condemnation of the Pro-Palestine demonstration as a hate march have been widely condemned even by many of her Tory colleagues.
While distancing himself from the language she used, Shapps was quick to accuse Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan of “trying to play politics with the serious points which are being made.”
Speaking to GB News, he said:
“I’m not really keen on the idea that, in retrospect, whether it’s the leader of the opposition or the Labour London mayor, that they come in and try and politicise this weekend of all weekends. It should not be about politics.”
Last week, Braverman appeared to be on the verge of getting fired after publishing a controversial article in The Times without making the changes requested by No 10. When asked by Trevor Philips on Sky News whether he believed the home secretary would still be in her job in a week’s time, Shapps refused to answer, adding, “a week is a long time in politics”. His comments follow calls by the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and Scotland’s First Minister for the Prime Minister to sack Braverman.
On X, Copper tweeted:
“Suella Braverman attacked & undermined the police & made their job much harder. She deliberately inflamed tensions around Remembrance weekend. And she has downgraded action against antisemitism & islamophobia. Rishi Sunak let her do it. He is badly letting the country down.”
In an article in today’s Sunday Telegraph, the Labour leader Keir Starmer said that the home secretary’s recent comments, including the depiction of homelessness as “a lifestyle choice”, showed Braverman to have “a total lack of respect for this country’s values and its principles”.
“Few people in public life have done more recently to whip up division, set the British people against one another and sow the seeds of hatred and distrust than Suella Braverman. In doing so, she demeans her office”, he added.
Suella Braverman faces a momentous week which may see her leave her position. On Wednesday, the court will rule on the legality of the government’s Rwanda deportation scheme. Speculation is growing that the PM will remove the home secretary from her post in a broader cabinet reshuffle after the government’s autumn statement.
But firing Braverman would prompt opposition from her allies on the right of the Conservative party, which appears very much divided on the issue. Some, like Shapps, have distanced themselves from her without calling for her resignation or sacking. However, other senior Tories and backbenchers fear that the controversy will damage the party’s electoral changes.
Speaking to The Observer newspaper, one former cabinet minister said:
“Not sacking her would be utterly fatal because, at that point, as well as being an unpopular prime minister, he becomes a weak and unpopular prime minister.
“A lot of colleagues are saying that the underlying Suella message is just driving voters away in the south-east of England. That cannot be allowed to go on.”
One senior Tory told The Guardian that Sunak should sack the home secretary before Wednesday’s court ruling:
“He can’t wait till after the judgment because, if the government wins, it will be victory to Suella, and she is strengthened. If, on the other hand, she loses, the PM would be seen as sacking her for the result of a court case about a policy he backed. So it has to be done early this week. My money is Monday.”